Three Trends Influencing the Rise of Application Development on Microsoft Azure

In today’s always-on, data driven world, organizations will either disrupt, or be disrupted. For those that choose the former, a fast application development cycle is critical for success.

This is why companies are turning to Azure for application development. Azure can help cut costs and reduce development wait and integration time. Additionally, the flexibility of the Azure Cloud architecture enables quick access to resources and a streamlined development process that gets projects off the ground quicker.

Below are three trends that are influencing the rise of application development in Azure.

1. Managed Infrastructure Means More Developer Cycles

The rise of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) have been one of the dominant trends helping to facilitate  application development in the Azure Cloud.

IaaS is where Azure manages virtualization, servers, storage, networking and data centers. It leaves users with the most flexibility, coupled with the most responsibility.

PaaS takes things a step further than IaaS. In a PaaS model, Azure manages everything in the IaaS level in addition to security, databases and operating systems. While less flexible than IaaS, it provides developers with the ability to customize applications without the headache of infrastructure management. Without having to worry about infrastructure maintenance, IT teams are free to focus on innovation and development. As a general rule, we’re seeing that PaaS is the preferred model for application development

2. Faster Development with Azure Services and Open-Source Capabilities

Cloud infrastructure is enabling developers to spend more time on innovation, making their apps unique, and less time on infrastructure and plumbing.

One of the Azure services we like is Azure App Service. It’s a PaaS solution that enables developers to create applications at a significantly faster rate than would have been possible with traditional legacy solutions. Aside from the benefits of a managed PaaS model, the team at Optimus finds there are a number of advantages with Azure App Service:

  • Optimized for DevOps: Apps can be managed using Azure PowerShell, or the cross-platform command-line interface (CLI). This enables continuous integration and deployment with GitHub, Visual Studio Team Services or BitBucket.
  • Highly scalable: You can spin up or shut down VMs instantly. Apps can be hosted anywhere in the Microsoft global datacenter infrastructure. For one of our clients – they were able to expand from North America to APAC in only a few days. This instant scalability helped them grow revenues rapidly without having to worry about cost or risk.
  • Visual Studio integration: At Optimus, we’re seeing more and more developers taking advantage of Visual Studio. The ease with which it lets users create applications for any operating system, coupled with the ability to manage and deploy those applications on your preferred platform and device, significantly simplifies application development in Azure.
  • Support for multiple languages and frameworks: ASP.NET, Node.js, Java, Python and PHP are all supported by Azure App Service. This lets developers work with the tools they’re most comfortable with. It also means they don’t have to spend time rewriting legacy applications that they want to integrate into their cloud environment.

What we’ve found is that application development teams who have moved to Azure have actually decreased their development times because of Azure’s support  of third-party services. For example, Azure supports stacks such as MongoDB, Cassandra and Hadoop, alongside Microsoft MySQL. Azure App Services also offers an extensive array of templates that let devs use a wizard to install open-source software such as Drupal, Joomla and WordPress.

However, most of our clients are working in hybrid environements. This means a need to integrate with legacy, on-premises infrastructure. This is a strength of Azure and means that developers aren’t wasting time trying to get things to work together.

3. Pay for Usage, not Hardware

As most know, traditional on-premises application development involves a significant hardware capital expenditure (CapEx). In contrast, the Azure Cloud does not require any up-front investment, instead offering a pay-as-you-go model. This converts CapEx into an operational expense (OpEx). The result is twofold:

  1. Devs can spin up a VM and begin testing new applications within minutes, as opposed to the days, weeks or months it would take to acquire new hardware.
  2. Applications that previously would have been too risky to justify the purchase of expensive hardware can now be developed.

The ability to transform application development from a CapEx to an OpEx not only allows developers to work faster; it enables them to innovate in ways that were previously unfeasible.

For more information on application development in the cloud, check out our e-Book, The Do’s & Don’ts of Application Development on Azure.

 

 

Dos and Don’ts of Software Outsourcing

Outsourcing software development can be a great way to save your company or organization time and money. However, if done haphazardly, it can also become a source of great headaches. It’s easy to make common mistakes, such as not clearly defining goals or expecting the process to magically produce results. It’s much harder to manage the process and see that it achieves the results you desire. Here are some dos and don’ts for you to consider as you get involved with software development outsourcing.

Do Define Your Goals and Metrics

One of the hardest things for any outsourcing services provider to deal with is a moving target. It’s important that you have clear planning documents in place that outline the goals for each project. Likewise, you also need to use clearly understood and widely trusted metrics to measure the success of a project. If you and your outsourcing provider agree on the measures of success, there’s a much better chance you’ll hit your target.

Don’t Fire and Forget

Handing a pile of specs to an outsourcing firm does not count as passing the project along. The process is inherently collaborative. It’s important that everyone on your side, the client side, stays engaged. When mockups come in, check them. When requirements are reportedly fulfilled, verify them. If errors occur, correct them. Do not plan to hand off the specs and just come back months later expecting to see a finished product.

