There is significant overlap in the requirements for cloud and cloudlet. At both levels, there is the need for: (a) strong isolation between untrusted user-level computations; (b) mechanisms for authentication, access control, and metering; ( c) dynamic resource allocation for user-level computations; and, (d) the ability to support a very wide range of user-level computations, with minimal restrictions on their process structure, programming languages or operating systems. At a cloud datacenter, these requirements are met today using the virtual machine (VM) abstraction. For the same reasons they are used in cloud computing today, VMs are used as an abstraction for cloudlets. Meanwhile, there are a few but important differentiators between cloud and cloudlet.
Different from cloud data centers that are optimized for launching existing VM images in their storage tier, cloudlets need to be much more agile in their provisioning. Their association with mobile devices is highly dynamic, with considerable churn due to user mobility. A user from far away may unexpectedly show up at a cloudlet (e.g., if he just got off an international flight) and try to use it for an application such as a personalized language translator. For that user, the provisioning delay before he is able to use the application impacts usability.
If a mobile device user moves away from the cloudlet he is currently using, the interactive response will degrade as the logical network distance increases. To address this effect of user mobility, the offloaded services on the first cloudlet need to be transferred to the second cloudlet maintaining end-to-end network quality. This resembles live migration in cloud computing but differs considerably in a sense that the VM handoff happens in Wide Area Network (WAN).
A cloudlet is a new architectural element that arises from the convergence of mobile computing / IoT and cloud computing. It represents the middle tier of a 3-tier hierarchy: mobile or IoT device cloudlet cloud. A cloudlet can be viewed as a “data center in a box” whose goal is to “bring the cloud closer”.
A cloudlet has four key attributes: