Cisco Announces New IoT System and Solutions

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  July 1, 2015

Cisco announced a new IoT (Internet of Things) System which it said is designed to address the complexity of digitization with an infrastructure that is designed to manage large scale systems of diverse endpoints and platforms and the data deluge they create.

Cisco noted that to capitalize on the opportunities presented by this wave of digitization, companies and cities are increasingly deploying IoT solutions. However, that process is complex and often involves connecting devices and objects – or converging unrelated networks – at previously unprecedented scales.

Furthermore, customers can only realize the value of these connections with advanced data analytics, and often still need to create a new class of intelligent applications capable of accelerating new business models or increasing productivity. Finally, all of this has to happen without ever sacrificing security at any point in the system, from the device to the data center and via the cloud.

The new Cisco IoT System comprises six critical technology elements or ‘pillars’ which – when combined – can help reduce the complexities of digitization:

  1. Network connectivity:Including purpose-built routing, switching and wireless products available in ruggedized and non-ruggedized form factors.
  2. Fog computing:‘Fog’ is a distributed computing infrastructure for the Internet of Things (IoT) that extends computing capability – and thereby data analytics applications – to the ‘edge’ of networks and enables customers to analyze and manage data locally.
  3. Security:The security pillar of the IoT System unifies cyber and physical security to deliver operational benefits and increase the protection of both physical and digital assets.
  4. Data analytics: The Cisco IoT System provides an optimized infrastructure to implement analytics and harness actionable data for both the Cisco Connected Analytics Portfolio and third party analytics software.
  5. Management and automation: The IoT System provides enhanced security, control and support to deliver an easy-to-use system for managing an increasing volume of endpoints and applications.
  6. Application enablement platform: Offers a set of APIs for industries and cities, ecosystem partners and third-party vendors to design, develop and deploy their own applications on the foundation of IoT System capabilities.

Cisco also announced 15 new IoT products, including purpose-built switches, routers and gateways, security cameras and associated analytics, Fog data analytics services, and management and automation software. In addition, the company noted that key company partners have ported their applications to run on the Cisco Fog Computing system, including Covacsis, GE (Predix), Itron (Riva), OSISoft (PI), smartFOA in Japan, Bit Stew, Davra, SK Solutions, Toshiba and others. Finally, Cisco said it will provide comprehensive consulting and professional services for IoT. No pricing or availability details were included in the announcement.

The pitch

Cisco leverages networking leadership, new solutions and key partnerships to pursue IoT opportunities.

Final analysis

Cloud computing has held the IT industry rapt for the past decade, inciting huge changes in IT markets and among traditional system vendors but  IoT promises even greater evolution and disruption. That’s largely due to the sheer scale that the IoT market is likely to attain. As Cisco noted, estimates that some 50 billion devices and objects will be connected to the Internet by 2020 are fairly common, yet less than one percent of that number are connected to the Internet today.

In other words, if IoT market projections are anywhere near accurate, related solution development and deployment will be a massive commercial opportunity that could transform the ways that businesses utilize and benefit from technology. Moreover, IoT could offer enterprise vendors ways to return to their traditional technological comfort zones.

In large part that’s due to the fact that IoT mostly consists of projects and efforts that vendors know how to do so well – develop, deploy, manage and maintain often huge and hugely complex computing infrastructures and connected devices. That’s in stark contrast to cloud which, in its purest sense, delivers highly-targeted IT services by cost-effectively leveraging off the shelf components.

So it’s no wonder that Cisco (along with other large IT vendors) is aiming its sights on IoT technologies and business opportunities. But how do the company’s new IoT System and Fog Computing infrastructure measure up? Not bad, overall, though some questions remain.

First and foremost, the company is in a solid position for this emerging market, mainly due to key roles that innovative networking technologies play in IoT solutions and scenarios. At this point, most vendors are emphasizing the importance of moving IoT-related intelligence (in the form of sensors, gateways, routers and other network hardware with embedded compute capabilities) to the network edge. Doing so will allow intelligent systems to process and cull relevant details/events rather than shuffling enormous volumes of raw data to and from central data centers.

Cisco’s market leadership in networking makes it a natural player in this space, and the new IoT System is designed to make the most of that point and other company technologies. But while Cisco has a strong case to make, a couple of points in the announcement are a bit baffling, particularly the company’s decision to promote “Fog Computing” as a brand. That’s probably meant to complement, yet be distinct from cloud computing but the negative connotations of fog (foggy thinking, living in a fog, etc.) may make it a tough sell.

Also worth further consideration is the company’s IoT analytics strategy. While Cisco has its own Connected Analytics Portfolio (launched last December) and its UCS systems are solid solutions for analytics applications and workloads (like SAP HANA) the company is nowhere near as active or established in this space as vendors, like EMC, IBM and Oracle. So keying on the efforts of Covacsis for predictive analytics in manufacturing is an intriguing move that could signal similar engagements with partners to target analytics for specific vertical industries.

Overall, despite some white spaces that need further clarification and coloring in, there is much to like about Cisco’s IoT System solutions and strategy. The company’s past accomplishments make it a natural player in the space, and Cisco’s commercial success in areas (like its UCS Systems) that initially appeared unrelated to its core businesses means that the company’s efforts should be taken seriously. With the salad days of IoT still some ways out, we expect that Cisco intends for both its customers and competitors to do just that.

© 2015 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.