Open Grid Alliance aims to support cloud computing at the edge


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VMware and Vapor IO this week kicked off an ambitious effort to rearchitect the internet via a vendor-neutral Open Grid Alliance (OGA) that aims to make network services easier for app developers to consume.

Other founding members of the OGA include Dell Technologies, DriveNets, MobiledgeX, and PacketFabric. But the OGA is not seeking to define any specific technology implementations and is open to all interested parties, Vapor IO CEO Cole Crawford told VentureBeat. In fact, the OGA is deliberately staying away from creating any type of formal foundation structure, Crawford added. “A lot of people are suffering foundation fatigue,” he said.

Vapor IO today provides its own framework for integrating edge computing platforms and distributed datacenters to enable machine-to-machine communications that are the core of many internet of things (IoT) applications.

How OGA will work

OGA will embrace technologies that distribute the economics and flexibility of cloud computing platforms out to the network edge. That approach will make it possible for developers and other members of an IT organization to declaratively describe their intent, which will then be used to automatically configure network services. This shift is required because, for example, next-generation wireless technologies will not be able to achieve the level of scale required by billions of intelligent devices that will be connected to the internet, Crawford said.

Many of those devices will be running highly distributed applications based on microservices that will not only consume a lot of data but are also latency-sensitive, Crawford noted. Many of the applications will need to run in real time as digital business processes continue to evolve and expand, he added.

The internet in its current form is designed around a core-out model that needs to be replaced by an edge-in approach that enables network services to be delivered more efficiently. It could do this by making sure packets travel more directly to where they need to arrive, instead of being widely broadcasted, Crawford added.

Some members of OGA are using network virtualization overlays and smart contracts currently associated with distributed ledgers based on blockchain databases to enable that goal. But rather than relying on low-level application programming interfaces (APIs), the idea is to allow platforms to describe their capabilities to an application, VMware VP Kaniz Mahdi said.

Reimagine the internet

As the amount of compute horsepower and storage capacity deployed at the network edge increases, it becomes possible to reimagine how the internet could be constructed, Mahdi noted. “More automation and abstraction is required,” she said, adding “More telematics will also be necessary.”

The OGA plans to define key principles for the Open Grid and identify open interoperable technologies that adhere to those principles as they emerge. It will also document how these technologies will impact cloud providers, developers, vendors, communication service providers (CSPs), internet service providers (ISPs), and end users.

Intent-based networking is not a new idea, of course. Networking vendors have been using that phrase to describe the next era of networking for several years. It will, however, be several years before we see the level of scale the OGA envisions for applying those concepts. In that sense, the OGA is focused on starting a conversation about how the internet needs to change.

It’s already apparent the internet in its current incarnation will need to evolve as the world becomes more interconnected. The issue that needs to be determined now is under what type of framework that goal can be achieved in the absence of a single governing body. That body would need to be empowered to define a set of interoperable internet standards in the way the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) did some six decades ago.

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