Cloud Edge Computing

For over a decade, centralized cloud computing has been considered a standard IT delivery platform. Though cloud computing is ubiquitous, emerging requirements and workloads are beginning to expose its limitations. With its strong data center centric view, where compute and storage resources are relatively plentiful and centralized, little or no thought was ever given to the optimization of the supporting hypervisor and management platform footprint. Few cloud developers seriously considered the requirements needed to support resource-constrained nodes reachable only over unreliable or bandwidth-limited network connections, or thought about the needs of applications that demand very high bandwidth, low latency, or widespread compute capacity across many sites.

New applications, services, and workloads increasingly demand a different kind of architecture, one that’s built to directly support a distributed infrastructure. New requirements for availability and cloud capability at remote sites are needed to support both today’s requirements (retail data analytics, network services) and tomorrow’s innovations (smart cities, AR/VR). The maturity, robustness, flexibility, and simplicity of cloud now needs to be extended across multiple sites and networks in order to cope with evolving demands.

Recently companies have begun to apply the simplified administration and flexibility of cloud computing architectures to distributed infrastructures that span across multiple sites and networks. Organizations have an emerging need to take cloud capabilities across WAN networks and into increasingly smaller deployments out at the network edge. Though this approach is in its early days, it is becoming clear that many emerging use cases and scenarios would benefit from distributed architectures.

In this paper, we explore this emerging need. It has been called many names: distributed cloud, fog computing, 4th generation data centers, but for the purposes of this document, we will stick with a common, easily understood term—cloud edge computing.

The OSF Edge Computing Group sees this evolution of cloud computing as very exciting, though we recognize that OpenStack’s ability to support cloud edge computing is in its early days. Based on initial community interest expressed at the OpenStack Summit Boston, a two-day workshop was held in September 2017 that brought together over 200 users and developers to start the hard work of defining relevant use cases and considering the tools and architectures needed to support them. Proof of concepts have been done and the community has a few early deployments in place. The OSF Edge Computing Group has now taken up the challenge to describe fundamental requirements of a fully functional edge computing cloud infrastructure.