The Internet of Things is the focus of most data infrastructure development these days, so it is small wonder that the channel is starting to fill up with “IoT platforms” intent on providing soup-to-nuts support for everything data-related.
But since the IoT harnesses multiple technologies to push services closer to end users than anything that has come before, is it reasonable to expect any one vendor to deliver on an integrated, end-to-end platform?
It is, according to Theresa Bui, head of enterprise product marketing at IoT platform developer Jasper (which was recently acquired by Cisco), but with so many available options it is getting difficult to tell the true platforms from partial solutions. A true platform, she says, will not only manage device connectivity and support application development, it will also automate these and other functions, enable real-time data collection and integration and provide links to back-end IT systems. Systems that provide simple IaaS connectivity or rely on specific hardware-software configurations can still be of use, but they will need to be integrated into broader IoT deployments nonetheless.
For some vendors, this is easier to implement than others. Infor, for example, already provides a wealth of analytics tools and related data management suites, so all it needed to do to provide a broad IoT solution was to add the device connectivity and app support, says COO Pam Murphy. The result is Infor IoT, which the company bills as a complete solution that provides uniformity across the multiple standards that govern the various pieces of the IoT stack. In addition, it offers advanced intelligence and predictive analytics that can enhance data-driven processes environments ranging from the enterprise service catalogue to the manufacturing floor.
Simply building an IoT application development stack requires careful coordination between a number of key capabilities, according to eWeek’s Darryl K. Taft. On the computation side, apps will need real-time parallel processing capabilities to support continuous data streaming and query across distributed environments, while the database itself needs broad scalability without introducing latency and data degradation. At the same, queuing systems, application frameworks and resource management systems all need to work in tandem to support the highly dynamic loads that encompass raw data ingestion, conditioning and refined analytics.
Startups like Particle are taking a bead on this particular aspect of the IoT with platforms that aim to speed-up the launch of new applications. The company claims its Particle Cloud solution cuts development time from as long as three years down to an afternoon, essentially by providing a secure API to web-based development tools and device management functions. At the same time, it manages SLAs and support contracts and offers built-in integration with leading data management and analytics platforms. In this way, the system addresses the key challenge in building a working IoT environment: executing the apps and pushing them out to users.
No matter how you approach it, building an IoT ecosystem does not lend itself to plug-and-play connectivity. Even end-to-end platforms will likely require more than the average integration, performance testing and troubleshooting of the typical data system. After all, we are talking about building an entirely new class of infrastructure that is larger, more distributed and more complex than anything that has come before.
There will probably never be a definitive answer as to what is or is not an “IoT platform," but the more integration you can find in a vendor solution, the less you have to do yourself.
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.