Network operators' interest in the Internet of Things (IoT) is less about the number of connections they can add to their network -- although those numbers are staggering -- and more about the data those connections bring with them.
The amount of data that machine-to-machine (M2M) devices generate is massively significant. It's data that consumers can use to change their behaviors, like how a FitBit may encourage you to walk more. And it's data that operators want to use to tailor their services and how they market to consumers.
Recognizing that the size and nature of the data is of a different scale and scope to that which operators have dealt with before, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has built -- through its acquisition of Composite Software last year -- a way to ingest IoT (or Internet of Everything to Cisco) data, along with all the other disparate cloud and network data operators have into one consolidated view. (See Cisco Beefs Up Its Intercloud, Adds Telco Partners .)
The software has been available to network operators and enterprises for a while now, but with an update Cisco announced on Wednesday, users can now search and query data on their own without the need for intervention from the IT department, allowing them to make decisions faster.
Mike Flannagan, GM of Cisco's Data & Analytics Business Group, says that the update also includes a software development kit for startups to connect to its data virtualization product, which supports more than 150 data sources today.
"The primary driver for this is to remove data silos and give enterprise applications and intelligence visibility to all the data across an enterprise," Flannagan says. "It's a problem in the data center. What we're seeing with IoE use cases and connecting so many sensors, is that so much of the sensor data doesn’t need to be sent back to data centers."
As an example, Cisco's oil and gas customers generate massive amounts of data on offshore platforms that would take weeks to transmit back to the network core. They need to know what information needs to be sent and what can be stored locally in real time.
Cisco provides its Data Virtualization software to enterprises and telecom service providers and, often, enterprises via telecom service providers. Flannagan says its biggest customer is a North American telecom provider, which it is helping break down silos across its business.
Data virtualization is complementary to what Cisco is calling Fog computing -- the idea of embedding intelligence from analytics in edge routing devices to make decisions locally. Both involve local processing, but data virtualization deals with querying the data that fog computing might produce. (See Cisco Puts a Fog Over IoT.)
For network operators to ever tap into the vast world of IoT data, breaking down organizational silos will be one of the first and hardest steps. That's why it's an area attracting a lot of interest from big data startups, established equipment and networking vendors and essentially any company with a view of connected data. Flannagan says Cisco can work with any of these companies to ingest data and display it in an aggregated way, whether the source is IoT, cloud, data center, big data or otherwise. (See Big Data Attracts Big Dollars, New Faces and That Big Data Sinking Feeling.)
"We hear from our customers and analysts that most data analysts spend 60% of their time just trying to get access to data they want to analyze," Flannagan says, adding that silos, complexity and IT projects that often take up to nine months are too blame. "The interesting thing for customers is to do analytics that really leverage all your data across the company and get new business insights and use that for better sales."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading