Build or Buy? An Executive’s Guide to IoT Platforms
The good news is, even companies with diverse requirements don’t have to build an IoT platform from scratch. “If you’re a large enterprise and your solution is unique, and you want to have custom stuff and you want it built just the way you want it, it’s better to go with the building-block approach, so you put it together yourself and get exactly what you want,” Hilton said.
That building-block approach is how Hilton describes the microservices provided by hyperscale cloud vendors like Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft. “You can take all the microservices and stitch them together, and you would be developing an IoT platform,” he said.
Similarly, Sarangan explained that some vendors, like AT&T and IBM, may not have a complete IoT platform that they built themselves, but provide a range of interoperable capabilities through an extensive partner ecosystem. “They have all the capabilities, and while not all of them are developed in-house, they are plug-and-play. The partner ecosystem has the capabilities and solutions available, and they integrate together and create an overarching platform,” he said.
Regardless of the IoT platform companies choose, some development is inevitable. “You can use a productized platform that already has those microservices stitched together, but you still have to develop an app on top of the platform that will allow you to visualize your data.” Hilton said.
Companies should also keep in mind they don’t have to do the development themselves. “At the end of the day, especially with large corporations, there will always be some element of custom configuration. That doesn’t mean they can’t work with platform providers and their professional services arm to do that. Both constituencies are trying to fill in this gap, but the result is that many companies have this hodgepodge of solutions,” Groopman said.
There are scenarios when multiple technologies are necessary — if not advantageous — such as when companies require specialization for targeted use cases. As an example, Groopman said companies may decide to deploy GDPR software on top of an existing configuration. “When you have a complex problem like compliance, that’s a good way to not only target that issue but also have a company that helps substantiate that and that you can point to as experts in that particular area. That’s important from a liability standpoint,” she said.
Companies should be wary, however, about deploying multiple stand-alone platforms. This can become an issue when separate operating divisions or business units pursue an IoT initiative in a silo. This can create numerous management and interoperability headaches, as Hilton pointed out.
“It’s not a good idea for the overall architecture. These platforms are all built independently. The databases are all different. The way you store data in one platform will be different from another. If you want to merge data and do analysis, you’ll have to decide how you’ll combine that stuff,” he said.