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Open source group focuses on industrial IoT gateway middleware

Apr 24, 2017 — by Eric Brown 1,525 views

The Linux Foundation has launched an open source, cross-platform “EdgeX Foundry” project based on Dell’s FUSE for standardizing middleware on IoT gateways.

The new EdgeX Foundry organization will develop modular, cross-platform middleware for industrial IoT edge gateways. Based on a Dell FUSE project, the open source group aims to simplify and standardize industrial IoT edge computing “while still allowing the ecosystem to add significant value,” says the Linux Foundation.

EdgeX Foundry will establish an ecosystem of companies that offer interoperable, open source plug-and-play components that can “run on any hardware or operating system and with any combination of application environments.” The group goes on to say: “Interoperability between community-developed software will be maintained through a certification program.”

Proposed architecture for the currently alpha-stage EdgeX Foundry
(click image to enlarge)

“Businesses currently have to invest a lot of time and energy into developing their own edge computing solutions before they can even deploy IoT solutions to address business challenges,” stated Philip DesAutels, PhD Senior Director of IoT at The Linux Foundation. “EdgeX will foster an ecosystem of interoperable components from a variety of vendors, so that resources can be spent on driving business value instead of combining and integrating IoT components.”


EdgeX Foundry boasts 50 founding members, many of which are industrial enterprise IoT middleware startups that have been pushing the market forward with new innovations while also slowing it due to fragmentation. Some of the more widely known members include AMD, Analog Devices, Canonical/Ubuntu, Cloud Foundry, Dell, Linaro (ARM and its major licensees), Mocana, NetFoundry, Opto 22, RFMicron, and VMWare. Industry affiliate members include Cloud Foundry Foundation, EnOcean Alliance, Mainflux, Object Management Group, Project Haystack, and ULE Alliance.

EdgeX Foundry can be considered a more focused, enterprise-oriented take on IoT compared to the Linux Foundation’s Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and its IoTivity platform. Like the LF’s AllSeen Alliance (AllJoyn) project, IoTivity is a more comprehensive cross-platform IoT framework that embraces smart home and other IoT technologies in addition to industrial edge gateways. The two projects merged in October under the OCF/IoTivity umbrella, but will continue as separate frameworks as IoTivity integrates more aspects of AllJoyn. The LF made no mention of specific integrations between EdgeX and IoTivity.

The EdgeX project builds upon Dell’s Apache 2.0 licensed FUSE source code project, which emerged late last year. FUSE is a modular open source stack that integrates a dozen microservices with over 125,000 lines of code. The stack mediates between multiple sensor network messaging protocols and multiple cloud and analytics platforms, and is designed to facilitate interoperability code that spans edge analytics, security, system management, and services.

Another key to the establishment of EdgeX Foundry was the recent merger between the emerging FUSE/EdgeX project and a similar project called IoTX, says the Linux Foundation. IoTx was an AllJoyn-compliant effort led by two current EdgeX members: Two Bulls and Beechwood.

The LF’s role is to provide a framework for governance and membership relations. The group will set up a Governing Board, as well as a technical steering committee.

Inside EdgeX

The “vendor-neutral” EdgeX Foundry project has developed an alpha-stage framework for a “loosely-coupled, tiered” platform that “leverages cloud-native principles,” but also addresses specific IoT edge technologies, says the LF. The project supports edge nodes such as embedded PCs, hubs, gateways, routers, and on-premises servers.

Conceptual diagram for EdgeX Foundry (left) and tiered deployments on different types of gateways and fog servers
(click images to enlarge)

EdgeX code can span IoT edge gateways, intelligent edge gateways, and fog servers. In some application scenarios, fog servers sit between the cloud services and gateways or edge node devices to aggregate data. The framework will accommodate both IP- and non-IP based connectivity protocols, and will provide security and system management code for widely distributed compute nodes. The platform can scale down to “highly-constrained devices,” says the LF.

Required services include core services, device services SDK, microserver deployment framework, and foundational APIs for data flow, system management, security, and developer value-add. Optional code includes reference services to enable development of a complete, ready to run edge software platform.

Sensor and device makers can use the FUSE-based SDK to develop application-level device drivers with selected protocols, says the LF. System integraters will be able to combine open source EdgeX plug-and-play ingredients with their own proprietary technologies, says the organization.

Linaro’s testimonial quote notes that the project complements its Linaro IoT and Embedded (LITE) Group for both lightweight Linux and MCU-based devices, which is associated with the 96Boards IoT Edition (IE) spec. The quote also mentions the integration of the LF’s Zephyr OS with LITE and EdgeX.

Canonical, which is also involved with Linaro LITE, noted potential integration with its snaps package management mechanism used in Ubuntu Core. Last month, Canonical joined another organization that aims to standardize industrial IoT gateway technology, called the Embedded Linux & Android Alliance (ELAA). While EdgeX is focused solely on IoT gateway middleware, the Advantech-backed ELAA appears to primarily be designed to provide integrated hardware, software, and services for Advantech-based embedded IoT gear.

Further information

More information on EdgeX Foundry may be found on the EdgeX Foundry website. The group is open to new members.

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