The flexibility and scale of cloud-native development makes it an obvious choice for IoT initiatives. That’s partly because IoT engineering tends to be more complex, requiring seamless interoperability between software, hardware, a UI, together with connectivity and data handling capabilities. Typical IoT initiatives are compute-intensive too, again making them a good fit with the functionality a cloud-native development platform can provide. The right cloud platform can help accelerate the launch of an IoT project and reduce the risks associated with rollout. Simultaneously, cloud-native development should also increase efficiencies through the development cycle, which both speeds things up and lowers costs.
Considering the significant benefits of cloud-native engineering, what, if any, are the downsides? For those new to engineering in the cloud, there is a learning curve involving a few new variables that need to be taken into consideration to avoid disruptions and vulnerabilities in the software development and operations environment. Furthermore, selecting the right cloud tools can be confusing. The cloud giants (Microsoft, Amazon Google, and IBM) all have comprehensive offerings. In addition, dozens of specialist providers compete alongside them with targeted sector-specific solutions.
An IoT platform should help to minimize risk and ensure quality digital service delivery from end-to-end. It should provide organizations with tangible benefits that amount to a head start in engineering terms: built-in tools and capabilities that cut effort, costs and time required. Many specialist vendors offer attractive packages that address IoT solutions needs without requiring too much customization. However, engineering teams must also take into account how the IoT solution integrates with their organization’s wider digital offering. IoT systems deliver the most value when they are closely aligned with the rest of the business. As a result, data handling and data integration become critical factors in the decision-making process.
More generally, IoT platforms offer some very attractive services to help companies get started in setting up their IoT solutions. There are trade-offs, however, which often come later down the line in the form of pricing, technical constraints, complexity and vendor lock-in. When it comes to evaluating cloud platform providers for IoT, there are a number of factors every organization needs to keep front of mind.
- Is there a cloud platform name that keeps cropping up in conversations with your trusted influencers? Enterprises should seek recommendations, then follow up to ensure providers can share examples and evidence to back up success stories.
- Pay attention to scalability. Cloud providers will dazzle prospective clients with how many millions of connections they can handle. Can they show consistently high uptime? Can they help you make the job of scaling easier? Can they monitor the performance of devices?
- Finding a cloud platform that can meet your IoT solution needs is your primary concern. But longer-term, it is worth asking how well the platform accommodates changing use cases.
- How will your IoT system handle regular updates? These come in the form of system integrations from the IoT platform vendor and firmware updates that you will want to push out to your connected devices.
- The new IoT environment will need to seamlessly manage data, so businesses need to consider how they will ensure that happens. When approaching the challenge of data management, they will need to evaluate if they have the skills and resources in-house to work alongside their IoT cloud provider to ensure success, or if additional external support may be required.
- Congratulations, your role is now to own, manage and secure millions of data points! How will your IoT cloud platform work alongside your existing security practices to bolster security and privacy in the IoT system?
- Established all-rounders or small specialists? Proprietary or open source? There are many factors to weigh up, including the trade-off with ease of setup, where enterprises feel the benefits immediately, but potentially at the expense of future constraints such as vendor lock-in.
- It’s important to read the small print when it comes to disaster recovery options. A whole host of environmental factors can impair the ability of an IoT system to function. This is an opportunity to examine how DR planning is handled right from the get-go, and to question a provider’s track record when it comes to outages.
- The difficulty businesses most often have in budgeting for their IoT platform support is failing to account for how their needs change. A pricing model that seems great upfront can prove costly in the long run. Try to anticipate the changing needs and ask what kind of pricing flexibility the IoT cloud platform can offer.
While there are undoubtedly many factors to consider before undertaking cloud-native IoT development, cloud engineering confers many significant benefits. Nowadays the right IoT cloud platform is much more than hosting and accessing resources in the cloud. Cloud-native computing enables companies to take advantage of the most up-to-date techniques and services. These include PaaS, multi-cloud, microservices, agile methodologies, containers, CI/CD, data engineering, IoT, AI, and machine learning, but the list could go on. With the right IoT cloud partner, companies can harness the latest technical capabilities to progress toward their strategic business goals. Embracing cloud-native engineering helps organizations accelerate digital delivery as well as achieve scale, increase reliability and improve efficiency.