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Open Source IoT on Steady Enterprise March

By Jack M. Germain
Feb 22, 2017 3:08 PM PT
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Enterprise IT decision makers have been exploring the potential of Internet of Things technologies, but they are not rushing IoT projects into development and are showing caution in their adoption commitments, according to survey results Red Hat released Wednesday.

Of the 215 participants in the company's survey, "Enterprise IoT in 2017: Steady as she goes," 55 percent indicated that IoT was important to their organization. However, only a quarter of those organizations actually were writing project code and deploying IoT technologies.

Enterprise interest in IoT has been deliberate and careful, Red Hat's findings suggest.

Open source software is well positioned to be the dominant technology for IoT development, and open source partners will be vital to project success, the survey results indicate.

The latest survey was a follow-up to Red Hat's 2015 survey on IoT interest in the enterprise. While it appears that interest in IoT is picking up, companies are approaching actual rollouts with the common enterprise IT theme of "steady deliberation."

The aim of the 2015 survey was to find out if people were building IoT solutions from scratch or were leveraging pieces from other projects and adding an IoT component, said Lis Strenger, senior principal product marketing manager for Red Hat.

"Knowing that would help us decide what he had to add to our own product part. Two years later ... we found that the hype cycle of IoT had quickly moved ahead very fast. It went out of hype more quickly than people expected it to," she told LinuxInsider.

Survey Revelations

The survey was segmented and sought responses only from people fitting the developer and architect profile.

At 55 percent, the number of survey respondents who described IoT as important to their organization was up 12 percent from 2015.

Their IoT deployments were in the early stages, with fewer than a quarter of respondents actually designing, prototyping or coding an IoT project, Strenger pointed out.

Still, "more people are further along in active IoT projects. That was an important discovery," she said.

About 22 percent of respondents were in active development -- designing, prototyping or coding.

"This is a pretty significant chunk of our customer base," Strenger noted.

Almost 60 percent of respondents were looking to IoT to drive new business opportunities, rather than to optimize existing investments or processes.

Unexpected Takeaway

One of the chief takeaways from the latest study is that devs viewing open source as the best approach to accommodate the need for rapid innovation, according to Strenger.

An impressive 89 percent of respondents said they were going to be using open source software.

"Standards are still developing for best practices around communication, productivity and security," said Strenger. "These are evolving constantly as people try different things and push up against different barriers."

An example of the open source connection is the large number of vendors working to deliver device management and enterprise application integration as a set of common services hosted in the cloud, she explained.

Setting IoT Direction

The enterprise IT environment is rarely a hotbed for innovation.

"I think the initial jumping on the IoT bandwagon came from a lot of hobbyists who might have also been enterprise developers," Strenger said. "People were really involved in experimenting but were not actively interested in building enterprise IoT solutions."

Red Hat's approach to IoT has focused much more on the middleware pieces. The survey helped the company gauge its customer response to the operating system as not the most important thing in IoT.

"That confirmed the fact that we already have an OS (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) that is robust enough to support what the IoT workload will deploy," Strenger said. "The important thing is to realize that if you are going to be touching production, you want to be careful about how you plug in the IoT components that are going to be touching the system."

To that end, Red Hat now will focus on the tools dev use. The goal is to make sure that the tools and programming languages devs prefer are included in Red Hat's software collections, according to Strenger.

Developer Drag

IoT development is far from stagnant, but the time it takes to get a device from design to manufacturing may make it appear that way, suggested Baoguo Wei, founder of IoT development company Phoinix Technologies.

"The ability to capture consumer data and streamline processes -- save money -- will continue to make the IoT attractive to marketing and the enterprise," he told LinuxInsider.

The issues faced in developing a device five years ago still hold true today, Wei said. "Specifically, what slows the IoT down is the need for a design to go from conception to development, and then back to configuration for chip and software add-ins."

Enterprise Marketing

IoT can play a big role in marketing operations, said . Soon the marketplace will be ripe with smart marketing for smart devices, said Matias Woloski, CTO of Auth0.

"The ability for IoT devices to access and perform actions using the Internet opens an arena for marketing opportunities," he told LinuxInsider.

IoT already has started to seep into enterprise operations. Enterprises use highly intelligent devices and data analytics tools that have contextual awareness of an environment. They adapt themselves accordingly and provide actionable data, or simply trigger an action on behalf of the administrator, according to Woloski.

"All of these are precursors to the impending IoT trend in enterprise operations," he said.

The IoT already is becoming more prevalent in enterprise surroundings. Business process management is all about connecting people, processes and automated systems to increase efficiency and accuracy, noted Pat Wilbur, CTO of Hologram.

"IoT already plays a significant role in business operations in many industries, from telematics and logistics to robotic assembly lines," he told LinuxInsider. "As more smart devices pop up around us and people themselves become more connected, there is certainly opportunity to improve business operations with better interconnectedness among systems, processes, personnel and customers."

IoT and Open Source

IoT has an important role to play in the operations of many heavy industries, with 56 percent of such businesses estimated to have installed IoT processes by 2017. Despite the high level of activity, there are a few stumbling blocks for IoT, including project overruns and security costs, according to Tom Feltham, marketing director at Explore WMS.

"The proliferation of open source systems can certainly counteract the concerns over project overruns, as these systems and the communities around them grow," he told LinuxInsider.

Security costs associated with open source IoT systems are unlikely to be any different from those of proprietary systems. However, the reduced or nonexistent licensing costs of open source IoT systems can reduce the burden on small businesses, Feltham said.

On the other hand, open standards may be more critical to IoT than the involvement of open source, suggested Auth0's Woloski.

"The most important thing to IoT is not to get more open source software, but rather the need to have open standards that can be used between different IoT vendors," he said. "Even if they continue to use proprietary software but have an open standard that is accepted among all parties, that is what is going to move IoT forward."

That will enable all IoT devices from all the different brands to talk to each other, Woloski emphasized. In turn, consumers will be able to have an automatic house with devices from all vendors, which will drive IoT in the near future.


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software. Email Jack.


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