The more I research, the more I discover and understand that the internet of things (IoT) is still very much in its infancy. Many companies I’ve spoken with are still at the paperware stage, with promises of delivering exactly what I need and, of course, satisfying all of my broad expectations with no sight of my requirements. Moreover, each company I’ve spoken with has its own unique definition of what IoT actually is – it’s so frustrating!

Delivering My IoT PaaS

I want to see something more tangible than PowerPoint slides – I don’t want that warm and fuzzy assurance of “Yes, of course we can do that.” I want to go onsite or hold something in my hand and see a real-world solution but, typically, I’m palmed off with, “It’s only a proof of concept (PoC) at this stage, so it’s still confidential.”

Seeking an independent software vendor (ISV) or other similar supplier can be a vexing challenge. Firstly, it’s difficult to really understand and accurately assess what an ISV is capable of and, despite my architecture and my specific requirements as to what my IoT platform as a service (PaaS) should do, coupled with the fact that I am armed with a capability matrix to score would-be contenders, I find myself somewhat disheartened and with an overwhelming feeling that I have wasted my time yet again! 

Data Is the New Currency

So, yes, I have architected an IoT platform – I’m not going to delve into the specific architectural facets or even disclose the “how”; instead, I’m going to talk about what PaaS is and how it is fundamental in realizing my IoT solution. More so, it’s pivotal in achieving an all-encompassing platform that is scoped from the “things” and “gateway” to the “cloud” and “enterprise.” 

You see, the IoT has shifted beyond “things” and, whilst these things remain integral to the overall IoT topology, the spotlight has now focused on data and data analytics. Yes, data is the new currency! In fact, one consistent theme in the conversations I’ve had with companies over the last few months is the importance of data and understanding the impact it will have on their enterprise. The more up-to-date challenge today with IoT is, “How you will manage your data and, ultimately, what are you going to do with it?”

Selecting a Cloud Computing Service

What I have personally realized in architecting such a solution and seeking to implement it is how most companies underestimate the colossal amount of data that will need to be filtered, processed, analyzed and, ultimately, understood. A new dedicated platform will provide you with essential intelligence, offering new insights into your products and/or services but you will also need a business and/or operational team to support it and perhaps you could create a center of excellence (CoE) for best practices and training.

And it doesn’t stop there either! The IoT PaaS will be a significant part of the business solution – that’s clear. However, the foundation to the PaaS architecture is its infrastructure, that is, servers and storage, along with middleware, an assortment of development tools and so on. As such, you will have to select the right cloud computing service. There are many to choose from such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud Services and, of course, Google (to name a few) and it’s important to do your homework to ensure that you’re selecting the right one for your enterprise needs.

Reduced Complexity With a PaaS

All such cloud services provide the ability to develop and support my IoT PaaS solution. So, what is a PaaS? Well, according to Microsoft, for example, “A PaaS is a complete development and deployment environment in the cloud, with resources that enable you to deliver everything from simple cloud-based apps to sophisticated, cloud-enabled enterprise applications”.

Moreover, a PaaS provides you with a number of cloud-based services which, in turn, allow developers to rapidly build applications or services. It also eliminates the need for you to set-up and maintain servers and offers developers a rich set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that aide in their accelerated development. 

It’s Certainly Achievable

As such, my platform architecture and its implementation can be scalable and, to greater extent, “future-proof,” since it shall be capable of identifying and managing hundreds, or even hundreds of thousands of “things.” It will manage these connections effortlessly, whilst authorizing connectivity into the platform and then will naturally orchestrate dataflow seamlessly across the data lake and into the enterprise or business services. I know, it’s a rich list of requirements, but it’s certainly achievable!

So, I need a vendor to develop, test and deliver my IoT PaaS, but I’m fearful that I may have to select multiple vendors to implement my architecture. The ideal is to have only the one partnership, since multiple vendors will inevitably create complexity. It’s baby steps at the moment in my quest to realize my PaaS and I only have a certain window to deliver my solution to business.

Until Next Time …

I’m abundantly aware that anyone offering an IoT architecture must realize that this domain is changing on a daily basis. So, my evaluation relies on a vendor that is adaptable whilst I review their existing portfolio and previous performance. I’m not saying that my architecture is perfect either, since it needs to be tested and that’s where I can compare my architecture against potential vendors. With this in mind, I will be able to uniquely assess a vendor’s maturity and ascertain their thinking process. As such, I will garner a unique insight to their methodology.

Ultimately, I know I need a vendor whose vision of an IoT future is in sync with my own so that a long term partnership can be achieved.

So, this is where a mission-seeking Dr. G signs off.