IoT in the Cloud: The Next Phase of Enterprise Infrastructure

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    There is little question that the cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) will dominate enterprise IT development in the coming years, but exactly how these two initiatives will coalesce into a working production environment is still very much up in the air.

    The enterprise needs to figure it out quickly, however, because the world economy is shaking off the old processes and business models that rely on traditional data infrastructure in favor of the faster, leaner, service-based applications of the mobile era.

    According to Cisco, more than 90 percent of the enterprise workload will be hosted in the cloud and tailored to IoT functionality by 2020. The total IoT workload by then is expected to be a whopping 600 ZB per year, nearly 40 times that of traditional data infrastructure and 275 times the amount of traffic running to user devices directly from enterprise data centers. It is hard to predict how these trends will progress into the next decade, but it’s fair to say that once the bulk of data is pushed into the cloud, there is little incentive to migrate it back to the data center again.

    For all intents and purposes, this means the enterprise will have to start treating its cloud and IoT workloads with the same care and attention it has given to internal data operations over the years, which represents both a technological and cultural shift from what we have today. And therein lies the rub, because those who say they can deliver on this new data environment are offering such a radical idea of what IT should be that just getting started on the transition is exceedingly difficult.

    Amazon, natch, has a lot to say about the new digital infrastructure, but the company is no longer proposing that the enterprise simply migrate its entire shop to AWS, at least not directly. Instead, says Fortune, the company is presenting new hardware options like the Snowball Edge and AWS Greengrass that push storage and compute services close to users to enable greater speed and more personalized service, while still providing a back-channel to AWS for analytics and data management. Meanwhile, the company’s Lambda serverless computing architecture acts as the application framework to allow in-house and third-party support tools to implement hybrid-style computing environments.

    Microsoft is looking to leverage its Azure cloud as an IoT solution as well, although the company seems to be taking a more measured approach than Amazon by leveraging legacy data infrastructure to a higher degree. The company recently implemented an Apache Kafka-based device connector that allows enterprises to stream and ingest data into the Azure cloud. In this way, analytics engines are not overwhelmed by volumes of telemetry and other types of data as IoT environments scale. The system works in conjunction with other IoT systems, such as the Device Twin syncing service and third-party security platforms like Casaba and CyberX.

    While cloud-based IoT infrastructure is usually viewed as the next phase in tech-savvy markets, many developing nations are looking at it as a way to propel their economies into the 21st century without having to recreate decades’ worth of data center infrastructure. Systems developers like Fujitsu are hoping to tap these markets with turnkey solutions that allow organizations to launch full-scale IoT environments with relative ease and low start-up costs. The Fujitsu Cloud IoT Platform provides a broad set of APIs and a user-friendly dashboard to enable a high degree of customization and continuous development as technologies and markets evolve. Fujitsu also has a large managed services portfolio that focuses on providing solutions to clients rather than loading them up on technology.

    It is important to remember that while this cloud-based IoT ecosystem is where many providers want to take the enterprise, it is still unclear how far the enterprise is willing to follow. The practical advantages of Big Data and the IoT are still largely theoretical at this point, as is the notion that economic activity will be dominated by services going forward, rather than merely supplemented.

    But as mentioned above, this is the path the enterprise has chosen to tread for the time being, and at some point it will have to deliver real-world results to those who are footing the bill.

    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.

    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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