Opening Up The Edge: Why Agnostic Cloud Software Is The Key To Edge Computing

The rising value of data has changed the business landscape forever, and companies have migrated en masse to the (theoretical) unlimited capacity of the cloud. As IoT devices have started to pump more data through networks and into the cloud, connected enterprises are managing their operations in data centers as well as using computational ability closer to the data source.

The rise of edge computing has made this possible, enabling companies to reduce the amount of data sent over the airwaves by qualifying data and assigning automated tasks at the source. But in the rush to adopt cutting-edge technology, businesses may be heading into a situation whereby their operational data is tied to proprietary systems and ‘owned’ by a single party end-to-end. These proprietary systems may restrict companies’ ability to adapt to future developments, and business leaders are beginning to see that the open flow of data is a vital part of an IoT that works for everyone.

Edge computing

The IoT represents a huge range of possibilities, and all kinds of companies and developers have seized the opportunity to connect their assets to the cloud and each other. As this connected system has grown, however, the number of steps from gathering to using data has increased dramatically, and the amount of data being transmitted has started to put a strain on networks and cloud providers. To bring these steps and technologies together, and minimize the time and energy taken to process so much data, edge computing has come to the fore to help companies analyze and qualify their data without sending it to another location.

In an enterprise dealing with a huge number of distributed end-points, the ability to filter data closer to the sensors is hugely beneficial, ensuring that only relevant data is sent to the cloud and providing security benefits by keeping data on-site. This also means that the data that does go through the system is more valuable from the very beginning. As data passes through layers of hardware, software, application and up to the cloud, there are multiple points of contact with providers that want to consolidate that chain, so that they can get the most out of the information passing through their systems.

Agnostic fantastic

This granular nature of the IoT has led providers into a race towards monopoly, with each of the major players attempting to offer every part of the data chain. As the IoT has grown in influence, companies are realizing that using their own software on top of standard hardware can provide a competitive advantage. At the same time, larger and larger cloud providers have begun to move into other areas of software and edge computing. This may appear to offer companies a stable base for operations, but proprietary cloud providers effectively ‘own’ the customer’s software, applications and data that run on that platform – purely because the customer cannot adopt a different system that isn’t compatible, or will have to pay or reveal their data in exchange for APIs.

Ownership of data has been a hot topic recently, with legislation appearing around the world to ensure that consumer data does not get used inappropriately. In the enterprise sphere, however, the facilitators of proprietary systems effectively own the data running through them, as their customers’ operations cannot then move to a competitor without uprooting the entire data chain from source to cloud. For data-powered technologies to function properly, data must be able to flow unrestricted through systems to ensure that the most relevant and up-to-date information is always available, and proprietary systems stand in the way of this free flow of data.

Open edge virtualization

Some companies are taking this idea of an open IoT ecosystem and offering an alternative to proprietary systems. Dubbed by some as ‘the of the edge’, provide a ‘kind of agnostic operating system, that can run any software, any application, on any hardware, and be integrated with any cloud,’ according to CEO Said Ouissal. The virtualization layer consists of two elements: ‘a controller and a piece of open-source software that makes the edge manageable, called EVE (Edge Virtualization Engine).’ An enterprise-specific project of the Linux Foundation , this virtualization layer EVE between the equipment and the edge gateway allows users to run ‘any kind of application to process their data, and send that data anywhere they want’ without being constrained by proprietary cloud providers and with the ‘built-in capability for customers to move away.’

Announcing today that they have secured $16M in an oversubscribed Series A funding round co-led by Energize Ventures and Lux Capital (with existing investors Wild West Capital, Almaz Capital, Barton Capital, and industry veteran Ed Zander, former CEO of Motorola) , Zededa hope to change the perception of edge computing. ‘There’s this idea that your edge or your cloud have to belong to one provider, and we’re saying that it actually belongs to the company that runs the assets,’ says Ouissal, emphasizing the importance of ‘data sovereignty’ in a connected ecosystem. By building this abstraction layer at the edge, Zededa’s open-source engine allows ‘businesses to be a lot more agile and a lot more flexible’, and drive further innovation without risk of operational lock-in. Aside from facilitating an open IoT, this agnostic approach is also catering to a growing desire in the market. ‘Enterprises are very worried about committing their edge to a specific cloud,’ says Ouissal, ‘so the ability to choose multiple clouds for different assets or switch between cloud providers, and gain control over their cloud, their data and their edge is really important.’

An open approach

The future of emerging technologies such as the IoT, edge computing and AI is unknown, as many of these systems are still in development and will change drastically as new challenges arise. As such, allowing a monopoly over the entire ecosystem is not only unwise, it may actually hinder individual companies’ ability to innovate and remain adaptable in future. Tying your application, the sovereignty of your data, and your operational chain into one provider is completely counter to the growth and cross-collaboration that new technology is enabling, and those that go with the proprietary option risk being unable to change with the times.

Zededa are trying to develop ‘a standard for the edge’, following in the footsteps of their project partners The Linux Foundation to create something that everyone can build on – ‘not a proprietary solution, or something that’s claiming to be open but isn’t really.’ Starting at the edge, an open and agnostic IoT will help more people to develop connected services, and drive more sustainable innovation that can benefit everyone.


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