This syndicated post originally appeared at Network World Zeus Kerravala.

Is the cloud ready for the Internet of Things?

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This week, Cisco Live Europe kicks off in Milan, Italy. The City of Milan is not only the host city for Cisco Live, but also for the World Expo in 2015 when the city will show off its evolution to a smart city. Milan is just the latest city to leverage the power of IoT to transform itself. We’ve clearly entered the era of IoT, as examples can now be found in any region or any vertical – in other words, everywhere.

However, the rapid acceleration of IoT does raise the question – is the infrastructure, most notably the cloud, really ready for IoT? There’s no question that the cloud will play a key role in the success or failure of IoT, but is the cloud ready for IoT? Most cloud computing solutions are single points of computing resources. These are meant to have data backhauled to them so the information can be parsed or analyzed and then sent back to the source.

The existing cloud model was sufficient, although not optimal, when corporate computing was largely centralized, as the cloud was primarily augmentative to on-premises computing. However, with IoT, the cloud isn’t the backup or the secondary location, it’s the primary compute resource.

Consider a large, distributed enterprise. The business collects data all across the country. If the goal is to gather data locally, analyze the information and make a local decision, does it make sense to backhaul all the data across the country and have it processed thousands of miles away? Centralized computing, like legacy models, can benefit from a centralized cloud. Conversely, a distributed compute environment like IoT requires a distributed cloud.

I actually wrote about the concept of a distributed cloud model from a company called EdgeConneX in this blog last month, although I talked about the value of EdgeConneX being primarily to make the performance or real-time applications better. While IoT isn’t really thought of as a “real-time” application like voice and video, the decisions need to be made in real time, so the value proposition still holds true.

Earlier this month, I had a chance to discuss this topic with EdgeConneX’s Chief Commercial Officer Clint Heiden, and he gave me his thoughts on the topic. Mr. Heiden’s primarily belief is that most organizations tend to forget about the network when considering a cloud service. The cloud is network-centric, though, so by definition it must be a key consideration. Another important point he brought up is that the cloud could be a point of failure when he made this statement:

“If the cloud is a single point or single data center, then it will also be a single point of failure. The cloud should be distributed in nature to make it the most resilient infrastructure.”

I thought both points he brought up were on target and something that IT and business leaders need to consider when building their IoT strategy.

I’m expecting to see a number of real-world use cases regarding IoT here in Milan this week at Cisco Live Europe, and I certainly encourage organizations to be aggressive with deployments. However, both the cloud and IoT are really nothing without the network. The Internet of Things will be everywhere, so now we need an Internet of Everywhere.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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