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Not All IOT Platforms are Created Equal

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A few days ago, I was part of a super interesting debate with several thought leaders in the internet of things (IOT) community about the evolution of IOT enterprise platforms. The core point of the debate was trying to identify the different channels by which enterprises will be exposed to IOT platforms.

In the past, I’ve been very vocal that the enterprise IOT will inevitably produce a new type of platform. That thesis is no longer a theoretical argument as we are already seeing the first flavors of IOT platforms starting to make inroads in the enterprise. Even though this generation of IOT platform represent the first iteration in the space, we can already see marked differences between different types of platforms. As an organization looking to embrace an IOT platform, this initial diversity can result very confusing.

IOT Platforms Provided by Traditional Enterprise Software Vendors

  • Overview: Traditional enterprise software vendors like Oracle or IBM are already heavily invested in extending their capabilities into the IOT space. As a result, these vendors are likely to bring to market IOT platforms that are deeply integrated with their existing technology stacks , vertical solutions and services.
  • Should Excel At: in my opinion, the IOT platforms produced by traditional enterprise software vendors are likely to be commercialized as part of industry specific industry solutions rather than standalone platforms. In that sense, this type of platform will excel at providing industry specific capabilities as well as tight integration with the products and platforms provided by the specific enterprise software vendor.
  • Should Not Be Great For: Complementing the previous point, we think IOT platforms provided by traditional enterprise software vendors will be commercialized as part of domain specific solutions and will require a decent level of professional services and training. In that sense, we can make the argument that those types of platforms won’t be great for building general purpose solutions without the involvement of the target enterprise software vendor.

IOT Services Provided by Platform as a Service Providers

  • Overview: Platform as a service (PaaS) providers like AWS, Azure or IBM are already providing specific services that abstract fundamental backend capabilities of IOT solutions. This trend is only going to increase in the near future as more and more cloud providers start building a presence in the IOT space.
  • Should Excel At: The IOT capabilities of PaaS solutions are typically provided in the form of individual services. In that sense, this type of solutions should see a broad adoption within the developer and startup communities. As a result, we should see a lot of the IOT PaaS services being adopted by startups providing smart devices or industry specific solutions as well as IT organizations building their own internal infrastructure.
  • Should Not Be Great For: The IOT capabilities provided by PaaS platforms are likely to lack the consistency of complete IOT platforms. Also, the cloud nature of this type of solution should present challenges for organizations building IOT solutions that require to be deployed within their premises.

IOT Services Provided by Smart Device Providers

  • Overview: From startups to big software companies like Cisco or Texas Instruments, IOT device providers are starting to build the first incarnations of IOT platforms that work consistently across their device portfolio. These IOT platforms will be tightly integrated with the specific family of hardware devices as well as the corresponding manufacturing toolkits.
  • Should Excel At: Platforms provided by IOT hardware providers should be best in class enabling solutions powered by those specific devices. Similarly, this type of platforms will provide consistent backend services and management experience for solutions powered by those smart devices.
  • Should Not Be Great For: While the IOT platforms provided by smart device providers should excel in solutions powered by those devices, they are likely to result limited for general purpose IOT solutions. In that sense, is unlikely that third parties will embrace this type of platforms for building new IOT solutions.

IOT Capabilities Provided by Enterprise Mobility Management Platforms

  • Overview: Enterprise mobile management platform(EMM) vendors such as BlackBerry or VMWare are starting to make the first inroads in the IOT space. If you think of mobile as a subset of IOT, the assumption that a lot of the current capabilities provided by those platforms should be adaptable to the IOT space makes some sense. As a result, we are likely to see that group of vendors providing hybrid platforms that enable both enterprise mobile and IOT solutions.
  • Should Excel At: If we use the enterprise mobile space as a reference, we are likely to see strong IOT security, device management and other operational capabilities included in the IOT platforms provided by traditional enterprise mobile management platform vendors. That model will allow the EMM vendor to extend their existing footprint in the enterprise mobile ecosystem into the IOT space with a consistent value proposition.
  • Should Not Be Great For: While IOT platforms provided by EMM vendors should excel in the security and management capabilities, they are likely to not result an ideal platform for developers building IOT solutions. For years, EMM vendors have evolved cultivating devops as their target customer which entails specific product delivery, sales and marketing models. EMM vendors should continue expanding on this model as they enter the IOT space.

