OSIsoft and Linux Foundation - Interoperability at the Edge

When I moved to Europe at the beginning of this year, I was struck anew by the diversity of languages and cultures. But I was once again reminded of the remarkable fluidity between these different cultures. You can board a train and travel a few hours in any direction and be in a completely different nation or culture. We take it for granted now, but for most of human history (and in many places still) a change at the border can be a time consuming process.

In a way, you can say the push to establish standards in technology has had the same impact. By eliminating differences and finding common ground where it makes sense, we've been able to accelerate speed, reduce costs, and expand both the market and use case scenarios.

In theory, an enterprise has the ability to collect and analyze data from the disparate edges of their operations, but the reality of weaving high-speed information into a complete picture requires navigating different systems from different vendors and communicating across networks with a variety of protocols.

The problem is as old as industry itself. When I first started working with OSIsoft, we were building interfaces and connectors for the myriad automation and control systems that existed. With the rise of IoT devices and cloud computing, we now have new sensors, more commute, and faster networks. We have the potential to sense what is happening in our world with an unprecedented level of granularity and clarity.

But much like the European rail system, that ability to sense our world requires a foundation of interoperability. And that requires shared standards.

Meet the LF Edge

Last week, in an effort to establish shared standards, OSIsoft became one of 60 founding members of the Linux Foundation's new umbrella organization - LF Edge - which seeks to establish a unified open source framework for the edge. With LF Edge, enterprises, IoT vendors, telecom providers, cloud platforms, and others are coming together as a community to establish the standards for architectures, network protocols, and application development as a foundation for working together.

LF Edge currently consists of five projects:

Akraino Edge Stack is creating an open source software stack that supports high-availability cloud services optimized for edge computing systems and applications;

  • EdgeX Foundry is focused on building a common open framework for IoT edge computing.
  • Home Edge Project, seed code contributed by Samsung Electronics, is a new project that concentrates on driving and enabling a robust, reliable, and intelligent home edge computing framework, platform and ecosystem running on a variety of devices in our daily lives.
  • Open Glossary of Edge Computing provides a concise collection of terms related to the field of edge computing.
  • Project EVE (Edge Virtualization Engine), contributed by ZEDEDA, will create an open and agnostic standard edge architecture that accommodates complex and diverse on- and off-prem hardware, network and application selections.

The Importance of Common Standards

Picture a remote mining site, possibly underground, with heavy and very expensive machinery, some autonomous or remotely operated, some still run by a local operator. How does a truck from one vendor talk to other assets that need to know it is coming down the road at 87 kilometers per hour. How can the cloud tell a manufacturing asset that while it can stamp out 10,000 widgets per hour, it's optimal rate is 7200? It's one thing to have a closed control network and an operator who can decide on a particular setpoint or manual override, but the future is for these things  layer of trust for these things to send signals that tell an actuator to open valves or increase temperatures. It's mission critical communication.

While standards may not be the most exciting of technological topics, it is critical to realizing the full value of IoT and edge computing and to establishing the hardware and software infrastructure for the development of application and analytics. According to McKinsey, “Interoperability between IoT systems is critically important to capturing maximum value; on average, interoperability is required for 40 percent of potential value across IoT applications and by nearly 60 percent in some settings.”​

At the same time, McKinsey goes on to report: “The inability to capture and use relevant data from multiple streams generated by different IoT systems is the result of several organizational, technical, and commercial barriers." Standards for how different edge data is collected, communicated, and stored are the beginning of removing those barriers so that devices and data sources can be added and removed from the network.

Data management is at heart an edge to edge and edge to cloud problem. Establishing shared standards is the critical next step to creating a complete data fabric across the whole landscape of an industrial enterprise to unlock insights from the very cutting edge of operations.