ZEDEDA provides a simple and scalable cloud-based orchestration solution for distributed edge computing, eliminating the complexities of today’s solutions through an open and purpose-built orchestration framework.
Example: Grid-Connect Company
This solution brief illustrates an example of an enterprise's typical ZEDEDA solution for edge orchestration. Our example highlights a thought-leading company Grid-Connect Company that uses the ZEDEDA solution for managing 'edge devices' deployed in their wind turbines. Grid-Connect has multiple wind farms across the USA, and within each wind farm, they have hundreds of wind turbines. Their organization's most important business assets are these wind turbines that are highly distributed geographically, often in remote, rural locations. Having secure and reliable remote access and management over the wind turbines is crucial to their business.
Grid-Connect deployed the ZEDEDA edge orchestration solution to increase the security and reliability of managing their wind turbines. Using ZEDEDA, the IT department could repurpose their existing industrial PCs by installing them with the open-source EVE-OS. They also leveraged existing networks and IT infrastructure to easily onboard and manage the upgraded edge devices.
Grid-Connect leverages both the web-based interface of ZedControl as well as the scripted automation afforded by zCLI. The ZEDEDA solution API further enables secure interfaces to 3rd party cloud applications specific to their business domain. The IT administrators create projects for logically grouping hundreds of edge nodes by geographical location. They also add users and assign roles to distribute the workflow appropriately. For example, segmented user groups responsible for a particular wind farm (with multiple turbines) need access rights to their region's edge assets and infrastructure.
The following schematic illustration shows how Grid-Connect uses the ZEDEDA solution to orchestrate all the edge nodes across their wind farms.
Starting from the bottom, the swim lanes in the diagram shows:
- Business Assets: each wind turbine must be remotely managed
- Sensors: 100+ sensors are deployed on each turbine
- Networks: Grid-Connect uses a few different connectivity methods, some local to the edge and others to connect to the cloud.
- Edge Nodes: edge computing devices can be further sub-divided into these three layers
- Hardware: with specific IO and network adapters
- EVE-OS: the open-source operating system running on the hardware
- App instances: software applications dynamically deployed to edge nodes and managed via the ZEDEDA Cloud orchestration solution
- External Connections: the ZEDEDA solution also manages access to 3rd party cloud providers or other on-or-off-premise servers
- User Interfaces: web-based, scripted, and programmatic interfaces offer layered access depending on user roles
- Users: various roles assigned to users provide them with different privileges to control and manipulate the system
Let's understand each part of the ZEDEDA solution in detail.
1. Business Assets
Every business has important business assets. For Grid-Connect, a wind turbine is the most important asset. It requires several IT infrastructure components including, hardware, and software to manage and maintain optimal energy output across all its turbines.
Because business assets vary greatly across different industries, the flexibility of the edge orchestration is also critical. For example, a car manufacturing company's key business assets would be the assembly line robots to assemble an automobile. There isn't one generic robot but rather a long chain of different ones which perform very specific, complex functions, and monitoring must be performed at each step for accuracy along the way. The ZEDEDA solution is agnostic to the type, number, and variety of business assets that a company needs to securely and reliably manage.
Data from hundreds of sensors are used to monitor the proper functioning of a wind turbine. Several accelerometers (that measure changes in velocity or speed along 3 axes) are used in wind turbines to detect and monitor vibration. Abnormal vibration within the main, yaw, slew bearings, and other rotating components, can indicate wear or other possible issues. Additional sensors that measure temperature, humidity, and other environmental parameters are also monitored to improve operational insight for future enhancements.
Let's take an example of one particular sensor, an audio sensor that is used in wind turbines. The audio sensor records sound produced by the wind turbine continuously. The recorded audio is then processed by software in the cloud to determine the mechanical health parameters which are used to predict maintenance requirements.
Networks are an important part of any distributed solution. Local connectivity is used to tie sensor and actuator data to edge node applications. Remote connectivity can then tie those applications to public or private clouds or even other edge servers. Most businesses, including Grid-Connect, will make sure local operations (on its turbines) continue undisturbed, even if remote connectivity is temporarily unavailable.
