Amazon Internet of Things PaaS platform was announced yesterday with the buzz line “Cloud Services for Connected Devices”.
AWS IoT is:
- a complete software stack for managing devices and endpoints.
- partnerships with limited number of hardware companies for software integration.
- messaging stacks – queues, brokers, request routing etc
- comprehensive software backend for database, object management, notification and streaming.
- cloud infrastructure for compute, storage and network.
- analytics platforms (not just software but an entire platform of multiple analytics engines).
More information: https://aws.amazon.com/iot/
Because I’ve been following the IoT market I am struck by strategic difference between Cisco Fog Computing and AWS IoT. This is what I am considering here although there are many other strategies.
Cisco is building a portfolio of products for IoT. Cisco InterCloud is the hosting platform for on or off premise deployment. Software acquisitions in analytics, big data and messaging are under way. Cisco’s Industrial products are being extended in many directions – some related to physical connectivity (low power, packet reliability) and others related to edge-centric data collection, sensor distribution.
In my view, AWS has a delivered a PaaS product that is built largely from its existing services that will be compelling to a consumer audience and less for industrial/commercial buyer. Consumer IoT companies like Nest have somewhat different needs from industrial or commercial IoT. Consumer IoT has devices that have a life cycle of 24-36 months while, generally, industrial IoT is closer to decade-long cycles (even this is 50% shorter than the current 20 year cycle).
I perceive that Cisco’s Fog Computing is better targeted to industrial IoT. Long & costly sales cycles, partnerships and joint announcements of large companies like GE, Honeywell etc. It is much less accessible for startups, small developers compared to AWS IoT.
The total IoT market size is large and Cisco Fog is about building complex, high value but smart networks. For example, AWS IoT provides a software feature for “Device Shadows” to cope with intermittent network connectivity. Cisco Fog computing would move the device profile to the edge of the network where connectivity can be assured.
I could probably go one for hours about the impact this will create but my gut reaction was that Cisco has a viable and differentiated competitor.
Speed To Market – while incumbents are still deciding what name, slogans & colour scheme to use, AWS is shipping a beta version of its product.
Cloud-centric – there are two architectural models/versions of network IoT. Cisco, Huawei et al are promoting a network-centric vision where complex network devices form a distributed cloud of ‘smart’ technology that actively participates in the IoT communication. This is a return of the Intelligent Network concept of the early 2000’s 1.
Cisco defines Fog Computing as a paradigm that extends Cloud computing and services to the edge of the network. Similar to Cloud, Fog provides data, compute, storage, and application services to end-users. The distinguishing Fog characteristics are its proximity to end-users, its dense geographical distribution, and its support for mobility. Services are hosted at the network edge or even end devices such as set-top-boxes or access points. By doing so, Fog reduces service latency, and improves QoS, resulting in superior user-experience. Fog Computing supports emerging Internet of Everything (IoE) applications that demand real-time/predictable latency (industrial automation, transportation, networks of sensors and actuators). Thanks to its wide geographical distribution the Fog paradigm is well positioned for real time big data and real time analytics. Fog supports densely distributed data collection points, hence adding a fourth axis to the often mentioned Big Data dimensions (volume, variety, and velocity).
In short, Cisco wants the network to be intelligent, active and value-adding to IoT endpoints (when I say “network” I mean service providers, not enterprise).
Proven AWS ? The hype machine around AWS is substantial and it is easy to be impressed by how quickly it moves to enter new markets with generally good stability/reliability and offers long term reduction in IT spending.
At the same, AWS services may be poorly considered and emphasise speed over substance, require constant retraining and repeated adaptation at they iterate and change to a stable end condition. For some companies that are focussed on short term goals, this is a feature (DevOps) and others that have decades long objectives in slow moving markets (manufacturing for example) this is an objection.
Partnerships AWS doesn’t do partnerships in the traditional sense. I perceive that that AWS wants to avoid the high costs of sale. For large companies & enterprise customers, the vendor cost of acquiring and retaining customers with full service sales organisation runs to hundreds of thousands per year.
The EtherealMind View
1/ Complex vs Simple – As a technology, Cisco Fog is promoting a high value, complex and nuanced solution where the service providers/carriers will actively participate in the IoT ecosystem. AWS IoT is much simpler, developer-friendly and shipping today using tools and software that are widely in use (incumbent advantage). Simple sells better (until/unless it fails at scale).
2/ Incumbent vs Disruptive – Cisco Fog aims to defend its incumbent market position, leverage existing customers & partnerships. AWS IoT is disruptive and destructive to existing plays.
3/ Different customers – AWS is popular with capital poor, low ARPU and fast moving companies in the consumer market. Cisco et al is popular with high net worth conglomerates who build high value, high profit solutions that are slow moving and built on incumbent positions with known and trustable technology partners.
There is a market for both types of approaches. One does not “kill” the other, nor it one better or worse, but does limit possible growth and ability to dominate the market (Cisco’s stated goal for IoT).
4/ Production vs Transport – from a networking perspective, there is a big debate around the role of network. Is there enough bandwidth in the world to host all services in a few data centres and have a dumb and low cost network ? Or do we build intelligent, high cost networks that enhances data movement. It boils to down to the cost of producing bits vs the cost of transporting bits – but more on this in the weeks ahead.