The Internet of Things (Iot) represents a gargantuan networking challenge, incorporating both wired and wireless infrastructure and a host of connectivity, data handling, security and other elements.
At the same time, the enterprise needs the IoT to be up and running quickly, before the realities of a digital services economy start to push traditional business models out the door.
What to do? Fortunately, the technology industry has a ready-made solution when start-up funds are limited and time is of the essence: as-a-service platforms.
The past year has seen a steady flow of IOT-as-a-Service offerings, many of them targeting the key aspects of connecting disparate devices into mainstream data centers and analytics engines. One of the newest is from Ericsson, which recently launched a suite of services covering everything from network modeling and design development to automated incident management and Voice over LTE applications. The company is expecting IoT devices to exceed mobile phones by next year, which means organizations looking to capitalize on the market will need even more help than they do with mobile data services.
Meanwhile, AT&T has turned to Cisco’s Jasper IoT platform to implement new multi-layered security services, enhanced analytics and new classes of communications protocols aimed at connected devices. The services, presented under AT&T’s Control Center – Advanced platform, will be managed through Narrowband-IoT and LTE CAT-M1 networks, with an eye toward addressing some of the trickier aspects of building IoT networks, such as scaling up analytics capabilities. The service will also integrate with the Cisco Spark platform for enhanced collaboration and cost management.
Earlier this year, Microsoft entered the IoTaaS market with IoT Central, a fully managed platform that will help both enterprises and third-party systems developers create customized environments alongside the Azure Suite IoT PaaS solution. The system incorporates messaging services using popular protocols like MQTT, HTTPS and AMPQPS, as well as tools like device authentication, streaming analytics and advanced storage and visualization services for log management and other functions. The service is currently available in preview mode, but is expected to hit production environments later this year.
Probably the most ambitious IoT services platform, however, is Nokia’s WING (Worldwide IoT Network Grid) project announced last February. The company is aiming for a borderless IoT network that seamlessly connects devices across the globe using a network of independent regional providers. The service is aimed at large, multi-national enterprises that would otherwise have to navigate a stew of local laws and regulatory requirements to provide connected IoT services. But as Telecoms’ Jaime Davies notes, the main drawback is that those are the very same clients that Nokia’s regional partners are also trying to land, making it just as likely they will support a white-box approach instead.
Whether the enterprise seeks to build the IoT on third-party services or under its own auspices, it is bound to face challenges. True, services can be up and running quickly, but the kind of customized development that allows an organization to stand out from the crowd can only come from hands-on experience with systems and architectures.
In other words, the easy way is not always the best way – although IoT as a service may help to keep a services portfolio afloat just long enough to build an integrated, hybrid architecture for the long term.
Arthur Cole is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years’ experience covering enterprise IT, telecommunications and other high-tech industries.