Reading the Tea Leaves for IoT Solution Providers

By Howard M. Cohen  |  Print this article Print
IoT solution providers

ANALYSIS:  If the Internet of things sounds as good today as the cloud did five years ago, one wonders where the IoT opportunities will be for channel partners.

IoT Solution Providers' Roles

"IoT is definitely going to be a massive market opportunity and will likely be managed or serviced by a different type of MSP. Maybe not an IT services company, but it could be an MSP that's providing services to monitor and manage smart buildings or any kind of device, any kind of gauge, anything that moves, anything that reports, etc., and then providing a portal and consolidating them all under a single pane of glass," said JP Jauvin, senior vice president and general manager of SolarWinds N-able, a provider of network and systems management software and services for managed service providers (MSPs) and others.

Michael Brinks, director of marketing for Denver-based MSP Synoptek explained, "The key is management of the devices. Something needs to be monitoring each device to make sure it's working."

Increasing the need for monitoring and management is the fact that IoT activity is always "machine-to-machine (M2M)" in which devices need to communicate with each other and with software—machines performing a task and sharing information about it with no human involvement.

"The Internet is not essential for IoT," said Michael Tennefoss, vice president of strategic partnerships for Aruba Networks, a division of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. "You don't have to leave the premises. Medical telemetry devices, infusion pumps, nurse call systems, these are all machines that need to be connected to other machines, and they never leave the hospital." 

Tennefoss suggested that channel partners "look at the micro level. IoT includes copiers, printers, heart-rate monitors, WiFi tags, tracking assets." He describes everyday items sharing information with other everyday items.

Opportunity in the Space Between Quality and Cost

The management challenge facing hardware manufacturers, software developers, IoT networking specialists and others as more and more "things" are being attached to the Internet, from meshes of sensors to track everything to industrial controls to the lights, thermostats, sensors and door locks on homes, stems from quality issues.

If Rodney Dangerfield sat on the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), he would tell you "things don't get no respect." In fact, in 2011, the IETF approved the dedicated routing protocol just for these IP Small Objects networks called RPL, which stands for Routing Protocol for LLNs (which stands for low-power, lossy networks). No respect.

If low-power and lossy networks doesn't sound bad enough, here's how the IETF characterized the things that are being attached to them in their Request for Comment (RFC) 6550, issued in March 2012: "Low-power and lossy networks (LLNs) consist largely of constrained nodes (with limited processing power, memory, and sometimes energy when they are battery operated or energy scavenging)."

The actual networks themselves didn't fare much better in this RFC: "These routers are interconnected by lossy links, typically supporting only low data rates that are usually unstable with relatively low packet delivery rates. Another characteristic of such networks is that the traffic patterns are not simply point-to-point, but in many cases point-to-multipoint or multipoint-to-point. Furthermore, such networks may potentially comprise up to thousands of nodes."

The key point for service providers is that "these characteristics offer unique challenges to a routing solution," the RFC read. The best channel service providers routinely turn challenges into opportunities.