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Pushing the future of edge computing forward

The Open Horizon software project, the core technology that powers IBM Edge Application Manager, has joined LF Edge. LF Edge is part of the Linux Foundation and hosts all of their open source projects related to edge computing.

Edge computing brings computation and data storage closer to where data is created by people, places, and things. Open Horizon simplifies the job of getting the right applications and machine learning onto the right compute devices, and keeps those applications running and updated. With 50% of enterprise data expected to be processed at the edge by 2022, compared to only 10% today, Open Horizon will play a critical role in how data is processed in the era of edge computing

By contributing this important project to the Linux Foundation, just as the sector is set to experience tremendous growth, IBM has underscored its commitment to trust, transparency, and collaboration on standards in the edge computing space.

While IBM has been the only developer on the project thus far, open sourcing the core components of Open Horizon enables a broader, more diverse ecosystem to build out the technology into a robust, secure foundation that all solution providers can adopt as their foundation. As a founding member of the LF Edge community, IBM felt this was the most effective organization to form and grow an active community within.

What is Open Horizon?

One of the things that makes Open Horizon such a breakthrough project is that it enables the autonomous management of more than 10,000 edge devices simultaneously — that’s 20 times as many endpoints as in traditional solutions.

With Open Horizon, you have the ability to:

  • Add new capabilities to a single-purpose device
  • Enable your device to use other services (both nearby and cloud-based) to enhance its existing capabilities
  • Automate the hands-free management of workload lifecycle on the device
  • Automatically deploy applications to all devices where policies match and an agreement is negotiated – up to 10,000 devices by a single admin

Once Open Horizon is installed and configured, you can manage the work it performs without needing physical access to the devices. For example, you could take a Raspberry Pi Zero W device — the size of a pack of gum — and have it function as an offline home assistant one day, and then re-task it to monitor household power usage the next. Or, you could have a smart camera pointed at a street count the number of people walking by one day, and deploy new code and models to have it identify the make and model of vehicles passing by the next.

Exciting possibilities for open source edge technology

IBM fundamentally believes in leveraging the power of open source communities to create robust solutions by harnessing diverse viewpoints and enabling more groups to become stakeholders vested in the project’s success. Working with other developers and organizations to incorporate their needs and requirements into our commercial edge technology leads to better technology for everyone. IBM believes that an open architecture is critical to a successful edge strategy. With solutions built on open source, clients can use edge devices from different providers and still maintain a seamless edge experience.

Joining LF Edge allowed the project team to establish relationships with member organizations, understand their needs, and collaborate with them to create solutions that solved their problems. A side benefit is that this shared approach allows IBM to work with the other projects and companies to create shared approaches, open standards, and common interfaces and APIs.

Open Horizon has already begun to see results from developing relationships with other organizations and projects in LF Edge. An early example of that collaborative approach is with the EdgeX Foundry project — an edge-native IoT platform and data plane. EdgeX Foundry is one of two mature founding projects in LF Edge, and has a thriving community and ecosystem with a large number of participating companies.

The Open Horizon project approached EdgeX Foundry last summer to demo the software and explore the potential for collaboration. By November, their Technical Steering Committee (TSC) voted to incubate Open Horizon. This allowed the Open Horizon team to learn how to build a community around the code and run a successful project.

As part of that effort, EdgeX Foundry created an integration sub-group within their organization under the guidance of their Systems Management Working Group. The goal of that effort was to demonstrate how Open Horizon could be used to dynamically deliver and manage the EdgeX Foundry platform. Open Horizon’s acting Chair, I was voted in as an at-large member of EdgeX’s Technical Steering Committee (TSC) so I could observe how a TSC works and what best practices could be adopted for the Open Horizon project.

As the Open Horizon project grows under LF Edge’s leadership, the possibilities for how the technology will grow are great. It is exciting to see how, using open source edge projects, a developer with limited knowledge of the subject matter can stitch together and deploy an impressive application with limited programming skills.

Four quick ways to get involved

Here are a few quick ways you can work with Open Horizon:

  1. Use it! Install Open Horizon and use it with an example or two. Watch our videos (listed below) and read our docs (coming soon!). Let us know if you find bugs and submit improvements to the documentation as you find them.
  2. Join the community. Attend a few Working Group meetings (coming soon!) where you’ll meet the people who are building the technology and see if there’s a particular area where you can add value. We welcome people of all talents and need a wide variety of skill sets to make this project a raging success.
  3. Find issues to fix. Browse the Anax repo and look for issues labeled “good first issue” to see if you can begin contributing to the project.
  4. Join the conversation and pitch in when you can. Lend your voice to the lively discussions on our Slack channel.