Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cloud Computing + Things = "Information Excellence", Not IoT


The Internet of Things (IoT) has quickly become the next “be all to end all” in information technology. Touted as how cloud computing will connect everyday things together, it is also feared as the real- life instantiation of The Terminator’s Skynet, where sentient robots team with an omnipresent and all-knowing entity that uses technology to control, and ultimately destroy, all of humanity.

Not there yet

Lucky for the humans among us, the technical capabilities of both cloud computing and IoT are way behind these Orwellian fears. Although the technology is promising, research and technical hurdles still abound. Challenges include:
  • Datasets that span multiple continents and are independently managed by hundreds of suppliers and distributors;
  • Volume and velocity of IoT dataflows exceed the capacity ad capability of any single centralized datacenter;
  • Current inability to conduct “Big IoT” data processing across multiple distributed datacenters due to technical issues related to basic service stack for datacenter computing infrastructure, massive data processing models, trusted data management services, data-intensive workflow computing; and
  • Benchmark limitations associated with heterogeneous datacenter application kernels.
Despite these current challenges, the blending of Things and cloud computing can deliver real value today in the creation of “Information Excellence”. Joe Weinman, author of “Cloudonomics: The Business Value of Cloud Computing”, eloquently explains this in his new book, “Digital Disciplines: Attaining Market Leadership via the Cloud, Big Data, Social, Mobile, and the Internet of Things”, information excellence is an extension of traditional operational excellence and its traditional static process design towards a business model that leverages real-time data to maximize process throughput and minimize process costs.[1]

Using cloud to optimize productivity

Also known as dynamic optimization, “Solving these types of problems requires big data collected in real time from things and people, processed in near real time through an optimal combination of edge
and cloud, and then enacted through people and things.” This approach is aggressively used by modern distribution companies when they abandon fixed delivery routes in favor of dynamic rerouting that minimizes fuel, carbon footprint, labor costs and capital requirements while simultaneously maximizing customer satisfaction.

Broader use of dynamic optimization can also have an effect on how governments can leverage cloud computing services to improve society at large. While it is well known that delivery companies such as UPS avoid left turns in the construction of delivery routes to improve productivity, New York City has recently requested that Google help reduce left turns for Google Maps users to enhance pedestrian safety.[2]

Even more exciting than this are possible subsequent business enhancements Weinman envisions which include:
  • Solution Leadership – Connecting products and services via cloud computing in order to enable ongoing customer relationships, encouraging stickiness and transforming one-time transactions focused on sales to ongoing subscription relationships focused on customer outcomes
  • Collective Intimacy – Using cloud computing to collect, aggregate and process data in order to personalize services and recommendations; and
  • Accelerated Innovation – Connecting firms with problems to prospective solvers through idea markets, challenges and innovation networks.
Although security and privacy of personally identifiable information (PII) remain vexing problems, the use of anonymized and aggregated data to improve business processes avoids many of the pitfalls attached with improving services for an individual. A less obtrusive approach to IoT could also avoid many of the legal and regulatory obstacles associated with the storage and transmission of PII data. Companies that have successfully replaced traditionally static business processes with data-centric dynamic optimization and information excellence are well known and include:
  •         Airbnb
  •         Uber
  •         Netflix
  •         Google
  •         Amazon

Data-centric, service-centric means excellence

The lesson here is that a data-centric approach to business process improvement may be the true low hanging fruit when it comes to leveraging cloud computing quickly and profitably. These companies have also left behind the product-centric, regionally managed, manufacturing economic model in order to embrace the new model of service-centric, globally managed and networked economies. By targeting information excellence as the next step up from operational excellence, a legacy business can be fairly quickly renovated into a modern data-driven enterprise. Information excellence also enables customer personalization, process flexibility and business agility, all the key components needed for corporate success today.



[1] Joe Weinman, Digital Disciplines: Attaining Market Leadership via the Cloud, Big Data, Social, Mobile, and the Internet of Things (Wiley CIO, 2015).
[2] Sarah Goodyear, “New York Wants Google Maps to Discourage Left Turns,” CityLab from The Atlantic, July 9, 2015


This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell's thought leadership site Power More. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don't necessarily represent Dell's positions or strategies.



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