Do Put Processes in Place

Every aspect of your project should have a clear process in place to ensure that both you and your outsourcing company understand what it means for a step to be considered complete. This means verifying that mockups are passed along and that both parties sign off on each step. Requirements for each stage should also be outlined clearly, and all parties involved should agree to them. Nothing dooms a project as fast as an ambiguous understanding of what it means for a step to be truly completed.

Do Communicate Well

This can be trickier than it sounds. Even if you’re running a North American firm that’s outsourcing to another firm on the continent, time differences matter. If your vendor doesn’t have flexible hours, then you’re likely losing collaboration time. For example, if a company in New York City is outsourcing to a firm in Vancouver, it’s important to know that the Vancouver folks are prepared to have someone show up early on some days to touch base with the New York crowd before the work day gets rolling.

Don’t Judge on Price Alone

One of the greatest temptations of outsourcing software development is to simply take the lowest price offered. This is a terrible idea. There are many tradeoffs required to get to the lowest price. Will you be dealing with people who speak your language natively? If the vendor is on the other side of the planet, will they even be able, at that price point, to have someone communicate with you live at a convenient time?

Do Expect a Performance Curve

If you’re beginning your first project with a specific vendor, it’s unrealistic to assume they will be able to just hit the ground running. Every outsourcing firm requires time to make sense of your company’s culture and figure out the best way to achieve the results you seek. Getting frustrated by this process can be very costly. There’s little benefit that can be expected by bouncing from vendor to vendor. Give vendors time to acclimate.

Don’t Outsource Core Functions

Some parts of your company just have to work. The best way to see that your operation works the right way is to ensure that core functions stay in-house. For example, if you ran a vinyl sign company, it would be insane to outsource your graphic design work. On the other hand, it might be perfectly reasonably to outsource backend coding for your website.

Do Prepare for the Future

No matter how strong your relationships may be with your current set of vendors, you need to know the market and be prepared for the future. If the day comes that your preferred vendor can no longer handle the scale of your work, you want to have a list of vetted alternatives in place. You can lose months of project time trying to find a new vendor.

Don’t Use Outsourcing as a Stopgap

Adding an outsourced software development team to your organization means incorporating it on a long-term basis. If you drop a project on an outsourcing company and then turn around expecting in-house people to maintain or even expand it, the results will be rubbish. It will may foster discontent among the in-house team. Look at long term partnerships where certain projects or tasks stay with your outsourcer and others stay with your in-house team. Your guys handling the outsourcing on your software will then become comfortable dealing with your in-house people handling core functions, and vice versa.

Don’t Rely on Technology Alone

There’s a lot to be said for getting in at least one face-to-face meeting, ideally more as required. Your vendor and you can both demonstrate commitment to the project. You also can interface more quickly. If at all possible, try to make in-person meetings part of the process.

Conclusion

Outsourcing is an amazing tool for any company to have access to. It is important, however, to appreciate that it’s not magical. It’s a process that your organization has to fully accept and integrate. With the right checks and balances in place, you can ensure that your outsourced software development efforts achieve the results you want.

Ultimately, successful IT outsourcing comes down to finding the right partner that fits with your organization and IT needs. Optimus Information has become a trust partner to companies of all sizes and in all verticals; we know what works and doesn’t work when it comes your your IT challenges and working with your organization. 

Contact us today for your next IT project. We’re always happy to help.

Start outsourcing effectively. Download our How to Overcome IT Outsourcing Challenges whitepaper.

Tactical Outsourcing vs Strategic Outsourcing

The term outsourcing scares people for various reasons, but there is no reason that it should. Outsourcing is very effective for certain situations, especially when developing software solutions. For a company to grow its internal IT department, it must search for a qualified candidate and go through the long process of interviewing, hiring, and training the new employee. This can take a long time and cost the company a lot of money. The alternative to this is outsourcing.

There are two main types of outsourcing that you can find for your IT needs: tactical and strategic.

Tactical Outsourcing

Tactical outsourcing refers to hiring a firm to perform specific development functions as part of your existing software development process. You retain oversight of the project, giving you more control over the process. This is very helpful if you need a project done on short notice because you can avoid the long process of searching for the right candidate.

Tactical outsourcing is also helpful when you have a short-term need for a highly skilled developer in a specific technology that you do not normally use. A developer with the right skill set may be very difficult to locate, so going through a skilled tactical partner can mean fast turnaround and lower overhead than hiring internal resources.

With tactical outsourcing, you maintain the planning process, including gathering requirements from stakeholders and designing the system that the developers will create. This increases management overhead, but it also allows you to have more control over the process and more knowledge about what is happening. They are familiar with your processes and answer to you throughout the process.

Strategic Outsourcing

Strategic outsourcing involves partnering with an IT company that provides top-down services. They handle the entire planning and development processes, leaving you free to focus more on other aspects of the business. This is nice for some companies because they are able to pay prices per project instead of per hour of work.

With either type of outsourcing, you should address a few key points with your prospective outsourcing partner. The first is documentation because you never know what could happen in the future. If a support issue comes up or you need new functionality added to an existing product, you will need proper documentation to know how the product is supposed to work. Ensuring that your partner provides proper documentation, both in the code and out, can be vital to handling these situations.

