Cloud computing isn’t something new. It’s been around for a while now, and gradually surpassed most other players to become what it is now. The Internet of Things (IoT) is relatively new but rapidly accelerated itself to lap other players in a different way. Now they are at a point where they can be measured only against one another.
The cloud drives businesses across the globe now and IoT is expanding.
Here’s where they stand now.
According to Gartner, the number of IoT devices in the world is expected to cross 20 billion by 2020. For an expected population of 8 billion in 2020, there will be 2.5 IoT devices per person.
On cloud computing, Forbes forecast indicate that it’s projected to increase to $162 billion by 2020. It will attain an annual growth rate of 19%.
Neither seems to be slowing down, with the world still exploring their potential.
What links them…?
The answer is data. IoT devices would be generating vast amounts of data with the challenge of storing them efficiently for analysis. One of the many benefits of cloud computing is that it can store all that data until analyses can be performed.
One good example would be a power company driven by IoT devices. Their IoT devices that are being used by consumers would be generating a large amount of data. The company can store it in the cloud for analysis which in turn contributes to lowering the risks to the company. Cloud can handle it. However, considering Gartner’s expectations, it won’t be easy for the cloud to handle the data from the billions of IoT devices in 2020. The going will get tough.
What if cloud fails…?
Cloud is evolving at present as well. But there still is a question whether it can handle the data from all the IoT devices should the occasion arise. Corporations, individuals, governments, and almost every sort of organization that adopted IoT may rely on the cloud for storage. There will inevitably be dents in the technology then.
Hinting at such a potential outcome is a service outage suffered by Amazon’s AWS cloud computing earlier this year. The AWS’s cloud computing department underwent a four hour outage consequently resulting in slowing down or putting offline hundreds of thousands of websites that use the service for hosting web services, databases, and multimedia. Those affected included big players like Netflix and Pinterest. Ironically, the AWS dashboard hosted by AWS also went offline.
This kind of outage isn’t very common for AWS or the other major cloud providers. However, the key takeaway is the fact that a simple 4 hour outage affected hundreds of thousands of websites.
AWS has the biggest market share as an IaaS provider; about 40%. Other big players in the field including Microsoft, Google, and IBM have a combined share of 23%. Imagine a scenario where all these giants go down for hours. It’s a potential risk we cannot ignore.
Other potential challenges
IoT devices basically function as sensors that relay data. Depending on the service the device provides, the service provider can use business intelligence to analyze the data collected and produce data sets that give insights on how the provider can improve the service and subsequently the business.
If the cloud is relied upon to handle this data, we can claim that cloud does the heavy lifting while IoT devices only act as a medium that relays data. The technologies clearly have conflicting properties as well.
For instance, cloud computing isn’t very expensive, and is flexible and scalable enough to meet the needs of users regardless of the user’s location. All it needs is internet. IoT, on the other hand, can be quite expensive when it comes to development and deployment. They aren’t flexible either, and the devices can only be used at specific locations.
Ultimately, IoT designers and cloud programmers will have to bear the burden of finding ways to overcome these setbacks. IoT designers will have to figure out how to implement virtualization in the physical sensors of the devices to relay and distribute data to the cloud. Cloud programmers can start by figuring out how to discover IoT-based sensors at different locations across the globe.
A ray of hope…
Considering the potential risks surrounding cloud (which may or may not happen), a wiser approach would be to find something that can mitigate IoT’s dependency on cloud storage even though cloud is fully capable. This should considerably reduce the risks. Fortunately, something like that does exist.
Presenting a new way to analyze and store data without dependency on the cloud, Fog/Edge computing might be the key to solving the puzzle. The technology can also potentially enhance the role and value of IoT when it comes to computations and decision-making.
This new approach makes it possible for IoT devices to have a key role in storing data and performing analytics on it instead of storing it on the cloud for analyses. Self-driving cars are part of the reality now. And the vehicles’ sensors may have to make decisions instantaneously to perform properly. Fog or Edge computing is already being used for this.
The concept of fog computing is all about the process of moving data to a gateway device like a router or a switch which are referred to as edge devices. The data basically moves to the edge of the internet rather than on the cloud. The edge devices can then handle the analysis part, and send the information on decisions back to the IoT devices. This is theoretically a lot quicker than when it’s done with cloud computing.
With fog computing in the picture, big tech players are already exploring the idea of combining both fog and cloud computing to get the best from both technologies. Fog can handle simpler IoT operations while cloud can still do the heavy lifting, and we need not be concerned about the scenario where the cloud service goes down.
Another approach shifts the focus completely to IoT, to develop IoT devices that can handle analysis and decision-making themselves without any communication with other machines. If security of these data is of concern, then relying on the cloud wouldn’t be a bad idea. There are rare instances of cloud security breaches. Nevertheless, the many layers of security on the cloud are still considered robust and reliable.
Regardless, both the cloud and IoT will be walking together down the same path in the near future. And we get to see a lot of exciting changes in our lifestyle while businesses transform for the better.