Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the key elements that will be required to make IOT successful in enterprise settings. While IOT is clearly dominating the discussions in technology forums, the ecosystem of enterprise solution is still in very early days. As a result, many of the key elements of enterprise IOT platforms are still to be defined. When we think about those key elements of IOT platforms, we naturally tend to focus on technology. However, lately I’ve becoming convinced that the development and distribution models (open vs. closed source) is going to play an important role in how organizations embraced IOT platforms.
When we think about a way to categorize the different types of IOT platform, we can use a simple model that groups them based on its hosting topology (cloud vs. on-premise) and development-distribution model (closed sources vs. open source).
Following the previous taxonomy, we can clearly see that closed source solutions, whether deployed on-premise or in the cloud, are likely to see more adoption powering vertical-specific solutions in industries such as healthcare, retail, manufacturing, etc.
There are a number of reasons that can contribute to the adoption of closed source IOT solution in this model. For starters, vendors such as IBM or Oracle providing these type of IOT platform have a deep expertise in different verticals and a long history of developing solutions for customers in those industries. However, that’s not the only factor. The closed source nature of those IOT platforms makes it ideal for building solutions using the platform building blocks but almost impossible to extend the platform with new building blocks.
As an alternative to closed source IOT platforms, open source models can see a lot of adoption in the enterprise IOT environment. Below are some of the reasons that might facilitate the adoption of open source IOT platforms in the enterprise:
- Adapters to custom devices: As IOT continues evolving, enterprises are likely to adopt all sorts of smart devices that go beyond the traditional development toolkits such as Arduino or RasperryPI. An open source platform will provide the right extensibility vehicles for supporting heterogenous devices in enterprise settings.
- Integration with Enterprise Systems: Integration with corporate systems will be a fundamental component of enterprise IOT platforms. An open source model would allow enterprises and the developer community to implement new adapters to line of business systems so that they can be leveraged in an IOT solution.
- Custom Protocols: Despite the increasing adoption of standard transport and encoding protocols within IOT device manufacturers, it is safe to expect some IOT vendors to create custom encoding formats or transport protocols that optimize their devices for certain conditions. An open source IOT platform will allow the vendors to incorporate their custom protocols, encoding mechanisms and other elements into the platform so that they can be used in enterprise settings.
- On-premise Hosting: Even though the cloud is destined to play a super important role in the adoption of enterprise IOT solutions, there will be many scenarios in which enterprises would prefer to deploy on-premise instances of an IOT platform. In those settings, open source models will offer the right levels of customization to support diverse enterprise environments.
- New Foundational Capabilities: As enterprises reinvent themselves by embracing smart devices in industrial settings, the number of requirements for an enterprise IOT platform is destined to grow exponentially. An open source model will allow enterprises to customize and extend the IOT platform with new foundational capabilities that are required in their scenarios. As more and more foundational capabilities get added to the platform, other enterprises can benefit from the collective knowledge of the platform
- Customer Confidence: Like any other emerging trend in enterprise software, the IOT industry is likely to produce a new group of startups that provide platforms for enterprise IOT deployments. Large enterprises typically express concerns when working with new startup platforms. Open source models typically help to alleviate those concerns as enterprises can help to maintain and evolve the code base if the platform vendor goes out of business.
These are just some of the reasons I think might propel open source enterprise IOT platforms as one of the most dominant models in the space. As I said before, I don’t have any clear answers but hopefully the ideas explained in this post will trigger some interesting debates.