By Christian Henke, Head of Product at EMnify.
The cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT)
Most businesses in the world today – regardless of size, sector or phase of digitization – generally recognize the value of cloud. That said, there are varying degrees of familiarity with running applications in the cloud using infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). For some businesses, acknowledged leaders in advanced technologies, cloud is already a crucial foundation upon which their entire organizations are built. For others, maybe not as far along on their digitization journey, cloud is a newly integrated stepping-stone to streamlining, safeguarding and future-proofing their business model. And for others again, operating in sectors traditionally excluded from digitization altogether, cloud is recognized as a complex but necessary ticket to a complete overhaul of existing processes.
Though the use of cloud technologies isn’t technically required for building IoT solutions, the advantages of using cloud in IoT applications are substantial. In an IoT solution, it is the individual devices – often sensors – that collect data and perform key actions, but it is the cloud that does the smart decision making, processing the data, mining insights, giving commands. So, while all this is already happening in the cloud, why not bring connectivity into it as well? This was the thinking behind EMnify’s founding in 2014, one of the first connectivity providers with a cellular platform in the public cloud, providing cloud-native cellular IoT connectivity.
“Going native” – the evolution of cloud-native technology
In the past, many IoT deployments didn’t reach their full potential because they could not realize the benefits of cloud. Even though applications, software and systems were hosted in the cloud, connectivity was still being provided through traditional operator cellular contracts and connections.
Today, the vast majority of IoT platforms are hosted in the cloud, with most data transfers and storage also undertaken there. By 2023, 10% of managed machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity will be provided through hyperscale cloud providers, up from less than 1% in 2018 (Gartner).
Technology has now evolved to offer an end-to-end cloud native network architecture, allowing enterprises to fully utilize the agility, scalability, resiliency, elasticity, and economies of the cloud in every aspect of running a connected business.
The benefits of cloud native IoT connectivity
Cloud-native connectivity and services are the backbone of developing a connected business. They allow enterprises to overcome the limitations of traditional connectivity models, which are inflexible and expensive for IoT, prolonging time-to-market and time-to-revenue. A cloud-native environment is plug-and-play, avoiding the need for restrictive contracts and hardware-based APIs.
A cloud-native connectivity solution provides several benefits from the offset, including:
- Self-service. Get started right away without the usual administrative burden – no signing contracts, no opening tickets, no contractual commitment but instead automated workflows.
- Integrations. It’s easy to establish connections between devices, applications or systems, leading to improved operational efficiency and security. The connectivity solution can be easily integrated into own and 3rd party applications and cloud services.
- Ubiquitous low latency. Reliable, low-latency connectivity to a cloud-native, highly reliable core network that spans globally. Instead of routing data to the home country of the cellular operator, the data is directly routed to the closest cloud region. Improving not only latency, but also device energy consumption and service availability.
- Global cellular network. It is easy to scale up across national and network borders without the need to source from different vendors. Access to multiple networks per country can be done with one global IoT operator – allowing to manage all connectivity aspects in one platform.
- Cost-effective. Highly cost-effective thanks to features inherent to cloud environments such as microservices, network function virtualization and software-defined networking. These architectural patterns and approaches make networks more responsive and cost-effective to manage, provision, deprovision and troubleshoot via software. Additionally, they allocate processing power only when required, saving hardware, disk space, energy – and cost.
Reducing overhead and focusing on core competency
As seen above, end-to-end cloud-native connectivity overcomes many of the barriers of traditional telecoms and allows business leaders to achieve the fastest time to ROI. Transitioning from a private, physical server in an organization’s lab or data center to a comprehensive cloud platform, significantly reduces heavy IT administration as well as skillset-specific maintenance of on-premises servers, networks and virtualization platforms. By alleviating overhead, expenses and administration pressure – a business can focus on its core competency, in this case, creating outstanding IoT solutions, while a cloud provider does the rest.