Dell, The Linux Foundation and EdgeX Foundry – Reducing the Complexity and Cost of IoT Development

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  April 26, 2017

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been the subject of such attention, so much opinionating and so many remarkable claims of progress that it would be natural to assume that IoT is wheels up, rapidly gaining altitude and heading toward a future of eternal sunshine. That is, in a word, foolishness.

Though it is true that numerous IT vendors and their customers have successfully implemented IoT solutions and infrastructures, many of those were one-off efforts that required substantial effort, time and customization. Those aren’t bad things necessarily but if IoT is ever to achieve the kind of global acceptance and success that proponents envision, it needs to become more simple, standardized, certain and cost-effective.

That’s why The Linux Foundation’s announcement of its new EdgeX Foundry project is so intriguing.

EdgeX Foundry: Means and ends

The Linux Foundation noted that despite delivering significant business value, IoT adoption and growth are being stymied by market fragmentation and the lack of common solution frameworks. As a counter to those problems The Linux Foundation envisions EdgeX Foundry as a common open framework that facilitates the easy creation and deployment of flexible, adaptable enterprise and industrial IoT edge solutions.

Some 50 partners have signed on support EdgeX Foundry, including AMD, Analog Devices, Bayshore Networks, Beechwoods Software, Canonical, Dell, Eigen Innovations, FogHorn Systems, Great Bay Software, IMS Evolve, Kodaro, Linaro, Mobiliya, Mocana, NetFoundry, Neustar, Opto 22, Switch Automation, Two Bulls, V5 Systems and VMware. Industry affiliate members include: Cloud Foundry Foundation, EnOcean Alliance, Mainflux, Object Management Group, Project Haystack and ULE Alliance.

The momentum behind the EdgeX project is rooted in the platform being architected from the ground up to unify a partner ecosystem and drive commercial interests in scale while minimizing reinvention. As a result, the EdgeX project is likely to attract the attention and support of other solution providers, standards bodies and consortia.

Dell and EdgeX – A natural fit

Dell’s involvement in and support for the project is particularly interesting, in that it has contributed its FUSE source code base under Apache 2.0 to EdgeX Foundry. If you’re not familiar with Dell’s FUSE effort, it consists of over a dozen microservices and more than 125,000 lines of net new code, along with with references to other open source projects.

Moreover, Dell architected FUSE over the course of nearly two years. That effort gathered feedback from hundreds of technology providers and end users with the aim of easing interoperability between existing connectivity standards and commercial IoT processes, including edge analytics, security, system management and services.

Further, Dell’s contribution of FUSE complements the recent merger of the IoTX project into the EdgeX effort, which was previously supported by project members including Two Bulls and Beechwoods Software. Additional code contributions to EdgeX from other members are also underway.

What makes Dell’s involvement so noteworthy? A couple of things. First, though much of the attention lavished on IoT focuses on innovative endpoint sensors and the cloud, IoT is essentially an infrastructure play with significant components at the edge. That is, it consists of highly integrated and widely deployed components whose close integration and flexible adaptability are critical to the success of IoT processes from the farthest edges of the network to the data centers driving core advanced analytics results.

The acquisition of EMC broadened Dell’s data center portfolio to the extent that the company can handle IoT projects of virtually any size. Add to that the substantial efforts of Dell’s Global OEM business and IoT Product Group, sister groups respectively under the leadership of SVP and GM, Joyce Mullen and VP and GM Andy Rhodes. Together they drive much of the company’s work in edge and industrial computing. The OEM group manages sales and GTM efforts and Dell’s global IoT Labs, and also builds solutions like the the Edge Gateway offerings first launched in 2015.

The Global OEM and IoT Product groups also work with scores of organizations who build products and services leveraging Dell hardware and software components. In its first year, the Dell IoT Solutions Partner Program grew to nearly 70 technology and services companies focused on developing solutions for specific vertical industries where the lion’s share of edge computing and IoT innovation currently resides.

Dell’s Director of Strategy and Partnerships, Jason Shepherd, manages the company’s global partner program and was also the genesis of the FUSE project. He chartered the client CTO software architecture team to incubate the architecture and what turned into the initial EdgeX Foundry code contribution.

In other words, Dell is just the sort of serious, substantial, partner-focused backing that The Linux Foundation’s EdgeX Foundry needs.  However, it is important to note that EdgeX Foundry is vendor-neutral, and Dell and he Linux Foundation are in talks with numerous other OEMS about collaborating on the common framework for mutual scale.

Final analysis

It would be a mistake to assume the success of any industry coalition, especially one focused on an area like IoT where efforts and commercial solutions are often fragmented and confused. However, The Linux Foundation has a better than average track record of effectively inspiring and leading collaborations that deliver substantial innovative results.

Toss in the involvement of Dell, VMware, Analog Devices, AMD and other influential participants and the new EdgeX Foundry should have what it takes to make substantial contributions to workable, sustainable solutions and services. Overall, the launch of the Linux Foundation’s EdgeX Foundry is good news for enterprise and industrial IoT, and for the organizations that are ready to put its resulting solutions to work.

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