New IOT Enterprise Platforms

  • Overview: Like any other transformational movement in the history of enterprise software, IOT will produce a new group of startups and platforms that will help enterprises build and manage the new generation of industrial solutions. These platforms should provide capabilities such as complex event processing, security, real time analytics, operational management while also providing a friendly interface for developers. We are already witnessing platforms like Kii, Xively, 2lemetry (Amazon), ThingWorx etc start to make progress in this space.
  • Should Excel At: From all the different channels explained in this article, the new wave of enterprise IOT platforms is likely to produce the biggest wave of innovation in the entire space. We should also expect to see these type of platforms being delivered using both on-premise and cloud models as well as leveraging open source vehicles. Additionally, these new group of platform is likely to provided the broadest levels of integration with new hardware manufactures and IOT solution providers.
  • Should Not Be Great For: As explained previously, the new generation of enterprise IOT platforms is likely to excel at innovation and openness. However, because this type of platforms are just evolving, we should not expect to see a lot of industry-specific solutions powered by these platforms in the immediate future. Additionally, as the enterprise OT space evolve, some of this new IOT platform startups will be acquired by larger enterprise software companies inheriting some new commercial and delivery models.
 
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Posted by on May 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Will Open Source Platforms Dominate Enterprise IOT ?

open source

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).

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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.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Half Ass Consumerization of the Enterprise

This is the first of a series of posts that will attempt to provide a pragmatic view of the consumerization of the enterprise phenomena and demystify some of marketing cloud surrounding this term. As an industry, we are identifying the consumerization of the enterprise as a movement within traditional organizations to enable employees with tools and applications similar the ones they use in their personal life. This movement has been triggered by different technology factors such as the raise in the use of connected devices within enterprises or the emergence of new application delivery mechanisms such as cloud computing, application stores, etc.

While, undoubtedly, there is a tendency within organizations to embrace a new type of enterprise software technologies that look closer to traditional consumer applications, I believe the consumerization of the enterprise is far from becoming a relevant phenomenon in the enterprise software industry. From my standpoint, the consumerization of the enterprise is more of a psychological phenomenon accelerated by a marketing frenzy than a technological movement.  As a matter of fact, I firmly believe that, unless software providers and enterprises make some serious changes, the consumerization of the enterprise might never expand beyond being a sexy marketing term.

Let me try to explain;

When we think about the consumerization of the enterprise, we can easily related this movement to a number of emerging disciplines in the software industry that are starting to have an impact in the enterprise:

  • Enterprise mobility
  • Enterprise social networking and collaboration
  • Cloud computing
  • Gamification

While there are others, we can pretty much associate any “consumerized enterprise application” with some the 4 technology areas listed above. When we look deeper into the enterprise technologies   in each one of these areas, we quickly realize that the true enterprise-ready software technologies are far from being consumer friendly and the products that truly leverage consumer technology concepts are far from being enterprise ready. I know, it totally sucks :(.

To put this in the context of an example, let’s look at the enterprise mobility space which, arguably, is leading the charge in the consumerization of the enterprise movement. Currently, SAP and IBM (yes those two) are the dominant players in the space followed by companies such as Antenna Software and Kony. When you deep dive into the technologies offered by those vendors or talk to some of their customers, you realize that the experience is no better or simpler than traditional enterprise packages in the space such as the old Blackberry server stack. The sad thing is that the consumer market is full of mobile technologies that deliver a far superior experience than the enterprise products but, unfortunately, none of those technologies is well suited to be applied to enterprise applications.

In order to become a relevant movement in the software industry, the consumerization of the enterprise needs a deeper commitment and collaboration by the product vendors as well as the enterprise. Here are some of the things I believe are desperately needed:

  • Enterprise tailored software products that leverage consumer technology concepts
  • Deeper understanding of enterprise mechanics by the new generation of enterprise software vendors
  • Flexible pricing models based on economies of scale
  • Simpler software acquisition policies
  • More flexible compliance, procurement and other enterprise regulatory processes.

