Dramatically Improved Security and Usability Features in Latest Version of EdgeX, the Industry-Leading Open Source Edge Data Platform – Embedded Computing Design

Dramatically improved security and usability features in the latest version of EdgeX, the industry's leading open source edge data platform

01 June 2023

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Dramatically improved security and usability features in the latest version of EdgeX, the industry's leading open source edge data platform
Image credit: EdgeX

The leading open source edge data platform is undergoing its most significant upgrade to date. The availability and adoption of EdgeX version 3.0 will resonate with a variety of industries including factory automation, energy, building automation and more. The impact will be felt in terms of better interoperability, scalability, security and configurability between devices and applications at the edge.

Through my roles with the EdgeX Foundry and IOTech Systems, a major contributor to the EdgeX effort, I have had a front row seat in the development of this open source edge data platform. I would like to share with you some of the significant details of what you can expect from EdgeX 3.0. I will also describe how the platform continues to be the key framework that enterprises rely on to develop their commercial edge software solutions.

Already well recognized as the leading open source edge data platform, the Linux Foundation’s EdgeX Foundry is about to take another significant step forward by releasing a brand new updated version of the framework. Along with many other companies involved in this amazing project, IOTech Systems is proud to play a key role in helping bring the benefits of EdgeX version 3.0 to the wider edge software community.

A major release update is significant for EdgeX, not only because it signifies a new set of key features for its user base, but also because it showcases the mature, yet evolutionary perspectives of the core platform and associated commercial edge products that are available. in the ecosystem.

EdgeX Foundry is an open source edge data platform, under the Linux Foundation Edge umbrella. More specifically, it is a highly flexible and scalable open source edge platform that facilitates interoperability between devices and applications at the edge. It is made possible thanks to an ecosystem of collaborators representing a variety of industries.

Edge software developers and solution architects use EdgeX to solve the challenge of integrating different components needed by the edge. Key tasks here often include acquiring and normalizing data from a wide variety of industrial sensors and devices, running state-of-the-art rules on that data, visualizing the data, executing control commands or activating devices, integrating your own edge algorithms including artificial intelligence and streaming to the cloud. Adopting the EdgeX framework simplifies all of these tasks, while the mature set of microservices available often makes this a setup rather than a coding exercise.

As chair of the EdgeX Technical Steering Committee (EdgeX TSC), it is my responsibility to lead the project and, with the help of the committee and the wider development team, ensure that we are creating a project that meets the needs of the developers of edge solutions both now and in the future.

Like any software product, the predictability of what’s coming is an important consideration for EdgeX users. Equally important is the open way we come to these roadmap decisions. The collaborative process by which the TSC plans each release and its feature set is a key part of the openness and vendor neutrality that makes EdgeX so appealing to our users. (Keep an eye out for announcements on June’s open planning session for the 3.1 release we call Napa!)

For ease of identification, each version of EdgeX is given a code name based on a geographic location. The previous version was called Levski (found in Bulgaria). The next stop on our virtual world tour is Minnesota!

Minnesota, “land of 10,000 lakes”, is part of the American Midwest. Its history is related to the productivity and supply of the basic staples (food and materials) used by people in America and the rest of the world. At one time, Minnesota produced one-third of the bread supply and 20 percent of the flour in the United States. Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (better known as 3M today) supplies everything from healthcare and consumer goods to sticky notes on your desk.

Like Minnesota and the Midwest, EdgeX is somewhere in between. Its job is to serve and connect the edge/OT world to the enterprise/IT world. So, it’s fitting that this third major EdgeX release is named after a key industrial center in the United States.

As I wrote above, the larger increase in version number allows us to make more significant updates to the framework and gives us the freedom to make changes otherwise prohibited by our minor version compatibility rules. Of course, we try to be backwards compatible where possible, but after two years of minor releases of V2, there are some key updates and usability benefits that we can now introduce.

The main theme of Minnesota and EdgeX 3.0 is usability. In particular, the way the user configures EdgeX has greatly improved.

EdgeX’s microservices architecture helps make the framework flexible and extensible, with the ability for users to add or replace services as they wish. The benefits of microservices are well known, however one criticism of decoupled systems is the sometimes complex way they are configured or controlled.

That’s why EdgeX version 3.0 introduces a common configuration model for EdgeX microservices. Because many configuration options (logging, telemetry, security, database, and message bus settings) apply to multiple microservices, we’ve added the ability to configure them in one common location. Some microservices are likely to have common configuration requirements, such as south-facing device services or north-facing application services, so we’ve provided a layered design. Users can configure settings that are common to all services or those that should only apply to the device or application services.

This will save EdgeX system developers and installers a lot of time and reduce maintenance efforts. It will be much easier to make configuration changes, run the system again, and be sure all settings have taken effect appropriately. Check out the latest EdgeX docs for details.

In addition to configuring each microservice independently, users of EdgeX 1 or 2 had to use a combination of different file formats to configure. There was a combination of TOML, YAML and JSON file formats to contend with. Upgrading to the major version gave us an opportunity to reduce this complexity as well, so we decided to use YAML and JSON going forward. YAML and JSON can be derived from each other, so we let users pick their favorite and work with that. All TOML usage has been replaced and removed. Again, using the platform becomes easier and more manageable with this change.

Another highlight for 3.0 is the addition of microservices authentication within the EdgeX platform. When running in secure mode, microservices now require a validated authentication token before they can communicate. Thanks to the efforts of the EdgeX Security Working Group, all of this is integrated into the platform with tokens issued by the Secret Store service. The security advances here also allow version 3 to move to a much lighter-weight API Gateway service than we used previously, which helps a lot with our ongoing efforts to minimize the platform footprint.

There are too many updates to list in this article, but of course we will have V3 versions of the APIs. We have some minor changes, including updates to help with automatic device discovery, but the APIs are mature, so there aren’t the major updates we had with the previous major leap. You can check out the full set of changes in the EdgeX V3 Migration Guide. The full release notes are on the way, of course.

As we enter our third major release, the stability and longevity of EdgeX is encouraging more users of the platform. For example, Eaton recently announced its significant use of EdgeX with a new case study on EdgeX adoption. In addition, many companies are implementing IOTech’s commercially supported EdgeX implementation, which offers them all the benefits of EdgeX along with value-added features, such as the extensive set of industrial device connectors, graphical tools, and deployment management, all as a reliable COTS Product.

We expect the next release after this (3.1 or Napa) scheduled for Q4 of this year, to become the new Long Term Support (LTS) release of EdgeX. Users who want to jump from the previous LTS (2.1 or Jakarta) should start familiarizing themselves with the new features. There are some substantial changes, so we encourage you to start learning about V3 sooner rather than later. The features built into EdgeX Minnesota will serve as the foundation for other features for the next few years. For example, using URLs to point to configurations and profiles that could come from anywhere and be shared is only possible because of the now added common configuration feature.

EdgeX’s lively discussion forum is a good place to chat and leave feedback.

Finally, always remember that EdgeX is an open project. Our meetings are open to all and all are welcome. Formal membership is not required and contributions and input are always welcomed.

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