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Building a Platform for Your IoT Strategy: Part 1 « US English

Building a Platform for Your IoT Strategy: Part 1

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What is the cloud, and what are “as-a-Service” technologies? In their simplest terms they are someone else’s datacentre (DC) resources delivering IT consumables to you. And that’s brilliant. Need a server for a day to run some test and dev? No need to hound the IT department or spend thousands on dedicated hardware, just pay a few dollars for a pre-built fully configured server, run your apps and then turn it off. 

Companies like Netflix take that even further and run parts of their DC architecture from the cloud on a permanent basis, and AWS are not shy in letting everyone know about it! Whether it’s raw compute and storage, platforms or applications, the principle of the cloud is to deliver low cost, easy to manage, almost disposable IT resources to IT consumers as and when they need it.

This means the cloud isn’t going anywhere fast in terms of a complete IT strategy, its cost effectiveness on all fronts will see to that, but is it the only “outside” strategy that the CIO should be focusing on? Because when you strip away the buzz words and marketing, it’s exchanging one set of DC resources for another, yours for theirs. 

But what about outside the DC bubble?

Collection vs. collation

The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing at an amazing rate, just ask your watch or home heating system. Telemetry on previously unavailable data points is now being absorbed and reported back to companies on an unprecedented scale. Gone are the days of internet cookies alone being the only way to see which book or songs you looked at last week and suggesting the next best seller or chart topper.

A few seconds after your workout has finished, your watch is sending back your heartbeat, steps covered, calories burnt, time of day, location and much more. It knows that about 30 minutes after your workout you’ll be going past a Starbucks or juice bar on the way back home or to the office, so a useful suggestion might be to drop by one of these places and re-hydrate?   

All of this data wasn’t crunched on your watch it was done back at the DC, where vast databases collate all the data points, and very smart algorithms figure out if you should be sent a shopping voucher or restaurant suggestion. And if you take your watch off before you work out? Not a problem, the systems will take an educated guess given previous data and post you a voucher for the latest super fruit smoothie on the off chance that when you’re back online, you are where they expect you to be. And if they “miss” it’s just a data point and a deleted message. 

Connectivity

What if it wasn’t a smart watch but a smart car on the road or a smart crane on a construction site? As a scenario, the crane is lifting and shifting objects at height around the site when a reading from one of the sensors flags a value that is dangerous, let’s say a load has been stacked incorrectly and there’s a danger to stability during lifting. Being in the middle of the city the wireless network is saturated by midday with the volume of devices, so data reporting back to the DC is best efforts until bandwidth opens up…

…you can see where I’m going with this, it doesn’t take a Sherlock-type mind to see that best efforts versus instant feedback are two very different things for two very different sets of circumstances. Now obviously you wouldn’t expect a smart car, crane, ship, plane etc. to be reliant on a WAN link, the transfer of data to the DC, a quick calculation and then send the data back again, to decide whether something is dangerous or safe, the incident has been gone before the result is useful.

So IoT data needs to be in two places at once; back at the DC so the numbers can be crunched and business value realized, and at the customer site (wherever or whatever that might be) for instantaneous collection, calculation, and feedback. That’s a data management headache waiting to happen no matter what business you’re in. 

Control

It’s all about the data. Sorry network and server guys, without you we couldn’t do anything with the data, but at its core the IoT is all about collecting data points and crunching them to realize value. If you lose a switch, your replace it. If you lose a server, you replace it. If you lose data, you lose the business. Whether it’s losing a single customer or the business in its entirety, data management and data protection are going to get a focus like never before as IoT devices collect more and more personal and sensitive data

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Control is going to be the headline for any CIO in the IoT age; access, security, resiliency, performance, and growth are going to be the stories. 

  • Data in different countries conforming to different laws and regulations. 
  • Security against malicious and accidental loss. 
  • Multiple copies across multiple countries and version control. 
  • Failures at the DC, in the cloud, and in faraway places. 
  • Bringing further growth to the business with new deployments.
  • Delivery performance to lines of business and customers.

And that’s just trying to summarize the high level points so as not push this post over 2 parts! With an estimated 50 billion devices in next few years, there is going to be a data explosion, and the CIO is going to be at the heart of this distributed revolution. 

Part 2

I hope I’ve set the scene for what I believe, as do many others, as the next IT shift. The Internet of Things is here, whether it’s an app, a personal appliance or a sensor on a component out at sea. With the sheer scale of data that will be coming from these devices, companies are going to need an IoT strategy just like they do for BYOD, cloud, and security. 

In part 2 I’ll be looking at the Riverbed product suite and how our Software Defined Edge portfolio delivers the control needed to secure what’s in play today, and also provide the foundations for future growth tomorrow. 

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