Because Grid-Connect has most of its business assets in remote rural locations, they often use LTE (cellular/mobile) networks to connect wind turbine data and applications to the cloud. Some wind farms also support Wi-Fi networks to connect several wind turbines, and sometimes they can be connected using wired LAN cable networks.
Hence, the ZEDEDA solution is agnostic to the network requirements so that customers can take advantage of various network technologies.
4. Edge Nodes
A computing device running EVE-OS is called an edge node. In this case, each business asset (a wind turbine) runs as an edge node so that the ZEDEDA Cloud can orchestrate it. Customers can choose to create their edge nodes using a variety of industrial PCs and edge gateway hardware, supporting both ARM-based and Intel-based (AMD/x86) hardware architectures.
4.1. Supported Hardware
The ZEDEDA solution works with a wide range of hardware types. Grid-Connect deployed an industrial PC model manufactured by a popular device manufacturer. The industrial computer satisfies its hardware requirements and supports the deployment of all necessary software applications.
Many models from various device manufacturers have been tested and shown to work well with the ZEDEDA solution. Even inexpensive devices, such as the Raspberry Pi 4, could be used for prototyping and testing.
The ZEDEDA solution for the distributed edge leverages EVE-OS, a secure, open-source, universal operating system that prevents lock-in through truly vendor-neutral, open APIs.
Learn more about LF Edge Edge Virtualization Engine (EVE) at this link.
Note that there are specific versions of EVE-OS for x86 or ARM-based processors, with either 32-bit or 64-bit architectures.
4.3. Edge Applications
Enterprises typically want to run various software applications on an edge node to make the most of their edge hardware infrastructure. Enterprises can use custom-built and 3rd party applications to manage various business processes.
Grid-Connect has developed several software applications, including these examples:
1. Turbine Audio Analysis software collects streaming audio recorded by a microphone near the turbine shaft and analyzes it. The analysis includes machine learning algorithms to find patterns in the audio data. Those patterns are used to predict the need for maintenance or give alerts of abnormalities that might result in future breakdowns.
2. Optimum Output Regulator software records and measures many environmental parameters such as humidity and pressure and may change turbine speed and other controls to guarantee optimum energy output.
3. Maintenance Scheduler software lets the maintenance team collect data from many wind turbine sensors, including the rotor speed and friction at various points, and leverages those parameters to predict an optimized maintenance schedule. This helps the maintenance team schedule onsite visits and refine their analysis regularly to maximize the efficiency of the maintenance cycles.
Each of the three applications needs to interface with different sensors. The ZEDEDA solution offers the fine-grained control needed to determine which applications access the industrial PC's available IO and network ports (southbound network adapters). As more custom or 3rd party applications are needed, the ZEDEDA solutions allow them to be securely deployed on the Edge Node without interfering with existing applications. If the edge node of the turbine is online, the tools and applications to improve maintenance and management of the wind turbine can be updated as often as desired.
In general, the ZEDEDA solution helps remotely deploy and manage all applications running on edge nodes with ease and efficiency. Applications running in containers, modules, or entire virtual machines are supported.
4.4. IO and Network Adapters
Every Edge Node typically includes several network adapters such as LAN, WLAN, USB, COM, AUDIO, WiFi, BT, LTE, etc. These adapters may be used to interface the edge node to sensors and other input/output (IO) devices and external communication networks.
Adapters connecting to sensors on a business asset
Edge nodes typically come with a variety of IO adapters to connect to external or internal interfaces. Grid-Connect wind turbines use various IO ports to connect sensors like humidity, temperature, acceleration, and more.
A microphone (audio sensor) is also deployed near the turbine shaft and connected to the input audio port.
Network adapters to connect with external sources
The sensors continuously generate large amounts of data. Some data are processed locally by the edge applications, and some are pushed to the cloud to be processed by more complex applications. Even in the locally processed case, summary data also needs to be pushed to the cloud.