You should always provide full technical information about your requirements to your outsourcing partner. Leaving out any details could cause severe problems as you go through the process. Always remember to include all of your key decision makers and stakeholders in discussions to ensure that everybody’s goals align properly. Repeated changes over time can greatly increase the cost of any project, so planning everything up front is vital to a successful partnership.

You should always examine your prospective partner’s portfolio, looking for consistent, high-quality performance over time. Not all outsourcing companies are equal, and even great companies may not be the right choice if their goals do not align with yours. It is also important to note for what industries the company has worked. If the company has worked for other companies in your industry, it could mean that they are already familiar with many of your processes and terminology, making communications much easier.

Conclusion

Both outsourcing solutions could work for you, depending on your situation. Many companies prefer tactical outsourcing because it allows them to maintain more control over the process and usually means less of a commitment. However, the trade off is significantly more involvement from the client. 

At Optimus, we find there is a lot to gain from ongoing strategic outsourcing partnerships, and clients typically reap more benefits: less hands-on management, higher quality work, faster delivery and greater flexibility.

For an in-depth look at strategic outsourcing, check out our guide.

Download our Guide to Strategic Outsourcing

 

What to Look for in an Outsourcing Partner

Bad experiences with outsourcing providers are often traceable to badly designed selection processes or the use of deficient selection criteria. Whereas, you can find ample guidance online on how to build a robust selection framework, we will share the most important vendor attributes for comparing and contrasting outsourcing companies to ensure you select one right for you.

Sizing a Vendor to Your Project

When optimizing the capabilities of an IT provider to your project, size matters. If your organization can fund nine-figure deals, then the number of companies to field such a deal is not large, whereas for smaller projects you have a lot more choices.

The key is to find a provider of a size that will consider your deal to be a big deal. This significantly increases the odds that your project receives the attention it deserves by having their most talented staff assigned to it. Additionally, right-sizing usually provides meaningful accommodation in contract terms and professional treatment from the executive staff.

The risk of choosing an outsourcing company that is too small, however, is that they may not have a sufficient level of technical capabilities, skilled staff, certifications or experience to deliver what you hope to accomplish.

Local Presence with Global Delivery

If your company is based in North America, then choose an outsourcing vendor whose headquarters there. They will better understand your industry, business model, goals and processes since you are working within a similar cultural context.

Your company also benefits from local contractual protections should your project hit a serious speed bump. It also provides the distinct possibility that they can provide onsite staff at your site, which improves communication and timely escalation of critical issues.

However, vendors that also provide delivery from offshore will save you money. Furthermore, vendors with a global presence could directly interact with your own global sites and offer the possibility to add shifts in other time zones that work collaboratively with your local staff, which provides you with 24-hours a day of development.

Consistency in Quality and Delivery

Until recently, the majority of IT outsourcing firms sold themselves mainly on cost and based contracts on hourly rates. These days, more companies compete on their ability to produce results. Those results should include both timely delivery and measurably high-quality products or services.

During your due diligence, evaluate the vendor’s past work and pursue references to gauge how well the vendor has delivered on their promises. Have a detailed discussion with their senior staff about how their corporate culture reinforces the importance of on-time delivery and high quality throughout the ranks.

When you are convinced they will deliver what they say they will, it is still prudent to start the relationship with one or more smaller projects of a few months in duration to validate their work and timeliness for yourself.

Communication Capabilities

Well-planned, thorough and frequent communication is critical when using an IT outsourcing vendor. This goes double if the company you select has offshore resources, since both time and language may present communication barriers.

How much, when and how you each of you communicates with the other should be driven by the client. Both sides must identify primary contacts for specific areas. These people must have seconds in cases where the primary is unavailable. Daily meetings with program and development managers are not unreasonable as are weekly meetings with BDMs or department managers. To gauge frequency, ask yourself how much time you can afford to lose should a process go astray.

Vendors uncomfortable with your communication plan should raise a red flag with you, since this is such an essential element in your business relationship.

Their Range of Skill Sets

Except for the largest IT organizations, most companies do not have all the personnel with all the right skill sets for every project. When evaluating vendors’ technical and process capabilities, strike a balance between broad and deep skills that align with your business and project needs.

If you hope for the vendor to work on more than one type of project or you wish to establish a long-term relationship, then one with a broader range of skills may work out better in the long run. A possible drawback is that a project comes along that is a mismatch for the vendor’s skills and quality suffers.

Many enterprises today recognize that one size does not fit all, especially when working with small to mid-size IT outsourcing companies, so they choose to multi-source these services. This can complicate internal management of vendors, but often the point solutions that smaller vendors provide are of higher quality, with faster delivery and at the same or lesser cost.

Conclusion

Proper selection of an IT outsourcing vendor will significantly augment your company’s strategy and operations. Lack of due diligence, however, often leads to negative consequences plus lost time and money.

Use the selection criteria above along with a robust process comparing business requirements against each company’s pros and cons. This will lead to asking the right questions and building a seamless working relationship with a talented development provider.

