Business · CIO · Cloud

IBM Interconnect expectations, a CIOs perspective

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This week is IBM’s annual cloud conference in Las Vegas. Quite a bit has changed in the past year for IBM and at this year’s IBM Interconnect there are a few things I’m looking for. Each of them centers in the mainstream of enterprise demand. Here’s the quick rundown:

IBM CLOUD CURRENT STATE AND DIRECTION

Over the past several years, IBM made strategic acquisitions that feed directly into IBM’s core cloud strategy. Those include Softlayer and Bluebox Cloud. Since last year’s Interconnect conference, I’m looking to hear how things have progressed and how it impacts their direction. Both are key attributes to enterprise engagement.

UNDERSTANDING THE IBM CUSTOMER

IBM is well known for catering to their existing customer base. As enterprises evolve, I’m looking for indications on how non-IBM enterprise customers are choosing to engage IBM. Is most of the demand still coming from existing IBM customers? Or have others started to gravitate toward IBM…and why?

In addition, how has the recent partnership announcement with Salesforce changed this engagement? Granted, the ink is still wet on the agreement, but there may be a few tidbits to glean here.

PORTFOLIO HALO EFFECTS

IBM’s Watson provides an interesting opportunity for enterprises looking to engage analytics, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). Watson, along with the strides IBM has made with Internet of Things (IoT) provides some interesting opportunities for both existing and prospective IBM customers. I’m looking to see if these are creating a halo effect into IBM’s cloud business…and if so, how and where.

LEADERSHIP CHANGES

Finally, IBM is changing up the leadership team. Longtime IBM’er Robert LeBlanc has departed from leading the IBM Cloud division and changes are afoot in marketing. How will these changes impact how IBM approaches cloud and how IBM is perceived in the broader enterprise market?

 

Overall, IBM is clamoring to be a leader in the enterprise cloud space, but faces some stiff competition. Cloud has been a key element in IBM’s enterprise portfolio for some time. This week should provide greater insights on their current state and path moving forward.

Cloud · IoT

Understanding the five tiers of IoT core architecture

Internet of Things (IoT) is all the rage today. Just tagging something as belonging to the IoT family brings quite a bit of attention. However, this tagging has also created quite a bit of noise in the industry for organizations trying to sort through how best to leverage IoT. Call it IoT marketing overload. Or IoT-washing.

That being said, just about every single industry can leverage IoT in a meaningful way today. But where does one begin? There are many ways to consider where to start your IoT journey. The first is to understand the basic fundamentals of how IoT solutions are architected. The five tiers of IoT core architecture are: Applications, Analytics, Data, Gateway and Devices. Using this architecture, one can determine where any given IoT solution fits…and the adjacent components required to compete the solution.

THE FIVE TIERS OF IOT CORE ARCHITECTURE

  • DEVICE TIER

The device tier is the physical device that collects data. The device is a piece of hardware that collects telemetry (data) about a given situation. Devices can range from small sensors to wearables to large machines. The data itself may be presented in many forms from electrical signals to IP-data.

The device may also display information (see Application tier).

  • GATEWAY TIER

The sheer number of devices and interconnection options creates a web of complexity to connect the different devices and their data streams. Depending on the streams, they may come in such diverse forms as mechanical signals or IP-based data streams. On the surface, these streams are completely incompatible. However, when correlating data, a common denominator is needed. Hence, the need for a gateway to collect and homogenize the streams into manageable data.

  • DATA TIER

The data tier is where data from gateways is collected and managed. Depending on the type of data, different structures may be called for. The management, hygiene and physical storage of data is a whole classification onto itself simply due to the four V’s of data (Volume, Variety, Velocity, Veracity).

  • ANALYTICS TIER

Simply managing the sheer amount of data coming from IoT devices creates a significant hurdle when converting data into information. Analytics are used to automate the process for two reasons: Manageability and Speed. The combination of these two present insights to the varied complexity of data coming from devices. As the number and type of devices vary and become increasingly more complex, so will the demand for analytics.

