IoT and the cloud: A match made in Seattle?

If you listened to AWS CEO Andy Jassy at AWS re:Invent, you might think the cloud is the key to the Internet of Things — and vice versa.

IoT, cloud computing, AWS, Amazon Web Services
Fredric Paul

The recent AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas was all about the cloud, but another hot technology also played a leading role: the Internet of Things. In multiple keynotes, top Amazon Web Services (AWS) executives, including CEO Andy Jassy and CTO Werner Vogels, went out of their way to extol the virtues of IoT. The company also used the occasion to announce a slew of new IoT-related products.

AWS’ IoT strategy

Jassy spent time on IoT during the closing of his massive keynote speech (to be honest, though, he focused on just about everything at one point or another during his epic 2.5-hour presentation). But Jassy also addressed IoT during his relatively short segment of the earlier AWS Partner Summit keynote with Terry Wise, AWS Vice President of Global Alliances, Ecosystem and Channels. And Vogels talked IoT during his own keynote address.

The basic takeaway? In terms of actual adoption by real companies for actual business applications, IoT may be the fastest growing technology ever. But that incredible growth creates its own challenge: How do you manage huge, fast-growing fleets of connected devices?

Their answer, of course, is the cloud. Combining comments from multiple keynotes, Jassy basically laid out the following argument:

  • “It’s amazing how quickly companies are starting to access the cloud for IoT.”
  • “There’s going to be this explosion of devices everywhere.”
  • “The management challenge at that type of scale is really different.”
  • “You need the cloud to keep up with it.”

As Vogels put it: “Everything can be connected and become an input or output device on the network,” creating a new kind of hybrid cloud. While the world may not need yet another definition of “hybrid cloud,” there’s no question that the rise of IoT will put unprecedented new pressure on both on-premise and cloud architectures.

AWS IoT services and features

AWS backed up its IoT talk with a slew of new products for its AWS IoT Platform, including AWS IoT 1-Click, IoT Device Management, IoT Device Defender, IoT Analytics, Amazon FreeRTOS, and a new machine learning feature for AWS Greengrass:

  • AWS IoT 1-Click, now in preview, offers a single-click AWS Lambda trigger for any device, Jassy said. According the company, “with AWS IoT 1-Click, enabling a device with an AWS Lambda function is as easy as downloading the mobile app, registering and selecting an AWS IoT 1-Click enabled device, and — with a single click — associating an AWS Lambda function.”
  • AWS IoT Device Management, now available to developers, on the other hand, is a “fleet management” service that lets developers onboard and deploy new devices at scale, Jassy said.
  • AWS IoT Device Defender, due in early 2018, lets you “define and enforce security policies for fleets of devices,” Jassy said, identifying abnormal behavior that might indicate a potential security issue.
  • AWS IoT Analytics, now in preview, is a fully managed analytics service designed to clean, process, store and analyze IoT device data at scale. Just as important, the service can add context by including IoT metadata, such as device type and location, along with other public data sources.
  • Amazon FreeRTOS is an extension of the FreeRTOS operating system for microprocessor-controlled edge devices. The Amazon extension adds software libraries to help “securely connect small, low-power devices to AWS cloud services.”
  • AWS Greengrass ML Inference is a new feature of AWS Greengrass designed to make it easier for developers to add machine learning to various devices without requiring constant connectivity to the cloud.

What does it all mean?

Put it all together, and you can’t miss how much AWS cares about winning the IoT game. That’s not entirely surprising, given the massive size of the projected market (the latest IDC predictions peg the 2018 figure at $772.5 billion, up 14.6 percent), just about everybody you can think of is scrambling to grab a piece of the IoT pie.

But AWS isn’t just anybody. It’s the clear leader in cloud computing, with a massive market share and thought leadership to match. When AWS coughs, the entire cloud catches cold. So AWS’ public commitment to IoT simultaneously solidifies the connection between two of today’s hottest technology trends and raises the bar for cloud-based IoT.

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