Inflection points often become inflection points because of the convergence–sometimes planned, sometimes serendipitous–of multiple factors. It happened with the ascent of air travel, television, professional football and the internet, to name just a few. And it’s happening today with the convergence of cloud computing and the Internet of Things.
Simply put, cloud computing is becoming more important than ever due to IoT, and IoT’s long-term success and incalculable impact on global communities and economies is heavily driven by the cloud.
In this way, it’s easy to spot and acknowledge the indelible link between IoT and the cloud. In fact, this mutually beneficial relationship can be represented in a powerful and apt metaphor: “IoT is the eyes and hands of the cloud.”
What do we mean by that? In essence, cloud computing becomes more useful and a greater contributor to organizational success when it is fed by insightful data–data that is seen (eyes) and moved (hands) by a seemingly endless volume and variety of both advanced and everyday devices. “Those devices are typically small in both footprint and in vital elements such as operating systems and memory, and they need the cloud to be the location where data access and telemetry take place,” according to Tim Prendergast, chief cloud officer at Palo Alto Networks. “Cloud is the best place to take a centralized look at patterns of behavior among those devices; it’s the central nervous system for this globally connected IoT.”
At the same time, the unlimited capacity and scalability of the cloud is meaningless unless the data stored, analyzed, managed, and presented by the cloud is relevant and accurate. Take a common industrial process like semiconductor chip baths. Those baths must be kept at a certain temperature, or else production yields will be impacted and bad parts will slip into the manufacturing supply chain. “We don’t just need more data, we need more accurate data,” notes Jamison Utter, business development manager at Palo Alto Networks. “Sensors act as our eyes by giving us visibility into real-time conditions in those baths, and then they act as our hands by actually acting on the data, such as adjusting the temperature in the bath when it goes out of the prescribed operating parameters.
“IoT is great, but it’s not that interesting by itself,” he adds. “We need the cloud to do that; but the cloud also isn’t nearly as important without a reliable stream of real-time data from new sources. That’s what IoT does for the cloud.”
So, what should business leaders do when it comes to getting the most value out of this powerful combination of IoT and the cloud?
Remember that ‘connected things’ is really a full business ecosystem, not a point solution or an individual application,” according to Utter. “Otherwise, your teams will be creating more and more information silos, rather than turbo-charging your organization with powerful insights.”
Corner-office executives and board members also need to keep in mind that actionable intelligence gleaned from IoT systems can only be properly captured, analyzed, managed, and acted on in the cloud. “The cloud is the best place to review patterns of how and where data is accessed, and to generate the telemetry necessary to find patterns, anomalies, and ‘ah-ha’ moments,” said Prendergast. “And the tie-in to cybersecurity is critical,” he added. “Without the capacity, power, and intelligence in the cloud, it’s far more difficult to see things that shouldn’t be happening with your connected things, like postage meters downloading documents.”
Finally, executives need to ensure that IoT is treated as a cloud-powered and cloud-enabled system that aligns with business objectives. “Don’t separate your business unit personnel who will be using the information generated from IoT from the technical teams building and managing those systems,” said Utter. “The only way to drive true symbiosis between IoT and the cloud is to ensure you treat them as part of your overall business ecosystem, where all your data points, sensors, and inputs, from all around the world, all connected in the cloud. That’s where the true business value of your cloud comes, and where IoT acts as the eyes and hands of the cloud.”