The Optimus Information model is designed to allocate the right mix of local and offshore resources in order to optimize expertise, speed and cost. We provide the ability for development teams to quickly add specialty skills to a development team without incurring long-term costs.Our successful track record speaks for it’s self, and we love to share past work we’ve done. Our global team is made up of a diverse range of experienced professionals, allowing us to work on complex solutions requiring a wide variety expertise. The result for our customers is the capability to far better manage resource capacities and outcomes.

Contact us if for your next IT project. We’re always happy to help.

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Top Ten Software Development Outsourcing Trends for 2016

Originally, the primary motivation to outsource software development was to achieve lower labor costs, but continuing and emerging business and technology trends in 2016 are leading to new client requirements on outsourcers. When choosing an outsourcing partner, more and more businesses are looking for closer alignment to their business goals, flexibility demands and quality requirements.

Thus, clients are evaluating outsourcing companies via increasingly sophisticated criteria. The smartest software providers are reciprocating by developing new service models while taking advantage of many of the same technologies driving these current trends.

1) Moving from Hours to Results

In order to ensure that enterprises are getting what they need for their money, most are now seeking out providers who operate on a results-driven model versus rates based on time. Furthermore, clients are demanding that payment schedules be based on satisfactory achievement of those results versus upfront fees or retainers.

2) Greater Flexibility

Clients are looking for providers who provide on-demand services without locking them into long-term contracts or volume commitments. This enables client companies to respond more efficiently to rapidly changing market demands. In response, development providers who are moving operations to cloud resources are the ones most likely to adapt to the increased demand for flexibility.

3) Utilization of DevOps Practices Continues Apace

DevOps continues to attract adherents as it goes mainstream in up to 25 percent of companies this year, according to Gartner. Most of the IT departments in these organizations are transitioning to a service center model. Service providers who already operate in this manner will more easily blend into these organizations’ processes and decision-making apparatus.

4) Security Risk Perception Increases

A key concern within any outsourcing strategy is security. With the growing presence of the Internet of Things and the potential for an exponentially larger attack surface, software development outsourcing companies must ensure that their own security vulnerabilities are addressed in a manner that will win the confidence of client decision makers. Demonstrating solid track records and establish policies is of high importance when selecting a vendor.

5) Managing Infrastructure as Code

Amazon’s AWS has enabled the application of software development change management systems to development and deployment infrastructure. AWS is dedicated to making this paradigm increasingly easier with new APIs and services. Outsourcers who adopt this practice are reaping large benefits in their software support, testing and deployment efficiency by synching servers, storage and networking infrastructure to precise versions of the source code.

6) Multi-Sourcing Technologies Impacts Integration

Client companies are utilizing a more complex mix of software products and services this year. This multi-sourcing of technologies presents in-house management challenges, and a rise of new vendor management offices. The challenge for software providers is meeting new performance and integration standards from VMOs. Compliance failure may result in the outsourcer being dropped in the interests of streamlining operations.

7) Business Process Outsourcing Being Replaced by Robotic Process Automation

The software outsourcing industry in 2016 will continue to feel the influence of the rise of RPA. In fact, one of RPA’s touted benefits is the reduction of outsourcing, especially via cloud-based RPA services. Those outsourcers who can adapt by offering relevant automated services in the most responsive, scalable and efficient manner are the ones who can survive and profit from this trend.

8) Outsourcing Selection is Speeding Up

Along with the adoption of agile methodologies within software development, business decisions are also being made with more agility and higher velocity. Outsourcers will increasingly recognize this trend as more clients endeavor to close smaller deals faster in order to stay ahead of their competition.

9) Adept Companies Are Being More Selective with What They Outsource

Many organizations who originally turned to outsourcing to compensate for a lack of internal expertise and resources have grown more sophisticated over time. They are progressively learning to be more selective regarding what to do in-house versus handing off to an outsourcing provider. Organizations are looking deeper into what their core competencies are and what they can outsource to make themselves more efficient in-house. Their motivations are usually the desires for greater flexibility, responsiveness or cost reductions, all of which software providers need to be sensitive to in contract negotiations.

10) Outsourcing Company Accommodation Increasing

It is no longer the case that companies seek out only the lowest cost provider. Sophisticated outsourcing companies will respond tactically and strategically to all the trends discussed here to grow or to survive. This trend can be seen in the greater tendency for outsourcers to adapt and adjust terms or offer new services in an effort to deliver the best product and service.

Conclusion

The outsourcing industry is more fluid than ever this year with clients focusing less on price per se and more on results, quality, integration, security and agility from software development providers. As you adapt to your own fast-moving markets and the rise of paradigm-shaking technologies such as IoT and on-demand infrastructure, so do we. Optimus stays two steps ahead in order to support your business in all your software and IT requirements.

At Optimus, we consistently stay on top of these trends while leveraging the forces driving them to bring you the solutions you need. Contact us to help with your next development, testing, cloud, BI or mobile project.

info@optimusinfo.com
604-736-4600

Tips on Keeping Your Intellectual Property Secure When Outsourcing

Security has been and continues to be one of the top concerns for enterprises considering outsourcing some or all of their software development or IT functions. Within the sphere of security concerns, one risk especially stands out, which is the potential to lose control over your enterprise’s intellectual property.

