IoT Channel Chronicles: Cloud Technology Partners Talks IoT Platforms And The Minimum Viable Product Approach

IoT Platforms And Products

Cloud Technology Partners, a Boston-based solution provider, has long helped customers adopt cloud services – and the Internet of Things is a natural extension of cloud innovation.

The company is also an Amazon Web Services partner and recently achieved AWS Internet of Things competency in January, meaning that it receives specialized differentiation with a dedicated brand and logo that it can use in marketing materials, preferred access to market development funds and other resources.

CRN talked to Scott Udell, vice president of IoT Solutions at CTP, about the company's strategy around the Internet of Things and what kind of adoption he is seeing with IoT platforms.

Where does IoT fit into CTP's overall cloud strategy?

As a company we do three things. We help companies adopt the cloud – and to us that's all about organizational impacts, IT and infrastructure, and how do you get those historic workloads out of data centers into cloud architectures. Then we have innovating on the cloud – this is an area that we live and breathe every day. The Internet of Things has been the single biggest opportunity and offering that we have as a company in terms of innovation. If adopting the cloud is all about infrastructure and process, we look at innovation as all about the apps.

What kinds of problems do the customers have who approach you for IoT solutions?

I think it's fair to say we've had customers approach us from every possible angle. There have been those who have been trying to build it themselves with no success, and need help… we've had other examples of medical device companies who went down one path, and then realized that building it in a private cloud was not the best process for them – they want help re-architecting the solution so it will be a multi-region, multi-language, but also compliant for HIPAA.

Then there are other companies that come to us and say, 'We're really worried about getting disrupted by someone new, can you help us get ahead of the game?'

Why is IoT taking off now?

Things really are different as far as the native services, the approach that you need, agility, lead processes, DevOps -- all are a big part of what we're doing now as we define solutions. It's not like this IoT thing is new – but the fact that we now have decreased costs on connectivity, cellular backhaul, new protocols, and of course compute costs coming so far down, it's really driving a new level of expansion.

How are you seeing various vendors approaching the market, from the industrial space to the telecom space?

When we look at our clients, public cloud is certainly a big part of what we do, but the whole notion of device clouds and cloud middleware is something our clients haven't necessarily thought of before. This could be done through a company like GE Predix, it could be done by Bosch, Schneider, PTC ThingWorx - and don't be surprised if some of the cloud vendors continue to add those services natively into their core offerings. It's also a big part of what the telcos do -- the telcos have been making big money with IoT with their monthly subscription plan, and charging per megabyte.

As all these vendors ramp up their IoT efforts, where does CTP fit in?

We have been providing solutions and services at every one of these steps – although a big part of what we will do is focused on helping a client define what their edge architecture looks like, we may not necessarily be the ones that are actually building devices. We may help them pick devices or solve some challenging problems, like how do you get radio frequencies out of a fridge that is six inches thick and 10 feet below the ground. Customers need to solve those "how" problems before they drive adoption.

What trends are you seeing in the Industrial IoT space, as vendors like GE and Siemens push their platforms?

I think in general, we are seeing those Industrial IoT platforms be actively pushed by the manufacturers. GE is a perfect example, they want to find a way to extend their ecosystem, monetize their data, or help their customers enter into new markets – they want to build an all-encompassing platform that allows them to connect all the hardware they make through a common software platform, and then make those services. It sounds great, but it hasn't actually worked out that way, at least not year. I think the same approach has happened with other IIoT vendors – they all want to do this, they view that controlling the platform is as important as the actual connectivity and the data results themselves.

What are customers specifically asking you to do from an IoT perspective?

There's the notion of platforms versus apps. If you rewind a couple of years ago … companies wanted to be sure that they were able to show they could deploy a device, capture data from it, and gain all these insights to sell a new service to their customers. But that's evolved, and our customers have been asking us, how can we set up a common layer of IoT services across an organization, that would allow from a shared services perspective, common in terms of what data is shared, or a common cost platform. We've been pretty successful in helping our clients put that layer of abstraction in. Security is also becoming a very important offering across what we do.

What differentiates you from other solution providers in the IoT space?

We're different from a traditional Accenture type of organization that would take six to 18 months before there's a solution out in the marketplace. We are lean, we are agile, and we like to take a minimum viable product (MVP) approach, so we can get something out into the market as quickly as possible. We've had customers approach us – sometimes they have an idea of what they want to do, sometimes they don't. We'll work with some customers through a prototype stage – it could be a visual prototype or a technical prototype that actually shows that you can get data off a machine. Those types of activities help drive projects.