The Pendulum

Dell recently announced a new distributed core in which all processing is pushed to edge IoT devices.  Their rationale is that current centralized management systems are just too slow to handle the speed and autonomous nature of modern IoT deployments.  While they are correct that the IoT simply cannot run under traditional management approaches, on one side of the pendulum, at Bear we think swinging to the complete opposite side will also cause issues.

The reality is that, while devices might work just fine in a completely distributed manner, humans controlling these systems still require centralized control.  What is required is a middle-of-the-road solution wherein rules are set centrally and enforced autonomously at the endpoints.

Peer-Based Enforcement

Big deal you might be saying – just run some policies and you are done.  The problem with that approach, at least in most solutions, is that there is still a reliance on centrally-connected servers for policy enforcement.  In the IoT, systems are vast, typically run with intermittent connectivity and the entire concept of centrally-enforced policies defeats the foundation of distributed computing.

We solved this problem by creating cascading levels of peer-based enforcement units.  Each subset of devices constantly checks each other – both through direct handshake operations and via asynchronous self-checks – to ensure the proper policies are in place.  Like children, devices will tattle on each other if something is amiss with yet another series of cascading control agents (we call them Local Domain Controllers) being used to handle these issues.

Social Parenting

This latter part is how we keep everything distributed.  You can think of the Local Domain COntrollers as parents in a community.  They all have a repository of policies for every device below them and they work to resolve issues at the edge.  Sure larger issues cascade up the chain but the intent is to enable the edge as much as possible.  It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a cascade of controllers to handle the immensity of the IoT.

This is how we feel the IoT needs to be managed and it represents a middle ground wherein central administrators can be assured that a given set of rules are being followed within a group of autonomous devices even if they cannot directly connect to those devices.