Reputable outsourcing vendors would not remain in business long if it was suspected that they had compromised any of their clients’ IP, but regardless of that there are several steps and procedures you should undertake within your company to minimize the chances of such a damaging occurrence.

Create an IP Inventory

First and foremost, know what needs protecting within your company. If you do not already have one, create a thorough inventory of all potential IP material. It may include copyrights, trademarks, patents, specifications, proprietary code, databases, marketing material or customer information. In order to do this thoroughly, you will need the advice of legal counsel or an intellectual property specialist. Such experts can often identify potential IP, such as trade secrets, of which you were unaware but which may have commercial value.

The next step is to place a valuation on each piece of IP. This additional step helps prioritize your protection and segregation procedures. Additional benefits to establishing valuations include being able to accurately assess damages should your IP be stolen or infringed upon plus identifying its leverage potential in current or future business dealings.

Set Up a Robust IP and Privacy Policy

Intellectual property and privacy policies lay out the ground rules for what is and what is not IP and how potential IP should be recorded and handled. It also specifies who retains rights to such property. It should be exhaustive in terms of all the types of IP it covers.

The privacy policy sets out the company’s information handling practices. With regard to potentially valuable IP derived from customer information, it must define the technical, administrative and physical security practices used.

Managing Permissions and Access to Your IP

Your enterprise likely already has computer, networking and data security policies in effect, which can be applied to keeping your IP safe as well. These generally follow a hierarchy of permissions for everyone, certain groups of people and files or directories restricted to select individuals. Each of these permissions can be restricted by operations, such as read, write or execute.

Utilizing these policies to protect a company’s IP should employ the principle of least privilege. In short, this means that any internal or external user of your computing infrastructure, programs and data must only possess privileges that are essential to their work and no more.

Additionally, company systems must monitor and log file and program access in order to flag unauthorized accesses and provide an audit trail. There are many more steps you can take to improve your IP security in this are: [http://web.mit.edu/Saltzer/www/publications/protection/Basic.html].

Application and Network Audits

Audits of your computing infrastructure behavior and activities must be in place before engaging an outsourcing vendor. These should run frequently or continuously to detect unauthorized transactions, access control violations, compromised data integrity or data entry errors that might indicate a foiled access attempt or attack. Audits have an additional benefit by exposing processing inefficiencies or weak points in your security attack surface.

Choose a Reliable, Reputable and Trustworthy Development Vendor

Despite the many precautions you can take internally, the importance of choosing a trusted vendor cannot be overemphasized. Before contacting vendors, put together a well-researched set of criteria to evaluate their commitment to securing your data and communications.

Investigate if they are in compliance with applicable federal or provincial/state laws and industry standards with regard to computer security and consumer privacy. Evaluate how they practice security best practices in their operations. Also, examine their physical security their disaster recovery plan. Always check references from prior clients.

Additional practices that would indicate their commitment to client data security would be the existence of employee training with regard to IP rights and the handling of sensitive data, the use of prevention technologies and the monitoring of their outbound Internet traffic and email.

Conclusion

Intellectual property is an essential part of any high-tech business. What is IP in your enterprise may cover more ground than first imagined. Thus, it is critical to identify and value all potential IP within your company and develop a plan to protect it.

Effectively managing your IP internally and across the boundaries in your relationships with outsourcing partners is the only way to ensure you receive both maximum protections and benefits. You must evaluate if your vendor is equally serious about IP security and has taken steps to protect your assets also.

Rest assured that Optimus employs only the most up-to-date and innovative technologies, processes and policies to ensure your company’s IP is safe and secure. Their contractual obligations in this regard fall within a North American jurisdiction.

Optimus has a long and successful track record of working with over 100 high-tech companies to deliver world-class outsourcing services while safeguarding each company’s invaluable intellectual property.

Contact us if you have any questions regarding keeping your intellectual property secure. We’re always happy to answer any questions.

info@optimusinfo.com
604-736-4600

Top 10 Most Innovative IoT Companies

The IoT ecosystem has come a long way in recent years with multiple big players coming into the field. We take a brief look at the top companies investing heavily in IoT including industrial giants, semiconductor manufacturers, cloud providers and key players in the consumer and retail sectors.

Samsung

Samsung’s goal is to have 100 percent of their products IoT-ready by 2020. They are concentrating their IoT efforts on smart, compact, energy-sipping sensors and their embedded package on package technology known as ePOP. ePOP and their Bio-Processor are made to fit in the expanding market for wearable and other small portable devices. They support an open developer community that is growing their IoT influence across a wide variety of industries.

General Electric

GE’s Predix platform has been designed specifically for IoT applications that integrate machine-generated data flows with cloud computing platforms. In other words, they are right in the thick of things when it comes to leveraging big data. Among the areas where they are helping leverage IoT technology are electric grid management, transportation fuel optimization and hospital operations.

Intel

Intel is a leader in supplying IoT components and platforms. Each year, they increase their commitment to IoT and already have an impressive portfolio of products such as intelligent network gateways and new low-power processors like Intel® Quark™ and a new Intel® Atom™ processor family. They have put together a complete IoT reference model to work with third-party IoT solutions also.

