Cloud computing augmented with ‘fog’ tech

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For many businesses one of the key obstacles to embracing cloud computing, especially public cloud platforms, is security. But now researchers at the University of Camerino have published a paper which outlines a potential solution which could also be the next natural evolutionary step for the cloud as a whole, according to Tech Radar.

The findings, which appeared in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, propose that a move towards so-called ‘fog computing’ may be the most sensible way to overcome some of the biggest threats facing the modern IT market.

The cloud provides an excellent alternative to storing data and running apps on-site, instead allowing organisations and individuals to access important resources on local devices while the hosting is handled by remote server farms. Yet from a security point of view, this is the equivalent of putting all the eggs in one basket.

If a cloud platform is compromised, then attackers might theoretically be able to gain access to vast amounts of precious data in one fell swoop. This applies not only to digital hacks, but also to theft carried out from within the data centres themselves.

The concept of fog computing, which has emerged over the past few years, takes the same approach to outsourcing computation power and storage as the cloud, but diversifies it further by ensuring that data is not housed on a single hardware setup.

In the proposal put forward by researchers, information would instead be scattered broadly between a number of different servers, rather than storing every part of a particular file in a single place. Legitimate users will still be able to access the data whenever they need to, but hackers would be incapable of stealing an entire file, instead only gaining access to tiny pieces of tens of thousands of files, which would be useless on their own.

Spokesperson, Rosario Culmone, explained that fog computing would lead to data being dispersed and diffused throughout a multitude of locations, hence the use of the fog metaphor. This would mean that no single server would contain a complete file, providing an innate security solution that would bolt onto and boost the reputation of the cloud.

She also said that the dynamic nature of this approach would prove to be advantageous in a number of other ways, although admitted that there could be legislative and regulatory issues which need to be overcome before this concept can be made into a reality.

There are already disagreements about how data should be treated when it is stored on remote servers, since different legal jurisdictions may be invoked and myriad complications can and do arise. If files were effectively rendered in a way that gave them no distinct storage location, the likelihood of further confusion is great.

In addition it is not just that the information would be spread across multiple servers in different locations as part of this system, but that it would also constantly be shifted between servers, with this persistence of motion being another strength from a security point of view.

Advocates argue that fog computing could help the cloud to become better protected against attacks and also mean that end users would be able to experience a more consistent, streamlined experience as a result. It is seen as having applications in everything from healthcare to the rollout of self-driving vehicles, with a multitude of major IT firms already committed to further development of fog computing.

Fog computing is effectively at the stage that cloud computing occupied a decade ago; a potentially revolutionary technology which needs more time to develop.