As corporations continue to adopt cloud-based infrastructure at an accelerated pace, the decline of traditional data centre outsourcing persists. According to Gartner, this trend effectively illustrates the fundamental shift to hybrid infrastructure services. The same analysts suggest that by 2020, cloud, hosting, and traditional infrastructure services will garner equitable levels of corporate spending.
However, the transition to cloud computing is only part of the story. More than ever, companies have begun to explore multi-cloud strategies to host their most critical applications. This trend is the key finding in a recent study from Forrester and Virtustream. The study found that 86 per cent of respondents see their current cloud strategy as multi-cloud. Further, the vast majority of companies plan to maintain or increase the vendors, resources, and staff they devote to cloud infrastructure.
As companies continue to pursue increased flexibility, cost savings, and improved application performance, investment in multi-cloud strategies is likely to grow. For those companies operating in the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem, this trend generates both opportunities and obstacles. But before exploring this topic further, it’s crucial to understand how an IoT platform differs from a cloud deployment strategy.
What Is an IoT platform?
According to KaaIoT, “an IoT platform is a multi-layer technology that enables straightforward provisioning, management, and automation of connected devices within the Internet of Things universe.”
An IoT Platform connects hardware devices to the cloud by using flexible connectivity options in combination with security mechanisms and data processing capabilities.
Traditional IoT platforms act as a simple middleware solution, bridging the gap between the hardware and application level. However, following the advent of cloud computing, IoT platforms have become far more complex. Modern IoT platforms are often built on cloud infrastructure, dramatically improving scalability, security, and customisation.
The challenges of multi-cloud for IoT
Despite the undeniable benefits of modern IoT platforms, challenges remain, especially in the context of a multi-cloud strategy.
Cloud and IoT platform compatibility
Many cloud providers do not offer their IoT services on other cloud platforms. As such, companies may be forced to use a specific IoT platform if they’ve already committed to a cloud provider. The opposite is also true. Companies may need to use a particular cloud provider to access their preferred IoT platform. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), IBM Cloud, and Microsoft Azure are a few examples of cloud providers that offer little flexibility in their deployment options.
Complexity of multi-cloud
Often, cloud strategies are far more chaotic than many assume. Taking the time to develop a comprehensive cloud strategy can be a prolonged process for modern businesses. As such, many enterprises take an ad hoc approach to implementing their plan, seeking to optimise results after-the-fact. Although this approach allows firms to remain agile, it creates a misconception that multi-cloud strategies are less time consuming and costly than they really are - especially when an IoT platform is required.
The benefits of multi-cloud for IoT
Despite the challenges associated with multi-cloud deployment for IoT, there are also many benefits.
Proximity to devices
In many instances, IoT platforms require an on-premise host, so they remain close to the devices with which they communicate. In locations where an unreliable network connection may interrupt this communication, an IoT platform will need to run locally. In this instance, a private cloud on-premise deployment might be connected with high-level services running on a public cloud.
Sometimes IoT solutions deployed in various geographical locations will require different public cloud providers. For instance, an IoT solution deployed in Asia, Europe, and South America might require the use of local cloud providers depending on local data privacy regulations. A multi-cloud strategy facilitates the necessary deployment while ensuring the connectivity of corporate IT infrastructure.
Integration with existing systems
Most often, companies will need to integrate their IoT platform with existing IT infrastructure. If this infrastructure is already hosted on a public or private cloud, companies may be able to deploy their IoT solution on the same platform. This makes it easier to manage the complete solution, saving valuable time and money.
The future of multi-cloud IoT
Since its arrival, cloud deployment has dramatically altered the IT industry. As the transition to hybrid infrastructure services accelerates, multi-cloud strategies will likely continue to increase. In the pursuit of cost savings and greater flexibility, companies appear eager to expand on their existing cloud platforms.
For those operating in the IoT ecosystem, a multi-cloud strategy presents both challenges and opportunities. Although compatibility issues remain, companies have more flexibility than ever before. Using a multi-cloud strategy, these companies can generate immense value through their IoT platforms. But as with any IT infrastructure, the ability to unlock this value relies heavily on practical implementation.
Dmitriy Akulov, founder, PerfOps