Cisco has been pushing the concept of the Internet of Everything for some time. It is investing millions of dollars into IoE Innovation Centres around the world, most recently in Australia, but how does it plan to profit from IoE, other than from selling the networking gear needed to connect billions of devices? Cisco ANZ CTO, Kevin Bloch, explains.
Cisco, Bloch says, views the IoE market in two ways. “When you look at IoE, customers are really after two things. One is human augmentation. They want to make faster decisions and smarter decisions, and that is really where the focus is today. The second thing that IoE is after is automation.”
He breaks down the technology needed to meet these demands into four areas: the network, analytics platforms, security and the edge. And it is the latter that represents the biggest, and perhaps the most interesting divergence from Cisco’s traditional business areas.
The network is clearly fundamental, as is security. “What Cisco does is convergence,” Bloch said. “We converge all the legacy protocols onto IP. And we have not even begun to explore what is happening in software defined networking, which is part of this. As we connect more and more things the network becomes more valuable.”
Cisco, he says, is investing many billions of dollars in security. “Yes we will make money out of security, but that is not why we are doing it. We are doing it for the 48 billion dollars we can make out of everything else.”
MapR meets Cisco UCS
Data analytics will be essential to IoE and Cisco is adapting and augmenting its UCS platform with the likes of Hadoop and MapR to the needs of this market. “We have put MapR on the UCS platform and now we have a full big data engine that we are selling to customers like Quantium,” Bloch said. “We have done the solution tests, put it into our labs and done the validated designs with Contexti.”
Quantium is an Australian data analytics company. Contexti is an Australian big data platform services company that architects, implements and manages big data platforms for advanced analytics, Internet of things and the digital enterprise.
Cisco, MapR, Contexti and Quantium recently hosted a big data roadshow in Sydney and Melbourne with Bloch; Sidney Minassian, founder and CEO of Contexti; Rob Anderson, vice president, worldwide systems engineering, MapR; and Victor Banjanov, principal of Quantium.
It was reported as “an insightful event attended by a cross section of businesses from grocery retail, fast moving consumer goods, banking, not-for-profit and marketing services, at which Quantium revealed that it was “working on an amazing EDR [event data recorder?] product for launch later in the year.”
It’s all happening at the edge
The edge of the network, according to Bloch, is where much of the action will take place in the world of IoE. “The edge is tricky. It is not just a router anymore. There is a lot of innovation that can happen at the edge,” he said.
“We have various platforms like our IR900 where we are moving towards different forms of access and to perform analytics at the edge. These products are basically routers with x86s with IOx sitting on them and on top of that we have created this thing called ‘distributed data management’ and something called ‘data in motion’. If you are using WiFi we can watch you moving.”
Citing the Murchison Widefield Array precursor telescope for the $2billion Square Kilometre Array project, Bloch said: “A bucket load of data is coming in. You cannot send all that 300km down to Perth so you have to do some preprocessing, some remote analytics on site. That is where our edge platform that we call IOx kicks in. It uses fog computing [a paradigm that extends Cloud computing and services to the edge of the network] to do preprocessing and analytics at the edge of the network.”
Cisco describes IOx as “a framework that supports [the capabilities to compute, store, and analyse data from the network edge to the cloud] … [that] brings together Cisco IOS and Linux [and] offers developers a way to create IoT applications such as data aggregation, control systems, and access control and have them run on edge network devices.”
The edge is also where technology will be needed that is able to support multiple communications technologies. “In retail stores we need to support Bluetooth because Apple Pay will use Bluetooth, then there is Zigbee,” Bloch said. “There is a whole raft of technologies. You can go and buy each on different boxes or you can put it on a Cisco platform. It is not doing everything yet, but that is the direction we are heading.”
Virtualising data stores
An even more intriguing direction for Cisco is data virtualisation. Bloch explains: “There is a lot of data in organisations that is not in the main data store, such as an Oracle database. It could be in retail stores, on mobile devices, or on social network sites like Twitter. We can virtualise data stores, through an acquisition we made a few years ago called Composite.
“Composite created a data virtualisation layer so you did not care which data store you were using. That used to be important but it is going to be incredibly important as less data in stored in those structure data stores and more and more is unstructured.”
The move was well analysed at the time in this blog from Forrester analyst, Noel Yuhanna, who described the acquisition as “unique compared with the ones [that Cisco has] done in the past,” and said: “This acquisition makes networks more knowledgeable about data — a piece that’s been missing from Cisco’s framework.”
What all this says is that IoE will place new demands on many existing areas of information technology: wireless communications, networking, security, data analytics and will give a huge boost to newer disciplines, like data virtualisation and edge computing. No doubt it will spawn a number of innovative startups that will subsequently be snapped up by Cisco as it seeks to strengthen its position in the rapidly evolving IoE market.