Before the enterprise starts to rely on IoT infrastructure for core business operations, it needs to consider the fact that without broad access to data from a plethora of sources, it is unlikely to produce the kind of results that support a truly effective digital business model. This means data integration must be built into IoT environments as a core capability, a challenge that many organizations are still struggling with in their legacy environments.
The good news, however, is that because IoT infrastructure is only just starting to take root, there is still plenty of time to craft a fully integrated environment that can grow and expand without forming the data silos that currently plague the data center.
According to Vodafone’s most recent IoT Barometer Report, more than 80 percent of companies that have embarked on IoT development say that its key role is to integrate analytics, artificial intelligence and key digital initiatives. In part, this involves linking IoT processes with legacy back-office solutions like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). The broader the integration, it seems, the more efficient and cost-effective the new IoT environment will be.
On the downside, however, it seems that defining the need for integration and actually achieving it are two very different matters. According to a recent survey by IFS, 84 percent of industrial companies have yet to integrate the data coming from connected devices with what is being generated by ERP and other systems. This is putting a damper on strategic decision-making and the ability to streamline operations, which in turn is undermining the ability of newly deployed IoT technology to foster a digital services-based business model. The solution, of course, is to bring legacy functions into the new IoT paradigm by forging greater connectivity across all data points, but this is not easy to do without disrupting existing operations.
But to truly make the IoT work, integration needs to happen horizontally between hardware, software and application layers, not just across vertically distributed resources. VMware and SAP recently teamed up to address this challenge by linking their respective virtual- and application-layer platforms under a common framework that can extend across devices, infrastructure, edge, cloud and application domains. The idea is to forge ties between VMware’s Pulse IoT portfolio, which oversees infrastructure management and visibility, with SAP’s Leonardo IoT and Cloud Platform solutions that concentrate on workflow and process coordination. Together, the companies hope to arrive at broad OT-IT integration supported by holistic analytics capabilities on pre-tested, pre-integrated platforms.
Meanwhile, C3 and MapR Technologies are looking at key IoT integration solutions for targeted industries like health care as they attempt to combine legacy data with advanced, intelligent analytics. The two have teamed up to support the integration of legacy, mission-critical applications on multi-tenant infrastructure across on-premises, cloud and edge deployments. In this way, says HIT Infrastructure’s Elizabeth O’Dowd, forward-leaning health care organizations can leverage both newly created and historical data sets for life-saving diagnostic and other functions as well as for broader population health and research purposes.
In the old days (as in, earlier this decade), it was bad enough if one half of the enterprise didn’t know what the other half was doing. But in this age of streamlined, app-driven business processes, maintaining this state of willful blindness is no longer tenable.
If data truly is the lifeblood of the enterprise, then failure to integrate it across all aspects of the operational environment is tantamount to ignoring the arterial clots surrounding your vital organs.
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.