Automating the Edge with Robotics

VMware, Vapor IO-led Open Grid Alliance has bold aim: re-architect the internet

VMware, Vapor IO-led Open Grid Alliance has bold aim: re-architect the internet

Vapor IO and VMWare have launched the Open Grid Alliance. It’s a project with a big goal: to create an organization and a framework that will become a reference point for anyone wanting to deploy applications at the edge in the same way that the Cloud Native Computing Foundation has become the flag bearer for open source container technologies.

The vast number of devices, each with varied functionality at the edge, currently makes it extremely difficult to deploy applications at any kind of scale. In the cloud, there is a layer of abstraction that means it no longer makes a difference if the server is made by Dell or Quanta, but that’s something that doesn’t exist for compute, storage or for much of the network or many of the other features lower down the stack. The Open Grid Alliance wants to create that abstraction layer as an industry initiative. To that end, it has already brought on board a group of partners, such as ARM, PacketFabric, Crown Castle, DriveNets and MobileEdgeX.

The problem of managing large numbers of barely compatible devices is a well-known one at the edge. In fact, Microsoft recently published an end-to-end reference design as part of its Percept edge device range, for instance. Open Grid’s founders are taking a different approach, drawing on their expertise in virtualization. While Vapor IO also is best known for its data center deployments, its roots are in software and in data center software management, creating a management layer for data center engineering. Meanwhile, VMWare’s entire business is built around an abstraction layer for servers. The alliance points out that the edge will not scale without an easy-to-use management plane, and that VMWare’s expertise is with the ‘easy button.’

The name the group has chosen will remind older readers of grid computing, which enabled universities and research facilities to share and pool resources. It’s clearly intentional. Vapor CEO Cole Crawford says the goal is to build something like an electricity grid, where power is available at the flick of a switch and customers can even sell surplus capacity to the grid if they have solar panels or some other generating capacity.

Cole says ‘In the Open Grid world when applications demand resources—in a particular place, at a particular time, with particular SLAs—the grid will deliver that, on-demand.’ That vision may be some way off, but the Alliance is certainly trying to bring together the partners that could bring it to reality.


OGA is off to a strong start but will need to show it can add other parties to the mix. Equinix and its Metal BMaaS offering (formed from the Packet acquisition in 2020), for instance, have been focusing on infrastructure automation without requiring the use of a virtual machine and OS. Is there room for companies like Equinix? The group will need to start from a broad base of participants in order to achieve anything close to its goals of re-architecting the internet.

Jim Davis, Principal Analyst, Edge Research Group

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