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Competitive Landscape on the Edge of IoT

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Competitive Landscape on the Edge of IoT

With more computing and processing moving to the edge, let's see how the IoT landscape looks and how the IoT and cloud are meeting at the edge.

· IoT Zone ·
Free Resource

Edge computing is a key trend in the IoT industry. For large scale IoT deployments sending all of the data to the cloud does not scale. However, moving some of the compute cycles into the field, closer to the sensors and actuators, allows for a more efficient and secure IoT solution architecture. Stacey Higginbotham does a nice job identifying 5 key reasons for edge computing:

  1. Security

  2. Protection of IP (privacy)

  3. Latency and resiliency

  4. Bandwidth costs

  5. Autonomy

Given the current interest in edge computing, it is interesting to look at the market dynamics and competitive landscape for edge solutions. There seem to be 3 categories of vendors providing edge solutions:

  1. IoT platform vendors

  2. Hardware vendors

  3. Edge software vendors

It is not clear what category is best positioned to provide edge solutions but it is interesting to look at the offerings and business strategies of some of the players.

IoT Platform Vendors

Most of the major IoT platform vendors have their own edge solution. The main benefit of this approach is the tight integration between the edge and cloud platform so it is easier to deploy and manage the IoT solution. Companies like Microsoft and AWS make their profit from selling cloud services, so a well-integrated edge solution makes it easier to sell more cloud services. The IoT platform vendors don’t need to worry about selling edge solutions.

It is interesting that many of the IoT Platform vendors don’t seem to be open to other edge solutions. This seems like a missed opportunity since having more edge providers will help them sell their core cloud platform. I would expect this to change overtime.

From a customer perspective, an integrated edge and cloud offering might offer an easier on-ramp but in the long-term it is a step towards vendor lock-in.

Some examples of edge offerings from IoT Platform vendors.

MS Azure IoT

Microsoft’s edge offering is called Azure IoT Edge. It is free to use but it requires MS IoT Hub. The software targets hardware running Windows or Linux.

AWS IoT

AWS’s edge offering is called AWS Greengrass. Greengrass pricing is dependent upon the number of devices that connect to AWS Cloud. AWS lists in their FAQ IoT hardware platforms they have tested.

Google Cloud IoT

Google Cloud IoT doesn’t have a ‘native’ edge offering. Google did announce a partnership with Foghorn to provide an edge solution for Google IoT. Google is one of the only platform providers that has gone the partnership route for their edge solution. My guess is they are playing catch-up so partnering with Foghorn is the quickest solution.

IBM Watson IoT

It looks like IBM just announced a tech preview of Watson IoT Platform Edge. Pricing is not clear and at this time they seem to target Rasp Pi and Ubuntu-based edge devices.

Siemens Mindsphere

Siemens has a hardware and software edge offering called MindConnect. Siemens is one of the few IoT platform providers that provides hardware and software. This is not surprising since Siemens sells a lot of hardware.

Bosch IoT Suite

Bosch IoT Suite has an edge offering called IoT Gateway Software. Pricing is not clear but you can register for a free 30-day trail.

Smaller IoT Platform Vendors

Even some of the smaller IoT Platform vendors have edge solutions:

IoT Hardware Vendors

A number of IoT hardware gateway vendors are also building their own edge software stack. Many of these hardware vendors realize they need sophisticated software for their hardware platform so they have been investing in their own software stacks.

Dell

Dell has a line of IoT Gateway devices and is currently investing in the EdgeX Foundry open source project. Dell’s strategy is to encourage an open source community around EdgeX which will ideally create more applications that can run on Dell hardware. It is not clear what cloud platforms EdgeX will target but my guess is that it can connect to the main IoT platforms.

Eurotech

Eurotech provides specialize IoT gateways for various industries. They are following a similar strategy to Dell; they are active in the Eclipse Kura project that provides an open source IoT gateway software solution. Eurotech uses Kura on their commercial devices and benefits from the open source community using Kura. Kura targets to connect with the various IoT platform vendors, AWS, MS, etc.

ADLink

ADLink is a large IoT gateway manufacturer with a broad portfolio of hardware solutions. ADLink appears to have a dual strategy: 1) provide hardware that embeds software from Wind River, and 2) provide a software solution called Vortex Edge that can run on different hardware. Interestingly, ADLink is also pursuing an open source strategy with projects like Eclipse Cyclone and Eclipse Fog05.

HPE

HPE has a line of hardware gateways called Edgeline. It doesn’t appear HPE has focused on the software required for edge computing. However, they do have some partners that seem to be running their software on the hardware.

Edge Software Vendors

There are a number of edge software vendors that are providing specialized software for IoT edge computing. For the most part, these vendors are startups that are looking to sell direct to the enterprise or OEM/partner their solution to larger vendors.

I wouldn’t attempt to create an exhaustive list and I expect many more startups will be created around edge computing. Some examples:

Foghorn

Foghorn is one of the more established vendors in this category. They have a long list of partners, including previously mentioned Google, and major system integrators, like Infosys, PWC. Foghorn is targeting resource-constrained devices such as PLCs and industrial gateways. Their partner page includes hardware vendors like HPE, Dell, NEC, and Cisco.

Crosser

I recently came across Crosser out of Sweden. They appear to be offering edge solutions for Industrial IoT that run on Linux or Windows. They also appear to target Azure, AWS, and Salesforce.

Swim.ai

Swim.ai launched earlier this month with a focus on ML and analytics at the edge.

Competitive Dynamics

It will be interesting to watch how the competitive dynamics play out in the edge computing space. A couple of things to watch:

  1. Expect to see all the vendors try to compete on features and functionality. Machine learning, analytics, management, security, etc will all be expected for any edge solution. Expect to see specialized features for the smaller vendors, like footprint size, speed, efficiency of communication. However, an edge solution needs to be integrated into a large IoT solution so the ‘best’ solution might not always win.
  2. Will cloud vendors take a more open approach to hardware and smaller ISVs? They all have partner programs, but are their APIs open enough to really allow first-class edge solutions from other vendors? It seems like it would be a good strategy to encourage lots of edge solutions to integrate with their cloud platform.
  3. The small software vendors seem to be in the most vulnerable competitive position, stuck in between the hardware and cloud vendors; not an ideal place to be. Besides providing a better solution, expect to see these vendors to do more partnerships with SIs and OEMs. They should also be looking at an open source strategy to accelerate the adoption. Also, expect to see more startups in this space. My guess is the VCs see this as an opportunity for investment in IoT.
  4. The hardware vendors seem to have caught on to the benefit of open source software. The question now becomes can they benefit from a developer ecosystem that emerges around the open source technology.
  5. Finally, will customers push for more open standards to define the interactions between the edge and cloud? The current situation seems like some of the IoT platforms vendors are creating closed systems that result in vendor lock-in. I wonder if this is a real concern or not.
Topics:
iot ,edge computing ,iot cloud ,vendor analysis

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