Interview by John W. Koon, Editor-in-Chief, Tech Idea
Q: Helder, the OpenFog Consortium has made a lot of progress in the past few years. What are the main goals for the next few years?
Helder: Yes, it’s been a tremendous journey and an incredible learning process for us all. Our number one priority is to develop the interoperability framework necessary to soon begin testbed validation and certification. Most members joined OpenFog due to our commitment to open standards and interoperability. The technical committees are working arduously on developing this framework as we speak. We also want to continue to grow our global footprint, thus our priority is to get EMEA up and running next, and to assist the other regions in growing the membership. Lastly, we wish to continue to entice academic institutions to join us and take an active role in helping us drive innovation, so we will introduce several programs geared toward universities.
Q: The founding members of the OpenFog Consortium include tech giants such as Arm, Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, and Princeton University. Together this represents well over a trillion dollars in market cap. How do you guide all of them, as each potentially has its own agenda?
Helder: I try to focus on commonalities and minimize differences. No tech religion necessary. Focus on the deliverables. Focus on aspects that are important to the industry as a whole, such as openness and interoperability. There are multiple ways to skin a cat and it doesn’t have to be a particular company’s perspective. You can have multiple approaches as long as you clearly define the architecture and members adhere to the spirit of the architecture. These common goals far outweigh any differences that any particular members may have. Having said that, it is challenging, and I have learned so much from all the members. And most of all, I am grateful for their support and dedication.
Q: The value of fog is the Open Standard and the upcoming certification program. Can you give us an update on where you are with the certification program?
Helder: As you know, the OpenFog Reference Architecture for fog computing has been adopted as an official standard by the IEEE Standards Association. The standard is IEEE 1934. As we speak, we are developing the interoperability framework, which will then guide us toward a certification process. In parallel, we already have testbeds up and running in proof of concept mode as a way to learn and help shape the process. We will be showing this at Fog World Congress next month. Our goal is to have this all available for final review and present to the membership at large sometime later this year.
Q: It’s becoming clear that IoT is taking off and is going in many different directions. How would fog be able to help put some structure around the IoT space?
Helder: Fog will play a big role in IoT as well as in enterprise. Our distributed architecture approach will bridge the gap between the cloud and the things at the very edge, along with all the necessary technologies in between. Optimization and modularity are key. If we look at why IoT has deployed slowly, it’s because cloud-based architectures were insufficient, and edge-heavy architectures were costly, thus the middle ground is fog. We certainly feel that our work will contribute greatly toward cost-effective, distributed (apply only those resources that you need) deployments, and of course we will work with other groups to ensure that the great work they have done can be leveraged by all of us.
Q: IoT combined with fog has broad applications. I have seen many use cases being proposed. Which segment, such as autonomous driving or smart cities, do you think will take off first?
Helder: Autonomous driving seems to capture the spotlight, but I feel that other aspects of transportation are probably going to deploy earlier. For instance, positive train controls (PTC), efficient traffic management systems, smart parking systems that can talk to your car and guide you toward your reserved spot, etc. These seem to be low hanging fruit that have a direct and clear benefit to society. Other smart city applications, much like what you see in cities like Barcelona where there is a platform that allows direct correlation with services the city provides, is another example. I guess it’s hard to predict which segments will take off first given the wide variety and the fact that folks in different geographical areas may have different priorities. But in the end, any of these use cases will require similar technological building blocks, and most importantly, that the industry ensure full interoperability between vendors.
Q: If companies want to invest in some of these fog segments, where should they start and how would OpenFog be able to help them?
Helder: OpenFog would love to have more members with diverse backgrounds, not just technology providers. We would love to have consumers of the technology join us and provide us with their challenges and perspectives. As such, OpenFog would love to have these new members not only join the consortium but also take up leadership roles in the various workgroups. This is a unique opportunity for us all to work together and shape the things to come. With that in mind, OpenFog and its membership are uniquely positioned to help new companies navigate through the complexity of deploying new technologies.
About Helder Antunes. Helder Antunes serves as chairman of the OpenFog Consortium and is senior director, Corporate Technology Group at Cisco. As a member of Cisco’s Chief Technology & Strategy Office, Antunes is charged with aligning technology development and corporate strategy to enable Cisco to anticipate, shape, and lead major market transitions. He helps direct technology and operational innovation across the company and oversees strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, and the incubation of new technologies. Antunes is a general partner at Pereira Ventures, and a counselor to the Regional Government of the Azores, Portugal. Antunes has received many awards for his work at Cisco and with the Portuguese government, and he is a much sought-after speaker on various innovation, IoT, and security-related topics.