The challenging future of the data center in an IoT landscape

Disclosure: This post was previously published on Atos Ascent Blog Post and was co-authored by Mr. Andrea Sorrentino (LinkedIn) – minor format and content edits have been applied to fit it to this website.

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” This phrase of Machiavelli Wikipedia perfectly aligns with how we should consider the Internet of Things (IoT) – the need to change our mindset regarding the IT industry and how we use data. Better analytics are now creating an amount of information which has never been obtained before; providing important insights into markets and consumers. The IoT can further enhance the business value extrapolated from data, and we find ourselves in the early phase of development of this new technology that will shape our vision of the world.

Now, imagine a company that distributes millions of sensors along its production chain in several factories, all sending data about machinery to a central location. On one hand, managers will have access to a large amount of data which can effectively contribute to help correct inefficiencies, and to create business value. McKinsey estimate that if policy makers and businesses get it right, linking the physical and digital worlds could generate up to $11.1 trillion a year in economic value by 2025. On the other hand, the data center involved would probably very quickly reach its processing capacity, as it would be overloaded with data and connections that are being pushed from the sensors. According to Gartner, it would not be technically and economically feasible to maintain every computing activity in a central location with the IoT.

The impact of the IoT

The IoT will have a huge influence on companies’ data center strategies, and the best option is likely to be creating a distributed data center infrastructure, installing smaller facilities close to the devices for local processing, with further aggregation in a central location. This creates a more flexible management system which can be adapted to changing requirements. The old logic of using a centralized data center to reduce costs and increase security is simply not compatible in the IoT era. However, any strategy is dependent on the smartness of the devices being used to filter data and avoid overloading the entire system to prevent inefficiencies.

The adoption of the IoT will likely lead to a profound reassessment of data management strategies within businesses, and aspects such as costs and the integration of new technology are hot topics for managers today. The IoT represents a great opportunity for creating smarter companies that are more responsive to market needs. It enhances capabilities that, decades ago, managers could barely imagine: real time analytics that allow for preemptive intervention to avoid potential errors.

Therefore, implementing IoT solutions is important to be able to create a tailored data management strategy, re-considering the role of the data center for a business. The IoT will likely speed up the transitional process to cloud-oriented infrastructure; companies in different sectors are already gradually running a larger part of their processes on hybrid cloud solutions. The cloud is an enabler of digital transformation which can enhance the potential of the entire infrastructure, and support in delivering better services.

A future for the traditional data center?

The advancement of IoT and cloud computing may lead to the reduction in the use of data centers by businesses, simply due to the potential level of scalability and flexibility that companies may need to attain. Clearly, security cannot be underestimated and companies need to maintain a robust infrastructure around their data. It is likely that data centers will gradually lose strategic importance for most businesses, however physical locations will still be needed as safe stations of reference in case of system failures.

IT managers need to begin thinking about the best approach to optimize and innovate their infrastructure, ensuring it doesn’t become quickly outdated in a fast moving environment, enabled by the IoT.

 

A Russian or Albanian Windows Phone for a Dutchie

Last week I bought my new Lumia 930 (black) and received it the next day. To my surprise I received an Albanian Country Variant. And when I started up my phone I was greeted in Russian or Albanian – sorry, I do not know the diference. Supplier Phoneshop.nl apparently does not deliver Dutch phones, eventhough it is a Dutch company and I am a Dutch citizen. After some fiddling around (thx to BING and Google translate) I managed to reset it.

a\ it is good to see that even Albania gets access to Windows Phones

b\ poor service & quality by Phoneshop.nl

Nevertheless – the phone is great and I am very happy with it. Looking forward to the DENIM update

Review: Thermarest LuxuryLite Mesh Cot X-Large Blue

My wife and I are avid campers. We spend at least 6 weeks a year in various campgrounds in Europe and The United States. Our preferred way of camping is with a tent and we like to stay in ‘rural’ campsites. In the USA that means campground in national and state parks, in Europe we avoid the big campsites and look for smaller privately owned sites.

We have a small tent that has room for three, so we can fit 2 beds and our luggage easily. Up until last year we slept on self-inflatables and that worked out fine until I noticed to get some trouble with my lower back (I am 51 years old). It would hurt when I got up in the morning and immediately start hurting again when we went back to bed on the 2nd or 3rd day.

So I started looking for alternatives and came across the Thermarest LuxuryLite Cot. More specifically the extra-large variant  since I am quite large (193 cm) and because this version is also extra wide, it would allow me to sleep on my side, which is my preferred position.

Now, you need to know that this cot is expensive! I ordered it at CAMPZ.NL and the price-tag was over 225 euro’s – which is a lot, but it came with a 100 day return guarantee, so I would be able to test it thoroughly.