Cisco

Cisco is positioning itself as the answer to one of IoT’s most vexing problems: security. They hope to be the leader in IoT security certifications. They are working on providing their own IoT analytics platform as evidenced by their recent acquisitions of Jasper, OpenDNS and Parstream. Overall, they are stimulating IoT growth via open standards, while moving the industry to an integrated end-to-end architecture that spans the space between devices and the cloud.

IBM

IBM has built a significant portfolio around IoT data analytics and cognitive computing platforms. Their Watson IoT platform brings cognitive computing into the IoT mix, which is their answer to the difficulties of using conventional programming methodologies across millions of connected sensors, devices and systems. They have chartered an entire workforce of nearly 1,500 employees running on$3 billion of investment over five years dedicated to IoT.

Microsoft

Microsoft has been criticized for coming to the IoT party late, but they recently announced new Azure Cloud services targeted specifically at processing data from embedded devices to support IoT big data analytics. Additionally, they have released a version of Windows that supports Intel’s Arduino-based, x86 development board named Intel® Galileo. They hope to insert Windows into IoT applications in the health care, retail, manufacturing and automotive sectors.

Google

Google promotes the idea of a single language network of interoperable IoT devices. They offer the Google IoT Cloud Platform, which enables IoT device applications to take advantage of their fast global network and powerful data analytics tools. They are also backing the Thread Group’s project to enable disparate IoT devices to communicate with one another. Google’s cross-platform micro-OS, named Brillo, is aimed at IoT devices based on ARM, Intel x86 and MIPS hardware.

Amazon

Aside from the many IoT products Amazon sells on its retail site, Amazon is developing a number of consumer level embedded microcontroller products such as a portable, intelligent button used for automatic restocking of household products. They recently acquired 2lemetry, which focuses on enterprise platforms to manage IP-addressable machines and devices. Like Google, their AWS division also offers specialized IoT-enabling cloud services.

Salesforce

San Francisco-based, cloud computing services company Salesforce is another entrant in the IoT-enabling cloud services market sector. Its IoT Cloud is powered by a real-time, scalable processing engine called Thunder. This is an open source platform built from four collaborating technologies including distributed, real-time processing aimed at big data analytics. The thrust of the technology is to gather and analyze data at IoT scale and condense it into meaningful interpretations at the Salesforce UI.

AT&T

AT&T is partnering with several companies via its IoT business unit to supply network infrastructure and its own brand of IoT-scale data analytics. They have already chartered several AT&T Foundries to stimulate innovation with regard to IoT. These Foundries bring together VCs, developers and startup companies to propose new ideas to which AT&T could contribute. It is a fast-paced way to deliver pitches to decision makers. Via Foundries and their employee TIP program, they are funding IoT solutions in a wide variety of areas including Smart Cities, Connected Health, Connected Business and Connected Home.

Conclusion

A huge, virtual IoT community is quickly forming that is being fueled by some of the biggest technology companies on the planet. Already, IoT platforms, the networks to connect them, cloud-based analytics and hordes of innovative solutions are being born and coming together across multiple industries around the globe.

IoT Challenges and Opportunities

The Internet of Things is poised to exponentially expand from the millions of devices and services available today to billions of components in the coming years. It is difficult to envisage all the ramifications that follow its full-on manifestation not unlike when the Internet took off in the 1980s.

Despite a lack of prediction precision, however, we know that IoT will induce tremendous impacts on standards, security, business models and individual lifestyles. The obstacles to its adoption are enormous, but so will be the opportunities that ensue.

Fundamental Drivers of IoT

IoT’s key technological enabler is the proliferation of rapidly shrinking, low-power sensors and embedded IP-addressable devices. These find their way into applications in manufacturing, the health care sector, consumer products and public infrastructure. Everyday things such as kitchen appliances, automobiles and parking meters – not previously considered “computers” – are now active IoT participants.

These devices generate, gather and act upon “micro-data” that in the aggregate will trivialize the scale of today’s Big Data streams. These data are in demand by increasingly sophisticated analytics services that improve IoT-enabled product performance. They also super-charge a blossoming analytics segment feeding automated enterprise decision-making systems.

Barriers to Adoption

Security and Privacy

The sheer scale of a full-blown IoT approaching a hundred billion devices has a potential to pose unimaginable problems, the first of which are likely to be around privacy and security. IoT offers an enormous attack surface for malware. It adds layers to the software/hardware stacks employed today, which also creates new security risks.

IoT’s data flood being shared across its infrastructure creates the certainty of privacy breaches. Even though single data burst may not contain personally identifiable information, those with criminal intent have an opportunity to create hundreds or thousands of associations that may yield something useful to them. Furthermore, all such data that is stored is subject to attack as well.

Lack of Widespread Standards

Clearly, IoT is well ahead of new standards that would mitigate its inherent complexity. Look forward to a mix of competing standards and proprietary solutions that create a heavy friction for device manufacturers, developers and testers, even though the success of IoT demands a high level of collaboration if it is to reach full promise.