In Grid-Connect, this outbound data streaming happens over one of the external networks, Wi-Fi or LTE. The outbound network adapters of the edge node are allocated to be used for this purpose.
5. External Connections
Most edge infrastructure devices are not islands. Instead, they need to be integrated with other applications running in the cloud and/or on-premise. ZEDEDA gives its customers this freedom of choice -- to connect edge data to any public or private cloud or on-premise servers. Grid-Connect was able to adapt a popular cloud solution using the updated edge architecture and orchestration. ZEDEDA's powerful integration capabilities enabled a straightforward migration path.
6. User Interfaces
ZedControl (ZedUI and zCLI)
ZEDEDA delivers visibility, control, and security for the distributed edge implementing a secure connection to edge nodes running EVE-OS. EVE-OS is an open-source implementation that is part of the EVE project in LF Edge. EVE-OS is tailored to simplify the orchestration of deploying containers and clusters (e.g., Docker and Kubernetes) and virtual machines (VMs) to run both cloud-native and legacy applications on any edge hardware (ARM, x86, or GPU). The ZEDEDA Cloud solution further enables customers to connect their edge nodes to any cloud or on-premise system. By enabling freedom of hardware, application software, and cloud at the distributed edge at scale, ZEDEDA provides the flexibility that customers demand to avoid vendor lock-in and to consolidate workloads while future-proofing edge deployments.
Grid-Connect uses ZedControl to remotely perform management and maintenance operations across all edge nodes (deployed in each wind turbine). The orchestration of edge nodes and applications by ZedControl allows its developers to manage the edge with a multi-tenant “cloud-native” environment, which saves time and resources for managing large-scale IoT infrastructure.
Developers can securely provision resources, monitor application performance, and perform large-scale software lifecycle management on globally distributed systems via ZedControl, all while focusing resources on business-driven app development instead of getting buried in complex edge IT and network/firewall rules that are typically required to run legacy embedded devices and apps.
A User Agent is a term used to describe the interface between users and the ZedControl environment. The programmatic link lets users create, read, update, delete, and configure all assets exposed within ZedControl. Two user agents are available, one connected to a web-based UI and the other allowing interaction via a command-line interface.
ZedControl management is available from either or both of the following:
- ZedUI – a web-based graphical user interface (GUI)
- zCLI – a command-line interface (python based)
zCLI is a simple Command-Line Interface (CLI), hosted as a Docker application, enabling nearly all ZedControl functions.
Most of the IT admins at Grid-Connect are quite comfortable using the simple zCLI interface to provision new edge nodes and monitor their health and status over time because they can script or copy and paste commonly used commands.
ZedControl also offers an elaborate and easy-to-use web user interface (UI). The web-based interface makes it easy for IT admins and application developers to explore, browse, and add their own edge applications, then deploy them on existing or new edge nodes. Once certain tasks are understood and tested, they can perform many such tasks in parallel by applying them to nodes. At Grid-Connect, most app developers prefer using the ZedUI for its simplicity to learn and explore the availability of edge apps in the ZEDEDA App Marketplace. The marketplace includes an example and test apps and enables easy lifecycle management of a vast array of useful containerized software applications, operating systems packaged as VMs, and other tools. In the future, the marketplace will allow enterprises (or any software company or organization) to sell their custom-developed applications to other ZEDEDA customers.
6.3. Direct ZEDEDA API Access
Behind ZedControl is a complex API that ties edge node management to the ZedControl user interfaces. Customers are allowed to connect directly to these APIs programmatically.
6.4. Custom UI
Using direct API access, customers are welcome to create a custom user interface or integrate certain features or data into an existing user interface.
7. Terraform Provider ZEDCloud
IT administrators, application development teams, and operational technology (OT) experts form a typical ZedControl user connection. These users can perform business-driven edge orchestration using their favorite user interface to manage and monitor the edge infrastructure.
ZedControl allows setting different user privileges, depending on the role of each user.