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Fog computing vs edge computing: What’s the difference?

Fog computing vs edge computing: What’s the difference?

Both fog and edge computing, while sharing some similarities with traditional cloud computing, offer unique features that fill service gaps. The aim is to bring cloud computing capabilities to the local network, enabling heavy computational tasks to be performed locally rather than in the cloud. This makes them particularly suitable for use in IoT infrastructure.

Cisco Systems introduced fog computing as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, cloud computing. According to Cisco Systems, fog computing provides computation, storage, and networking services to end devices from cloud computing data centers that are not located at the network edge. It is a form of distributed computing in which maximum operations are performed by virtualized and non-virtualized edge devices.

Conversely, edge computing represents a distinct approach in the context of computing location. It involves processing data directly on the device that generates the data, aiming to reduce latency by enabling immediate data processing at the source. Thus, it eliminates the delays associated with transferring data to and from centralized data centers.

Fog and edge computing within the same infrastructure

In a hybrid infrastructure of IoT systems, a three-tiered computing framework can be used to serve various purposes:

  1. Edge computing: At the edge computing layer, edge devices like sensors and cameras perform initial data processing. This minimizes the necessity of transmitting all data to the cloud, thus reducing both latency and bandwidth consumption.


  1. Fog computing: Moving inward, the processed data from edge devices may be sent to a middle fog layer. This layer consists of fog nodes or gateways that perform additional processing and might combine data from several edge devices. They decide which data should be sent to the cloud for further analysis or storage purposes.


  1. Cloud computing: The selected data from the fog layer is sent to the cloud, where more complex processing and analysis can occur. However, in such infrastructure, a centralized layer is used for data storage. They are also responsible for tasks that are not time-sensitive or require significant computation resources that are not available at the edge or fog layers.


This layered model is beneficial for a range of applications. For instance, in smart cities, edge devices could monitor traffic conditions, fog nodes could process and analyze traffic data to optimize signal timings, and cloud services could achieve long-term traffic trends for urban planning.

Similarly, in healthcare, wearable devices could monitor patient vitals, fog nodes could analyze this data for anomalies, and cloud systems could maintain patient records and facilitate additional services. By integrating various computing paradigms within the same infrastructure, a more efficient and responsive computing environment is established.

Challenges integrating fog and edge computing

  1. Data privacy: The risk of exposing sensitive user data to network attacks is heightened due to potentially weak security measures at transmission nodes. Weak security protocols may increase network susceptibility to unauthorized access and data breaches, allowing attacks to invade the system and collect data.


  1. Network security: The increased number of devices and the complexity of the network can introduce vulnerabilities and increase the attack surface for potential cyberattacks, such as the man-in-the-middle, distributed denial of service, and malware infections.


  1. Access control: It is important to ensure that only authorized devices and users can access the network. This can become a challenge when devices are spread across diverse locations and operate independently.


To mitigate these challenges, comprehensive security strategies that include strong encryption, regular software and firmware updates and patches, access control, network monitoring, and physical security measures are essential. Most such infrastructure adopts a zero-trust security model, where no device or user is trusted by default, which can help secure fog and edge computing environments.

Final thought

Fog computing and edge computing aim to bring computation closer to the data source, but they do so at different levels of the network architecture. Fog computing is an intermediate layer that handles a broader scope of devices and a wider geographical area, while edge computing focuses on immediate data processing at the device.

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