  • APPLICATION TIER

Applications may come in multiple forms. In many cases, the application is the user interface that leverages information coming from the analytics tier and presented to the user in a meaningful way. In other cases, the application may be an automation routine that interfaces with other applications as part of a larger function.

Interestingly, the application may reside on the device itself (ie: wearable).

IoT Architecture

 

Today, many IoT solutions cover one or more of the tiers outlined above. It is important to understand which tiers are covered by any given IoT solution.

CLOUD-BASED IOT SOLUTIONS

Several major cloud providers are developing IoT solutions that leverage their core cloud offering. One thing that is great about these solutions is that they help shorten the IoT development time by providing fundamental offerings that cover many of the tiers outlined above. Most of the solutions focus on the upper tiers to manage the data coming from devices. Three such platforms are: Amazon AWS IoT, IBM Watson IoT, and Microsoft Azure IoT Suite. Each of these emphasize on a different suite of ancillary solutions. All three allow a developer to shorten the development time for and IoT solution by eliminating the need to develop for all five tiers.

THE SECURITY CONUNDRUM

One would be remiss to discuss IoT without mentioning security. Security of devices, data elements and data flows are an issue today that needs greater attention. Instead of a one-off project or add-on solution, security needs to be part of the DNA infused in each tier of a given solution. Based on the current solutions today, there is a long way to go with this aspect.

That being said, IoT has a promising and significant future.

Cloud · Data · IoT

IBM and Weather Company deal is the tip of the iceberg for cloud, data and IoT

Technology and how we consume it is changing faster than we know it. Need proof? Just look at the announcement last night between IBM & Weather Company. It was just a short 4.5 months ago that I was sitting in the Amazon AWS re:Invent keynote on Nov 13, 2014 listening to Weather Company’s EVP, CTO & CIO Bryson Koehler discuss how his company was leveraging Amazon’s AWS to change the game. After the keynote, I had the opportunity to chat with Bryson a bit. It was clear at the time that while Amazon was a key enabler for Weather Company, they could only go so far.

The problem statement

Weather Company is a combination of organizations that brings together a phenomenal amount of data from a myriad of sources. Not all of the sources are sophisticated weather stations. Bryson mentioned that Weather Company is “using data to help consumers gain confidence.” Weather Company uses a number of platforms to produce weather results including Weather Channel, weather.com and Weather Underground. Weather Underground is their early testbed for new methods and tools.

Weather Company produces 15 billion forecasts every day. Those forecasts come billions of sensors across the globe. The forecasts for 2.2 million locations are updated every four hours with billions more updated every 15 minutes. The timeliness and accuracy of their forecasts is what ultimately builds consumer confidence.

Timing

The sheer number of devices makes Weather Company a perfect use-case of leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) powered by Cloud, Data and Analytics. Others may start to see parallels between what Weather Company is doing with their own industry. In today’s competitive market, the speed and accuracy of information is key.

IBM’s strategy demonstrated leadership in the cloud and data/ analytics space with their SoftLayer and Watson solutions. Add in the BlueMix platform and one can see how the connection between these solutions becomes clear. Moving to IoT was the next logical step in the strategy.

Ecosystem Play

The combination of SoftLayer, BlueMix and Watson…plus IoT was no accident. When considering the direction that companies are taking by moving up the stack to the data integration points, IoT is the next logical step. IoT presents the new driver that cloud and data/ analytics enable. BlueMix becomes the glue that ties it all together for developers.

The ecosystem play is key. Ecosystems are everything. Companies are no longer buying point solutions. They are buying into ecosystems that deliver direct business value. In the case of Weather Company, the combination of IBM’s ecosystem and portfolio provides key opportunities to producing a viable solution.

Next Steps…

That being said, the move by IBM & Weather Company should not be seen as a one-off. We should expect to see more enterprises make moves like this toward broader ecosystems like IBM’s.