EdgeX Foundry Pursues Hardware and Operating System Agnostic Connectivity Framework for the IoT Network Edge

The network edge remains a flashpoint of Internet of Things (IoT) activity given its important role in interfacing end devices to the cloud and overall delivery of the IoT value proposition. Open, standards-based connectivity between the data and services resident on edge devices and cloud-based applications is paramount, which in turns drives the need for edge computing architectures that can fulfill these emerging requirements while enabling fast time-to-market for services developers.

EdgeX, a new open source project within the Linux Foundation, was recently formed to address the need for an open ecosystem at the network edge that enables interoperability among plug-and-play components. The objectives of this endeavor include building and promoting a common, open edge platform that allows developers to certify interoperable edge components and services. The initiative is designed to solve non value-add edge connectivity requirements by providing a standardized core services bus that functions as a form of edge network operating system. Edge solution providers can use the platform for North-South-East-West device integration via either provided APIs or an available SDK. The core services inherent in the platform, depicted in the lower level purple boxes in the graphic below, can complement other IoT environments (such as GE Predix) through standardized core services integration.

EdgeX Foundry Platform Architecture with Core Services Highlighted

EdgeX is positioned as a truly horizontal platform independent of the specific silicon, operating system, or development environment employed in the edge solution. It has already run on Linux, Mac OS, and Windows. Core elements of the interoperability foundation include the core services and device services SDK depicted above, a loosely-coupled microservice deployment framework, foundational data flow APIs, system management and security and developer value-add. Development tools designed to enable quick creation of EdgeX-based IoT edge solutions are also part of the package. The project code base will include reference services constituting a full edge software platform that is functional out of the box. Developers can leverage these optional services or replace them with preferred alternatives.

The platform is purpose-built to facilitate interoperability across existing protocol standards while enabling proprietary innovation in important areas such as edge analytics, data orchestration, database, security, system management and services. At this point the group plans on a pluggable semantic model that will leverage existing efforts rather than build another from scratch. This approach will also allow for incorporation of already established models within given application or industry segments. Future iterations are planned to address other varying requirements across segments in areas such as larger vs. smaller scale installations and web speed vs. real-time environments, such as those present in many manufacturing applications.

Reliance on existing technology and the absence of new standards or model development is central to the effort. The core of the EdgeX Foundry code was seeded from Dell’s Fuse project effort, which is why many of the original companies behind the effort are Dell partners. The group is also collaborating with numerous projects, standards groups, and industry specific activities such as the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), with whom they have a shared Memorandum of Understanding and role in an IIC testbed.

Current development activities are largely focused on converting the Dell-specific code to a more generic version, with the first public release (with the Fuse code released as EdgeX) slated for the end of this month. A large scale technical conference is scheduled for June, with the full-blown release anticipated at the end of Q3 or beginning of Q4. Developers of IIoT edge applications are encouraged to monitor these developments for their potential to deliver a common, open sourced platform that eases connectivity development efforts by providing common components of the architecture and ultimately reduces overall time to market.

ARC Advisory Group has launched a new LinkedIn discussion group dedicated to coverage of the industrial network edge and its important role in the IIOT/I4.0. Interested readers are encouraged to sign up here: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8604382.5

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