A Better IoT Through Middleware

Arthur Cole
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Five Tips for Maximizing Value of IoT Investments

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to produce lucrative new revenue streams for businesses across the globe, but it could also trap us all in a mire of data confusion and complex, unworkable infrastructure.

To avoid this, the enterprise will need to build roughly the same data ecosystem that exists within the data center, but tailored to the more distributed, abstract nature of the IoT. In all likelihood, this structure will not have as many layers as current infrastructure, but it will be much larger in scale and require a great deal of automation to maintain the high-speed performance that sensor-driven commerce requires.

And to accomplish that, says Tellago managing partner Jesus Rodriguez, you’ll need robust middleware, one that can handle the immense integration challenges of scale-out architecture without hampering the dynamic configuration requirements, high-volume data transfers and other aspects of an operational IoT. To be sure, a number of solutions are already in production, but so far none has provided the kind of end-to-end functionality and ease-of-deployment that a full IoT stack requires. When we are talking about a singular platform that must function equally well within the data center, on distributed network architecture in embedded devices around the world, yesterday’s management stack will not suffice.

This has led to quite the opportunity for those who have dominated data center middleware for the past few decades. Microsoft, for one, recently made its first move in this direction with the acquisition of Solair, an Italian company that specializes in the tracking and management of disparate data points. The platform, which was pretty much built on the Azure cloud, utilizes advanced monitoring and analytics to track products in the supply chain, provide service updates and performance evaluations, and conduct the myriad other functions that  exist within a connected ecosystem. The company’s Smart Factory Application, in fact, is already helping Japanese manufacturers increase productivity and improve efficiency on the shop floor.

HPE is joining the fray as well, releasing its Universal Internet of Things Platform earlier this month at IoT World.  The system is based on emerging machine-to-machine (M2M) and data communication standards to enable a broad range of multi-connectivity, device management, analytics and security functions to allow organizations to quickly deploy a fully integrated, vendor agnostic IoT universe. It also features a development portal that allows for the internal and external creation of advanced IoT applications, and a mashup function that makes it easier to enrich data sets using external data sources. (Disclosure: I provide content services for HPE.)

Because the IoT relies extensively on both wired and wireless infrastructure, this is a unique opportunity to unite the two under a single strategic vision, says Emil Berthelsen, principal analyst with Machina Research. Already, there is quite a bit of overlap between these two architectures – everything from device and connectivity management to back-end integration and cloud service management. So it only makes sense to unite them under a common framework rather than start your IoT operations with the same kind of silo-based infrastructure that has hampered the data center for so long. The first step, of course, is taking a hard look at existing mobile and IT architectures to determine what is working and what isn’t, and then enter collaborative partnerships with key vendors to determine the best way to move forward.

The Internet of Things will be charged with the herculean task of gathering data from perhaps millions of endpoints and then parsing it to the point where it actually makes sense to enterprise decision-makers. As such, it requires an architecture that is solid yet flexible, fine-tuned yet massively scalable, expansive yet low-cost and efficient.

The best way to do this is through software, of course, with a solid middleware layer to keep it all tightly focused on the business process.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

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