ICYMI: "Fog computing"

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You've almost certainly heard about "cloud computing" — the phrase is frequently in the news, and has even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, with the gloss "the use of networked facilities for the storage and processing of data rather than a user's local computer, access to data or services typically being via the Internet", and citations from 1996. But do you know about "fog computing"? Wikipedia defines it as

an architecture that uses edge devices to carry out a substantial amount of computation, storage, communication locally and routed over the internet backbone, and most definitively has input and output from the physical world, known as transduction. […]

On November 19, 2015, Cisco Systems, ARM Holdings, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, and Princeton University, founded the OpenFog Consortium, to promote interests and development in fog computing.

Apparently the metaphor is that fog is what you get when the cloud comes down to the ground.

I don't know of any other meteorologico-computational metaphors in general circulation. None of the obvious possibilities seem very likely to me: drought, flood, storm, drizzle,

Update — Commenters have revealed that I suffered from a memory failure, since I knew about "interrupt storm" and "packet storm", as well as from a failure of imagination, since "drizzle" and "flood" have obvious applications.


  1. Cervantes said,

    August 16, 2018 @ 12:10 pm

    BitTorrent is a file sharing protocol.

  2. Jon W said,

    August 16, 2018 @ 12:28 pm

    One guy once coined "squall computing" to describe a business model in which providers seeks to satisfy customer demands for a whole lot of CPU power in the cloud for a short period, see https://blogs.flexera.com/ecm/2011/03/pricing-squall-computing-peak-usage-pay-per-use-software-license-models/ , but the term didn't catch on.

  3. Cervantes said,

    August 16, 2018 @ 12:32 pm

    CyberStorm is the DHS's biennial cyber security exercise.

  4. Ross Presser said,

    August 16, 2018 @ 12:41 pm

    The networking field has referred to "broadcast storms", "packet storms", etc. for decades. Similar usage of flood.

  5. cameron said,

    August 16, 2018 @ 12:50 pm

    Software products that are marketed and hyped before they've been fully implemented and tested are sometimes referred to as "vaporware".

  6. PeterL said,

    August 16, 2018 @ 12:50 pm

    "Fog computing" sounds like " Smart Endpoints, Dumb Pipes", and is hardly new (it's similar to the basic principle of many internet protocols). I'll spare you the technical details of why this might or might not be a good idea — as with most things, "it depends", and part of what it depends on is the meaning of "dumb" or "smart".

    I looked briefly at the OpenFog Consortium page — it seems to be more of a hierarchical design than an edge design, to work around the flaws in typical IoT devices such as security (which is mentioned obliquely).

    [I am a software engineer who has done natural language processing, amongst other things.]

  7. Christian Weisgerber said,

    August 16, 2018 @ 2:50 pm

    People writing operating systems and device drivers are familiar with interrupt storms.

  8. David said,

    August 16, 2018 @ 3:32 pm

    OpenFog sounds like the opposite of CloudedFog. I understand that 'open' is a term of art here, but if you have opened fog, I'd think you've burned it off.

  9. Licia said,

    August 16, 2018 @ 5:50 pm

    «There’s a growing field of cloud-related inventions with names that play on their “cloud” origins. For example, fog computing refers to data storage, applications, processing, and other computing services delivered from nearby devices rather than from a remote data center (after all, fog is what we call clouds that come close enough to touch). If you push some of these cloud-oriented services to the client devices themselves, the services are now “on the ground,” so to speak, and they become dew computing
    Behold the Cloud of Clouds: The Intercloud – Cloud computing is raining metaphors (with additional cloud metataphors such as microcloud, intercloud, follow-me cloud etc.)

  10. PeterL said,

    August 16, 2018 @ 9:03 pm

    "Cloud" was a term of art long before "cloud computing", probably dating back to the early days of networking and the Internet (1980s or earlier). Typically, a diagram would show a number of computers connected to a "cloud" — the exact connectivity between devices was nebulous (pun intended) and not relevant to the overall system design.

  11. Christopher Barts said,

    August 17, 2018 @ 2:40 am

    Similarly to what Christian Weisgerber said, Packet Storm is an information security website, and also a good description of a Denial of Service (DoS) or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack: Send a deluge, a storm, of packets to the victim, overwhelming them and, ideally, crashing their computers. It's an example of Fudd's First Law of Opposition ("If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.") from the Firesign Theatre albums.

  12. Haamu said,

    August 17, 2018 @ 7:17 am

    I agree with the others that storm (or flood) seems metaphorically available any time you have small objects (network packets, emails, web service requests) arriving in unexpectedly large numbers that can overwhelm a recipient. While few of these expressions might be said to be "in general circulation," one recent one certainly is: tweet storm.

    Also worth mentioning, although not strictly meteorological, are temperature-related metaphors (e.g., warm boot vs. cold boot). Of these, the one that is probably in the most general use is the idea that computers can freeze — although it's curious that they are never said to melt or thaw. (Is there a term for a metaphor that lacks bilateral symmetry in this way?)

  13. Cervantes said,

    August 17, 2018 @ 8:04 am

    Unhinged is an example of a one-way metaphor.

    I think that computers can freeze and then un-freeze. They can't melt or thaw because they are solid — the freezing refers to motion, not the physical object. It's just like a person "freezing". When they un-freeze, they don't melt or thaw because that would suggest liquefaction.

  14. Haamu said,

    August 17, 2018 @ 9:53 am

    Good point. What we're really dealing with here is a layered metaphor. A couple hundred years ago (per OED), the literal meaning of solidification was extended to motionlessness, and it would have been at that point that the bidirectionality was lost.

    The hypothesis, then, is that my computer just froze is a motionlessness metaphor, and not a solidification metaphor — i.e., it only reaches to the upper layer, not the lower one.

    Makes me wonder, though, why I'd be just as willing to say "my computer just froze up." In other contexts, I wouldn't use froze up to indicate motionlessness, only solidification.

  15. Cervantes said,

    August 17, 2018 @ 11:27 am

    Why not? It applies to people, transmissions, really any sort of animal or mechanism.

  16. Donald Farmer said,

    August 17, 2018 @ 8:44 pm

    When I was at Microsoft in 2001-2011 we often used the term “drizzle” to refer to how we would incrementally download patches to a user’s machine, which, once the download was complete, would then be able to perform the full update.

    There’s a good definition here …

    Drizzling, also known as Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), is a process in which a computer intelligently utilizes unused network bandwidth to download files to the machine. Because only unused bandwidth is used, there is no perceived effect on the network client itself.
    Read more at http://www.programming4.us/security/3278.aspx#WpfJk053X0YoqoF8.99

  17. ajay said,

    August 20, 2018 @ 7:48 am

    "Makes me wonder, though, why I'd be just as willing to say "my computer just froze up." In other contexts, I wouldn't use froze up to indicate motionlessness, only solidification."

    Wouldn't you? What about talking about your (for example) knee freezing up when you got a cramp? I don't think I'd use "froze up" for solidification, in fact. The water froze. The river froze over.

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