Role of Cloud Platforms in Industrial Internet of Things and Digital Transformation

By Michael Guilfoyle

Executive Overview

Cloud platforms for applications and the Internet of Things (IoT) are becoming core technology components for the solutions offered by many industrial and smart city software and automation suppliers.  These platforms provide a modern approach for developing and deploying software applications.  The approach is gradually displacing many of the Cloud platformsprocesses and systems supported by the older client/server model(s) in which large, complex, monolithic applications were created and run.  These client/server models have come to dominate both the IT and OT software spaces in recent decades.  However, this is changing.

These traditional software models, even the most modular, were designed with continuity and comprehensiveness of processes and predictability of logic as guiding principles.  This led to large, dedicated, and proprietary software applications that could be integrated with other similar software systems.  Modern cloud platforms, in contrast, enable much smaller “bites” of software consumption, with flexibility and speed as guiding principles.

There is still quite a bit of uncertainty from buyers as to how to view these platforms.  Some of the confusion relates to the simultaneous commercial emergence of Industrial IoT platforms.  Industrial IoT starts with connected physical things or devices.  Often, these platforms can handle the entire lifecycle of Industrial IoT data and devices.  Additionally, industrial IoT-specific platforms can also provide dedicated, edge-specific capabilities.  Through connecting software tools such as an application program interface (API), these platforms can work independently or in concert, as needed.  Due to the different value offered by the many available platforms (plus other complex market factors), the buying process can become quite daunting.

Together with machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence, modern cloud-based application development and runtime platforms are changing the industrial software marketplace.  Organizations cannot remain on older platforms and still compete effectively.

This report discusses the impact of leading cloud platform providers on industrial organizations, with an emphasis on operational processes. The reality is that industrial cloud application platforms, along with their underlying infrastructure services, are reinventing how software can be consumed and the innovation they can unleash.

Disruption Highlights Value Potential of Modern Cloud Platforms

While the spread of a novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 has disrupted nearly every aspect of life, it provides some interesting perspectives when applied to industries and the role of cloud platforms and other modern digital tools.  The COVID-19 pandemic provides a reason for potential users of cloud platforms to consider these tools to adapt more effectively to uncertainty when unpredictable market forces make their effects known.  The pandemic is also increasing the competitive gap between those organizations capable of leveraging platforms and their less digitally evolved peers.

The point is not to suggest cloud platforms are a panacea, especially against something as crippling and surprising (to most) as COVID-19.  Rather, it is to show that those successfully using platforms to support innovation and competitive excellence have bought into the concept of technology as a key tool for helping “future proof” the business.  These companies can support more nimble business operations by using software tools that can be improved upon continuously and added to as markets and conditions change.  Platforms provide a more effective way to manage unexpected uncertainty, even when they can’t predict what that uncertainty might look like.  COVID-19 is a clear example.

Companies that use cloud platform tools and applications have more technological firepower to confront both competitive disruption as well as unforeseen market circumstances.  For example, if the workforce is suddenly forced to become both more distributed and collaborative, a cloud platform can be used to design, test, refine, apply, and manage critical applications for doing so.  These include data sharing and analytics, remote monitoring, mobile and remote-expert work, health monitoring, automated control and access, workflow redesign, and other critical needs inherent in this new work environment.  Many platform providers demonstrated this capability by quickly creating and offering solutions specifically designed for dealing with the virus and distributed work.

The appearance of disruptors, COVID-19 being one example, widen the business agility gap between the less digitally evolved and those companies that have demonstrated innovation leadership.  That gap seems to widen exponentially with each disruption.  And the greater the disruption, the larger the gap. With each industry disruption, the negative consequences of these gaps will become compounded to the point of being untenable for the less digitally evolved.

Table of Contents

  • Executive Overview
  • Disruption Highlights Value Potential of Modern Platforms
  • Hyperscalers Forcing Change in Competitive Landscapes
  • Outcome-based Applications Surge to the Front
  • Recommendations

 

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