An area of innovation and creativity, which completely fascinates me, is The Internet of Things (IoT). Similar to Cloud, it has been talked about for almost a decade but now its time has come. While it’s still early days, it is clear that three technology transformations are giving it strong tail winds:
- Ubiquitous Internet Connectivity, allowing for the ever-increasing number of WiFi devices to effectively communicate.
- Cloud Platforms and specifically for IoT, giving IoT developers the ability to focus on solely on their product, customers, go to market and not the backend infrastructure (Xively).
- Smart Phones and the Post-PC era, accelerating the declining price curve of compute and WiFi connectivity (Apple and Google)
The three companies, mentioned above, are my personal favorites, for driving change however I would be remiss to not give a larger picture of all the amazing and innovative players in this space, so I’ve included an Infographic, created by Matt Turck (@mattturck) and Sutian Dong (@sutiandong).
“By 2020, more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we have not heard of yet.” -Yale Professor R. Foster
This quote, crystalizes the amount of innovation which will happen over the course of the next half-decade (yes half-decade). It is incredible to witness this change before our eyes and it’s important to stop, every so often, and take note of what is now possible.
A unifying aspect these technology transformations hold in common are their undying need for Non-disruptive Operations. To use a very old cliché, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. To extend the cliché and analogy even further, in this case, we have a single horizontal chain and from that, we have an infinite number of vertical chains dangling from it. With the horizontal chain being the backend infrastructure we start to see the overwhelming interdependence that exists with an exponential amount of end points affected even if there is just one outage.
As an early adopter of technology and due to my innate technical curiosity, I recently purchased the Philips hue personal wireless lighting starter kit. There are quite a large variety of features but essentially it is a network integrated light bulb(s) which can be controlled via my WiFi network and extends it’s connection through the Internet, linking to a secure Cloud dashboard. The networked bulbs contain Philips famous color LED technology allowing one to create color moods to the various rooms in my home. Harnessing the power of being connected to the Internet, it is aware of its geographic location, this makes it daylight aware. Various settings can be set, such as the light automatically turning on only when it’s dark outside and during certain times. Using your Smart Phone with Geo-fencing you can set it to turn on, during dark hours upon you entering your home. Adding further to the ‘geek factor’ and using IFTTT you can configure various triggers such as, each morning, set one of the bulbs to shine a color which is a reflection of what the weather will be like that day; Blue if it’s going to rain, Red if it’s going to be hot or white if it will be the same weather as the day before.
I've attached various pictures of my Philips hue unboxing as well as some screenshots of the Smart Phone App.
While this technology is squarely positioned in the early adopter segment, one thing is clear, all the features and benefits are only possible if the backend infrastructure is working. Before, my only dependency was electricity, now I have three: a Network, a Phone and the respective Cloud Infrastructure. Without these three components being active and working, I’m in the dark. Thankfully, Philips have designed a simple ‘reset’ where if you turn your power switch off then back on again, the light bulb will return to being a normal, boring ‘light bulb’ until either your computer browser, smartphone, tablet or your IFTTT recipe pushes an action.
This is only looking at one application, however the IoT uses are endless. Think about inexpensive IoT micro sensors being mixed into concrete. This would allow a builder to have a more accurate measure on the structure and strength of the overall structure. Imagine how this may accelerate the efficiency in building safety inspections; during the initial building process and perhaps the life of the building. This type of solution would most certainly reverse the price commoditization trend of concrete, a long time member of ‘the commodities’. Imagine, what other models could change due to "un-commoditization"..?
The level of interconnectivity and operability dependency, which we are witnessing in IoT, is the same as what exists in the compute and cloud compute echo systems of today. In the past when compute was a single application server and client access was a PC or laptop, availability and uptime was best achieved through hardening the hardware at the server/infrastructure level. Today, compute is delivered through a collection of many applications and services which come together in the form of the right information, at the right time and in the palm of my hand. From an IT management point of view, the availability of each and every component at a synchronous point in time is essential, without this the service or application would not work.
What is special about NetApp’s latest Storage Software announcement of Clustered Data ONTAP version 8.2 is how it brings Non-Disruptive Operations to modular, multiprotocol, truly unified storage for open systems. This delivers the equivalent availability of the high-end monolithic storage frames of the past, adding the rich enterprise data management feature set which NetApp built over the past 21 years and with the ability to, on the fly, modularly add on and replace Storage Capacity and Compute with no disruption in data availability.
In a world where Data and Application interdependencies are ever increasing and the success of a given compute service is unknown, being able to modularly scale while providing Non-disruptive Operations across the board for all applications is transformative.