Each one of the aforementioned areas represent is a major challenge for the new generation of enterprise software technologies. I will cover each one of the areas listed above in more detail in future posts but, for now, I am happy if this post is making you reflect about the realities of the consumerization of the enterprise movement.

In my opinion, without addressing some of the challenges in the areas listed above, the consumerization of the enterprise might be destined to stay as an engaging marketing line with a minimum impact in the enterprise software industry.

 

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Is open source in the cloud still open source?

Open source platform as a service (PaaS) platforms are one of the most exciting topics in the software industry nowadays. Following the $212M acquisition of Heroku by Salesforce.com, we’ve seen how in a matter of months, platforms like dotCloud of VMWare’s Cloud Foundry have emerged with complete PaaS suites based on popular open source technologies.

The value proposition behind this type of PaaS offer is very simple. These platforms will enable the foundation to host, manage, provision and scale solutions based on some of the most renowned open source technologies such as Ruby on Rails, Hadoop, MySQL among dozens of others.

When we start exploring these technologies in detail, we will quickly realize that they could have a profound impact in the software industry that changes the economics and cultural aspects of the open source model.

For the last 20 something years, open source technologies have been fighting an uphill battle to gain a wide adoption within traditional business that favors commercial software alternatives. Lack of support options, poor documentation or vendor commitment are some of the reasons (or prejudices J ) that are often seen as limitations of open source technology stacks. Those years of anti open source mindsets have had a deep influence in the software markets. If you think about it, other than JBoss, MySQL or SpringSource, we can’t cite many other big exits of open source technology vendors. While it is true that the number of exists or acquisitions is not a direct in direct correlation to the viability of a business model it’s a pretty good indicator of the health and stability of a specific market segment.

Can open source PaaS platforms change this? I definitely think so. Let me try to explain.

Does it matter if it is open source when somebody can provision, host, manage, and scale it for you?

I think the open source PaaS model is removing a lot of the friction that companies experience when adopting open source technology stacks. Think about it, would you still be concerned of using Ruby or MySQL if Heroku, VMWare or dotCloud provisions, hosts, manages and scales the technology for you in a very elastic, self-healing infrastructure?

We have to think about open source PaaS beyond the technology landscape and see it as a phenomenon that can change the economic dynamics of the open source model. To put it in very simple terms, open source PaaS platforms have the opportunity to erase a lot of the non-technical advantages that, sometimes, were attributed to commercial software compared to open source alternatives.


Playing by the same rules…. what does this mean for commercial software vendors?

The emergence of open source cloud platforms will force commercial software vendors such as Microsoft or IBM to focus more on innovations of the cloud stacks and less on the advantages of their delivery model. At the same time, commercial software vendors will now have to compete with very complete technology stacks that group a large variety of open source technologies. For instance, I think developers are going to find themselves evaluating complete cloud fabrics like Windows Azure vs. Cloud Foundry, instead of individual technologies SQL Server vs. MySQL.

What does this mean for enterprises?

I think open source PaaS should be a primary option for companies when considering embracing cloud computing. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that it will take some time for organizations to get rid of the same anti open source prejudices that were common when evaluating on-premise open source technologies. In any case, we have to trust the influence that software communities can have in the industry.

Do open source communities need to change?

I don’t think open source communities will change drastically in this cloud computing era but I do believe we need to start considering open source PaaS platforms on the roadmap of the different open source technologies. For instance, I believe open source communities should be very influential regarding which features should be enabled on the different open source cloud platforms and, at the same time, guide the path of the technology in a way that won’t harm the platforms that are enabling those technologies in a cloud environment.

Who will win the PaaS wars?

I believe we will have multiple winners. Microsoft has a head start and a fantastic platform with Windows Azure. I believe VMWare’s Cloud Foundry and Salesforce.com’s Heroku can leverage their strong presence in the virtualization and business software aspects to grow its adoption.

 

In any case, I believe we have interesting times ahead of us.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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