The network of the future will be the heart of the next computing platform, and we will use a new kind of “app” that runs in part on the smartphone (or IoT device), in part in the cloud, and in part on the network. Rooted in work done in the late-1990s and early 2000s, edge computing has become a popular catchphrase for moving computing out of the cloud and into the network — to the network edge. Our approach differs in several ways. First, we believe that to make the new type of app mentioned above become an economic reality in the same spirit as apps on smartphones, creating these apps has to be no more complicated than creating a smartphone app. Second, we believe that the premise of a network edge is essentially wrong. Our belief is in a programming and computing paradigm we call edgeless computing in which these apps can tap the resources of phone, network and cloud seamlessly and transparently. CROSSMobile is the name of our network architecture that captures the notion of edgeless computing and has served as the central touchpoint for all of our work.
Edgeless computing within CROSSMobile-style networks is built on several key mechanisms. The first such mechanism is the ability to run pieces of an overall app as a set of communicating micro-services. The second is a set of mechanisms that allow micro-services to pass data between each other in ways that respect and preserve time-labels on data. The third is a programming language under development that allows app creators to think about distribution, fault tolerance, synchronization, and timing abstractly. We call this language TickTalk (based on the core abstractions for specifying and reasoning about clock synchronization).