The closer the enterprise gets to a broad Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem, the more urgently it feels the need for a functioning orchestration layer. Unfortunately, aside from a few rudimentary steps toward basic interoperability and data management, it seems that full-stack orchestration will have to wait a while.
This is a problem both for the enterprise and IoT systems developers because without a high degree of coordination across IoT infrastructure, deployments are not likely to achieve the scale that brings true value to broad data collection and analysis. And if that capability does not emerge in the initial phases of IoT deployment, most projects are likely to produce middling results at best and possibly jeopardize the buy-in from users and providers alike before the concept can get off the ground.
Probably the most forward-leaning effort to date is the BIG IoT (Bridging the Interoperability Gap of the IoT) project led by Siemens and Bosch Software. The group is trying to overcome the multiple heterogeneous standards that govern IoT architectures, such as the Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) and the Message Queueing Telemetry Transport (MQTT), not to mention the numerous proprietary interfaces that are cropping up. Hopefully, this will prevent the kind of fragmentation that plagued so many earlier failed data initiatives, resulting in a cross-platform, cross-standards and cross-domain applications and services layer somewhat akin to the pervasive or ubiquitous computing model that drives semantic web architectures.
Elsewhere, individual efforts are attempting to target key operational aspects of the IoT to bring some commonality to disparate devices. Otono Networks recently launched a new website that provides orchestration and management of eSIM (embedded Security Information Management) across IoT devices. In this way, mobile operators and OEM companies gain a complete proxy solution to connect any device to any network, providing eSIM services ranging from activation to inventory control and remote provisioning without requiring an actual SIM card in the device. As well, it allows multiple network operators to integrate platforms without having to reconfigure their networks.
On the device level, efforts are starting to coalesce around Agile IoT designs, which allow sensors and other endpoints to engage with one other dynamically after they are deployed. According to Market Research Future, the movement is expected to grow nearly 21 percent per year over the next six years, generating close to $200 billion in value by 2023. Most agile platforms will consist of either multiple interoperable components that can be configured to suit a wide range of use cases, or modular platforms that use intelligence and programmability to adapt to disparate environments. Either way, the manufacturing infrastructure should be smart, reusable, and capable of being shared by many production processes simultaneously.
But to gain the kind of service-level interoperability the enterprise needs, it will likely have to spell out its requirements in the Service Level Agreement (SLA) it signs with providers. According to Research and Markets, the SLA will become increasingly vital in the drive to extend interoperability and orchestration across the IoT. This means it will have to delve deeper into network, device and data needs, and clearly spell out requirements for crucial operating parameters like availability and performance. Without these, it will become very difficult for the IoT to evolve beyond its initial limited deployments into architectures that incorporate inter-company and inter-industry data exchange.
The lack of free-flowing data has long been the bane of computing but is nonetheless a fact of life in the business world we live in. For the IoT to succeed, however, companies across the IT spectrum will have to learn to give up a little of what they own in order to leverage the capabilities of others.
Interoperability is a good first step toward full orchestration, but it will take a lot more industry cooperation to produce the internet-like level of connectivity that is required for a properly functioning Internet of Things.
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.