Did it work? The answer is wholeheartedly ‘Yes’ – I used the cot during a 4 week camping trip and spend almost 24 nights on this bed (other nights were spend in a hotel for the necessary showers and laundry facilities) – in over 6 different campsites.

Now it would be strange if I would say that not spending that time in my own bed did not affect me, but overall I slept great and had no back pain to speak of.

The cot consists of a sturdy cloth, 2 foldable sticks that slide into the long side and a set of smaller sticks and ‘feet’ that allow you to build the cot. It is almost impossible to explain in text, so I refer to the YouTube video for an explanation how to set this thing up ( http://youtu.be/orRtuiTgQ40 )

The cot comes in a small bag, that holds all of the components easily and the complete package is surprisingly light (less than 2 kg). Setting up takes some effort and strength in your upper arms.

After the first week I decided to change the way that the struts and feet are located – I used to evenly spread them across the length of the bed, but I discovered that putting 2 close together to support my head and neck, leave a bigger gap and then put in the rest (I suggest you look at the video, it will make more sense than my textual description here), was a better setup.

After 6 weeks the bed is still in perfect condition, but I do have some concerns about the holes in the cloth where you fix the ‘feet’; due to the tension that is put on the holes, I expect that this is an area that will suffer from the setup process. Also I noticed that this is not a very sturdy bed, getting in and out of it needs to be done with some care – you can absolutely forget to do anything else then sleep in this bed.

All in all I am happy with my purchase and hope we can enjoy camping for a long time.

On which platform are you making money?

Platforms, or ecosystems, are the virtual malls of the (near) future. We have the Google, Apple and Microsoft platform – although one could argue that these three are already surpassed by the likes of Facebook and Amazon, who put the big three in the (undesired) corner of ‘technology providers’.

Let me explain; a mall is a location where different vendors and providers come together and each contributes to the overall experience of the customer, while retaining their own business model. Some malls put this under 1 brand, creating a store-in-store concept, while others are more like traditional markets where farmers used to come together to sell their produce.

When we move from the physical to the digital, we are able to create digital, virtual stores and this has already developed into a billion dollar business. A new development, and outlined in a new whitepaper of the Atos Scientific Community “The Connected Train”, is the creation of a platform:

“The connected train is the monetization of high bandwidth Internet on a moving train where data and transactions are facilitated via a platform.

… to the platform provider(s), it’s the ability to harvest and sell passenger data and facilitate business transactions.”

Bringing technology into places that previously had almost no technology and using that technology to specifically address the circumstances of the consumer, client, traveler, patient, student, or whatever other role or identity people will take, is a great opportunity to both providers and consumers of services.

Before going into the specific value of such a ‘Connected Train’ platform, the authors address the necessary aspects that need to be understood before a platform can be instantiated:

  • What is the value chain?
  • Who are the groups that interact at the platform?
  • What is the role of the technology, what does it make possible?
  • How does the platform make money?
  • How will it work?

The authors treat each question, but go a little deeper when looking at the necessary technology; mainly I presume because this has been the biggest bottleneck so far in creating this platform. New developments in network technology and continuous improvement in available bandwidth are also expected.

“In 2018 the day–‐to–‐day technology of passengers will be very different. We can expect to see mass adoption of wearable computing, the Internet of Things, IPv6 and heads–‐up display technology (Google glasses). All of these new usages of the Internet will consume considerable bandwidth. Assuming that Moore’s law applies in order to meet passengers’ demands the connected train must offer 12 Mb/s to each passenger.”

Obviously, when such a platform is finally available many parties will be able to participate and some examples are explained in the paper. Next to looking at movies, order a meal or make an advanced restaurant reservation, I found the possible interaction with train staff most interesting.

Because of the platform nature, for the staff, the passengers are no longer anonymous travelers, but can be addressed as returning customers or passengers with special needs. Information can become tailored and customer remarks (complaints?) can be dealt with much quicker and on a personal basis.

“This is also an opportunity to upsell products that fit into the TOC service system such as parking or concession. There is an opportunity to tell stations about trains which are overcrowded before they arrive. This gives passengers the knowledge on which to base a decision as to whether to get on this train or wait for the next one.”

It is clear that still some big technology challenges need to be overcome and also aspects of privacy and pricing structures need to be addressed. But it is becoming clear that special purpose or special location platforms are a great way to bundle a wide experience of services on a technology foundation. It allows for collaboration between vendors, create added value for the platform provider and great benefits for its users.

And, after reading the whitepaper, it is obvious that platforms and trains are made for each other.


This blog post was previously published at http://blog.atos.net/blog/2014/04/01/watch-space-platform-making-money/