Posts Tagged ‘Cloud Computing’
Chances are, if you are in the business of technology, you have come across the term “Full Stack”. It started few years back with the notion of a (software) developer being able to program all layers for web applications – you can find a great description from 2012 here: What is a Full Stack developer?. The momentum, and market for Full stack developers kept going up. And then it started being discussed at the level of a company or rather a startup – and I would attribute it to the VC firm A16Z to define it at this level. A16Z has dedicated a page on the Full Stack Startup as a part of their ‘trends‘ in investing. The ideal full stack company is Apple – they do everything top to bottom, providing the best user/consumer experience to their customers (readers may be familiar with the previous iteration of full stack – the Vertically Integrated Company – I’m not sure how it is different from the definition of Full Stack).
This got me thinking on what are the attributes, skills, expertise needed by a Full Stack IoT Company – a company that build a complete solution based on the benefits of IoT, and here they are:
1. Hardware design, development and manufacturing: This may or may not be part of a full stack IoT company but the reality is that the T in IoT stands for “Things” – physical things. And interfacing with them requires hardware. Full Stack IoT companies will own or control significant aspects of the hardware required in their solution. This implies the Full Stack IoT company needs skill around design, development of hardware. And as many delayed Kickstarter hardware projects prove – these companies would need expertise and experience in manufacturing, and supply chain. The hardware would involve both the sensor and the gateway being used.
2. Embedded / Firmware (resource-constrained) Programming: IoT has re-surfaced the lost art of an embedded programmer. Imagine the code running inside the wearables or sensors – it is all embedded code and in some cases running without any real operating system. Design, development and debugging is fundamentally different than cloud or mobility or application level programming.
3. Application-level & Middleware Programming: Programming on the IoT Gateway, Cloud and the distributed middleware to integrate all of the elements together
4. Cloud development, and operations: All IoT applications require a cloud component, you would need the cloud infrastructure (e.g. Amazon AWS), the IoT middleware portion running on the cloud and the IoT application which provides the functionality.
5. Management – of devices, of applications, of network (even though the network belongs to a third party): as the solution provider – managing devices, and apps – for version control, updates would be needed as a part of the integrated offer and solution. Once again – the Full Stack IoT company may license or integrate a third party solution but would own the responsibility.
6. Smartphone & Tablet Apps: Do I really need to justify this? You would need apps to both for management of the IoT application and also for consuming the experience provided by the application.
7. Analytics, Mining, Business Intelligence: ideally the company provides basic analytics with its solutions, and can be integrated with other products and solutions for advanced analytics. Full Stack IoT companies may leverage analytics solutions from other companies, but would still retain control of the data.
8. Integration with IT & other systems – to interface, and integrate with business applications in order to deliver the contextual value provided by the IoT system. Your IoT application may also need to integrate with other services to enhance your service – for example you may need to integrate with a Weather reporting web service if you are offering an application that controls/manages air conditioning (HVACs).
Bottom line – IoT applications are distributed across multiple systems and that is both a challenge and an opportunity! Whether your company is a “Full Stack” IoT company or not – if you building IoT applications – you cannot escape the 8 attributes described above. You will have to partner, build or integrate that help address all the 8 elements.
Full Stack Reading
I write this as Dell is about to announce their latest quarterly results on May 28th. Dell’s struggles in the past few years are well documented in blogs (technical and financial) and their own financial results, even after the comeback of Michael Dell the struggle has continued. Here is a sampling:
- Dell’s current revenues are steeped in PCs & Notebooks. The financial year ending January 31st, 2009 had 60% of its revenues in Mobility & PCs – Mobility accounting 31% of the revenues.
- Even though there are some predictions in the market that the business have quit slashing their IT budgets – it is difficult to envision how Dell is going to come out at the top. Year over year revenues are stagnant at $61.1 billion and the profit is down from $2.94 billion to $2.47 billion.
- Dell still seems to be dabbling with no clear sense of strategy and direction. Dell has done business selling flat panel TVs and handheld devices.
- And recently has been attempting to introduce a Smart Phone! Doing a Google Search on “Dell Cell Phone” results in the first entry indicating that they have been mulling a cell phone since 2007! But as you search and read on you find out that carriers have more or less rejected the Dell Cell Phone citing it as too dull. Oh and as I write this and run various Google searches I come across a post which says the Dell’s Cell Phone is Dead!
- Dell also has recently launched the Adamo series to compete with the Macbook Air from Apple. It has been slow on the Netbook market trend as well. And, of course, like many others, Dell is also rumored to be tinkering with Android based Netbook!
- Dell is going to face an interesting challenge on the server front thanks to Cloud Offerings by the likes of Amazon and Google in addition to the traditional competition from Sun, HP, and IBM. Not to make things easier even Cisco has entered the Server Market recently!
- Net-net this lack of direction is well summarized here!
So what is Dell to do, IMHO:
As a recent investor in DELL and watching their stock price meander with no direction, I was prompted to write this post.
Dell needs to make radical changes on what and how they build their products. They need to enter product categories that allow them to create a Blue Ocean or Purple Cow. Simply speaking they need to out-compete their competition – introducing just another Smart Phone or a Netbook is probably not going to be a game changer.
The down-turn in the industry is a good time for Dell to re-invent itself.
Ericsson usually does not figure in the Cloud Computing conversations and blogs – at least the ones that I have been following (and I checked, they are not part of the supporters in the Cloud Manifesto project). However I think there may be a case to be made that Ericsson may be in an excellent position to offer Cloud Computing services – may be as managed services which they excel at. How did I arrive at
Being a part of Cisco’s Service Provider group I regularly track news on Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) and the first bit of information that was lodged in my mind was an article in the Technology section of NYTimes titled “Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Are Managing Just Fine“. To quote from the article:
Ericsson manages all or parts of the networks of 230 mobile operators with a total 225 million customers.
It is significant revenue for Ericsson earning them $1.7 billion last year from managing the mobile networks. With this bit of information fresh in my mind, I ended up last night attending a presentation by Brad Anderson on Erlang at the Atlanta AWSome meetup last night.
Brad gave an introduction to Erlang and the history of its development with Ericsson. His point that Erland is extremely well-suited for building Cloud Computing platforms and from his slide titled “The Three Biggies”, here are the reasons why Erlang is ideal for Cloud Computing:
- Massively Concurrent
- Seamlessly Distributed
- Fault Tolerant
The slides from an earlier presentation by Brad can be found here which make a good case on “Why Erlang?”. They also talk about how Erlang is catching up with major social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Erlang, as I learnt, has been around since 1990 and used actively by Ericsson on their Telephone Infrastructure unit and augmented by the Open Telecom Plaform (OTP). And guess what Erlang is Open Source!
It is difficult to tell how much of Ericsson equipment and how much of the Erlang based technology is being used to manage the mobile networks but it is certainly interesting to note that the combination of a technology expertise (programming platform/langauge) in Erlang and their massive experience in managing networks and operations would be very useful in providing Cloud Computing Services.
The real question is does really think of itself to in a position to provide Cloud Computing services?