Although in theory IoT presents a rich platform for experimentation, especially for aggregator services layered over it, a lot of junk apps and services will surely crop up. These will muddy value propositions and ROI evaluations for many businesses, especially startups that have worthwhile IoT concepts. At the least, this creates a perceptual drag on IoT.

Opportunities Abound

Despite the obstacles to IoT, it appears it will not fall off a cliff anytime soon. One estimate of its economic potential comes from the McKinsey Global Institute, which estimates it to generate value from $4 trillion to $11 trillion by 2025 in consumer and business applications. IoT participating technology companies producing hardware, software, services and integration are all likely beneficiaries.

Semiconductor Giants as Solution Providers

Already, semiconductor companies are seizing the IoT moment. At the core of every IoT device is silicon of course. However, the most nimble and forward-looking semiconductor companies realize that providing packaged solutions in the form of micro- or pico-sized IoT devices represent a new revenue stream. They will be able to skirt obstacles such as security by keeping these a closed system.

Wearable Health Care and Smart Homes

Already, a huge investment is being made in the healthcare sector in IoT-capable wearable health monitoring devices and supporting technology. Another growing sector is smart home monitors and security systems that rely on a multitude of sensors and actuators that send and receive data and commands remotely. These alone are projected to generate revenue of half a billion dollars in the next few years.

Unimagined Innovation

The application for IoT sensors seems only limited by human imagination. Farmers are already using them to monitor crops and livestock and automating adjustments in food, fertilizer and pesticides. Retailers are utilizing IoT devices to monitor inventory, learn more about their customers and provide them with personalized information and offers. Cities are using IoT to monitor traffic and pedestrian flows, which they optimize via traffic signals or lane sharing.

Conclusion

IoT is at the cusp of transforming our daily lives and society as a whole in ways that go beyond the onset of the Internet. Although IoT faces significant headwinds as it gains speed, especially in areas such as security, privacy and testability, these will be overcome eventually.

Major companies such as Google, Cisco, Microsoft, Intel and many others are already contributing to IoT’s growth, but that does not mean there is not plenty of room for as yet unheard of startups to profit from recognizing both the challenges and opportunities of this new technology wave.

IoT Goes Open Source With the Linux Foundation’s Zephyr Project

Linux is well-known for being the OS of choice by adept PC users. It is also widely deployed in Internet servers and industrial control systems due to its small footprint, operating efficiency and open-source legacy. Attributes such as these also make it a natural choice to be a driving technology in the nascent Internet of Things or IoT.

The Linux Foundation recently announced the Zephyr Project, which is squarely aimed at bringing the best of Linux to IoT devices in the form of a small-scale real-time OS or RTOS. The project is being supported by some big IoT market players including UbiquiOS, Synopsys, NXP Semiconductors and Intel.

Zephyr as an IoT Accelerant

One of the many obstacles hindering IoT growth is the lack of interoperability standards that can be utilized by IoT device manufacturers. Zephyr could be the answer to that as a single, unifying, highly customizable, scalable and secure OS if the project is successful at meeting the extremely tight constraints required of IoT devices.

Linux already has many “micro” distributions that are used in a variety of applications as a reliable RTOS that uses a minimal memory footprint. Zephyr proposes to take these features to their limit in the nano-OS world of IoT.

The fact that Linux is open source, i.e. free, is an additional incentive to its use. Its adoption could go a long way toward realizing full value from IoT as it drops device costs and communication barriers between products from disparate vendors. Furthermore, being open source enhances the security of Linux, since code is open for scrutiny by security experts. Security is one of the biggest concerns around IoT, which is why Zephyr will include a dedicated security group.

How Low Can You Go?

There are at least a dozen small footprint Linux distributions made for PC users. One of the smallest is Tiny Core Linux [http://www.tinycorelinux.net/] with a six megabyte image that runs from removable media such as a USB pen drive. It even includes a GUI desktop. Others have taken Linux “distros” down to 200KB of RAM for storage and one megabyte of flash for OS execution.

Such a minimal footprint is not small enough for IoT devices controlled by relatively simple microcontrollers that use no more than 10KB to 100KB of memory for storage and OS. Furthermore, in that sparse space, an IoT device is expected to operate in real-time. These constraints are formidable obstacles. The highly collaborative, community-based effort of Zephyr is an ideal approach to solving such problems.

Zephyr Goals

Zephyr is dedicated to producing both micro-kernel and nano-kernel versions. These are initially to be based on the contribution from Wind River Systems of its Rocket RTOS kernel. The nano-kernel project aims to run in no more than 10KB of RAM using a 32-bit processor.

More specific goals are stated for Zephyr as well:

  • It will be independent of CPU architecture, although it initially supports only x86, ARM and ARC.
  • Supported platforms include Arduino 101, Arduino Due, Intel Galileo Gen 2, MinnowBoard MAX, Quark D2000, Quark SE and the NXP FRDM-K64F Freedom board.
  • It will be modular, scalable and highly secure.
  • Connectivity support includes Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE, IEEE 802.15.4, CoAP, IPV6, and NFC.
  • Powerful development tools are part of the package with the kernel and select components open source under the Apache v2.0 License.

Long-term Impact of Zephyr on IoT Development

Despite IoT’s small-scale granularity, extreme scalability and potential for millions of new apps, its lack of standards and plethora of proprietary solutions have posed a significant hindrance to it being a hotbed for innovation. Diminishing such barriers, therefore, may be the Zephyr project’s greatest contribution to the growth of IoT.

By definition, open source platforms enable thousands of developers worldwide to invent new use cases, new apps and unique solutions. If the platform is inadequate for them to implement their solutions, they are free to modify the platform itself. This aspect will provide an enormous stimulant to IoT expansion. Zephyr’s primary goals to create an OS that is extremely flexible and scalable fits hand-in-hand with the open source development paradigm.

Conclusion

The Zephyr project will be seen in hindsight as a major inflection point in the progress of IoT. It is a boon to developers, enterprises and ultimately for consumers who will enjoy a much higher degree of interoperability, reliability and security among the IoT devices that inhabit their daily lives. Given that open source Linux is already utilized in a majority of enterprise networks and computational infrastructure, Zephyr adoption should be relatively smooth sailing as compared to a fragmented world of one-off OS solutions.

Internet of Things (IoT) Predictions for 2016

This year, nearly every major intelligence gatherer/analyst is jumping on the IoT bandwagon making forecasts about where IoT is heading in 2016 including Gartner, IDC, Forrester, WEF and Machina Research. We did the same thing to bring to you what we think are the best-of-the-best predictions for IoT trends on 2016.

IoT Enterprise Adoption Reaches a Tipping Point

The major thrust for IoT continues to come from the enterprise side versus the consumer side of the markets. According to Forrester, over half of businesses are already utilizing IoT or will within the coming year. Most of these enterprises are leveraging IoT to optimize use of company assets or as part of a transition from discrete products to product-based services. Further accelerating this trend will be the emergence this year of end-to-end IoT platforms that will go a long way to reducing the potential complexity of creating IoT apps and services.

Consumer Awareness Is on the Rise

On the other hand, 2016 is a marker year in IoT consumer awareness as most customers are now explicitly inquiring about the number and types of sensor/communication technologies that are embedded in new products from kitchen appliances to home security systems to automobiles. Companies this year are more than ever touting their products’ “connectedness” and home insurers are offering discounts to smart house homeowners.

Semiconductor Companies Are Jumping In

Intel especially has come to recognize that IoT is a hugely expanding market for them that could offset their shrinking sales in the PC market. IoT was a major consideration in their acquisition of semiconductor company Altera last year. This year they are developing complete IoT devices including sensors, embedded CPUs and communications. They are putting strong focus on applying their newly-found IoT expertise in the retail sector as evidenced by recent partnerships with SATO and RetailNext.

IoT Player Consolidation

Other big-tech companies are positioning themselves for IoT growth by acquiring smaller players, and that will accelerate in 2016. Cisco bought out IoT analytics company Parstream in late 2015. More recently, they acquired the largest IoT platform provider in the world, Jasper. Sony is acquiring chip company Altair Semiconductors, which is a leader in modern chip processes and cellular technology.

Keep your eye out for several rumored acquisitions coming this year including FireEye, Proofpoint, Fortinet and CyberArk.

The Numbers Continue to Astound

If the previous predictions seem a disputable, here are some hard numbers predicted by Gartner for the coming year:

  • 2016 will see 6.4B “things” connected worldwide
  • Over 5 million of these “things” will be connected every single day
  • Between consumers and enterprises, IoT hardware spending will exceed $1.4B
  • IoT service spending will be 22 percent higher than last year and total $235B
  • The downers are that there will be a multi-billion black market spawned that sells fake IoT data, personal privacy breaches will increase and the vast majority of IoT projects will take far longer than planned.

Public Sector IoT Accelerates

Smart Cities, Smart Grids, Smart Buildings are all areas that are accelerating this year, especially in Germany and Scandinavia. Finland, for example, uses trash can sensors to reduce the costs of garbage pickup by 30 percent. Although the trend in public sector IoT began in Europe, it is accelerating in the Asia/Pacific region as well as in North America.

This year governments across the globe are starting to implement IoT rather than just talk about it. They are connecting motion sensors to streetlight to save energy, distributing smart parking apps that monitor when spaces free up and are employing IoT to optimize the use of and to share public services assets such as road equipment and transportation.

Conclusion

Underlying mega-trends continue to pump juice into IoT, such as cheaper sensors, processors, bandwidth, the long-awaited move to IPV6 and various types of wireless coverage in every nook and cranny.

A few holdouts still see IoT as nothing more than an already flat fad given that the IoT equivalent of “flying cars” is still not on the horizon. However, in the face of the numbers and moves by some of the biggest tech companies, it is hard to take these critics too seriously.

So far, the reports of IoT’s demise are supremely exaggerated and many past predictions have been exceeded already. IoT will surely experience bumps and jolts along the way to the prediction by IDC that IoT spending will surpass $1.7 trillion by 2020, but for this year and beyond it appears to be an unstoppable wave that is far from cresting.