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The Cloud IoT Platform: 21 Essential Factors to Consider

The number of fresh market-ready cloud IoT platforms is still growing exponentially. Companies are still struggling to match platform capabilities with their specific IoT application. Without the needed requirements analysis, an organization may end up selecting a platform that may not deliver the needed results. A choice made in haste may even cause issues over the long term. But when leveraged to the fullest, the cloud IoT platform can become the connective tissue binding together different operations, bringing disparate assets in one place, and providing a unified infrastructure for deploying and running business applications. 

Typically, cloud IoT platforms are compared in terms of security features, protocols, data formats, data analytics, and visualization capabilities, as well as the provided application environments. But there are numerous cloud IoT platforms out there. They may have the full set of capabilities and may still not be up to the task. One IoT cloud platform may have the most essential capabilities and features. But there may be other factors that make it less suitable for an organization. 

A recent study has uncovered twenty-one factors to consider when looking at platforms, hoping to equip organizations with a general methodology for the cloud IoT platform comparison and selection process. While organizations still may need to conduct a preliminary analysis of their own requirements and equip themselves with an in-depth understanding of the key platform capabilities, these findings can serve as a starting point for assessment and selection. 

Here is a breakdown:

bubbles with factors to consider when buying a cloud IoT platform
Image 1. Factors to consider when selecting a cloud IoT platform

Stability

Even though there are hundreds of platforms on the market right now, many of them may have issues. They may even fail to deliver services to end-users. This is a major concern for buyers. Some 93% of the respondents in the study identified platform stability as a high-importance factor.

Scalability and flexibility

As deployments begin to scale over time, the cloud IoT platform has to be capable of seamlessly accommodating growing IoT device fleets and greater volumes of incoming IoT data. So you need a platform that can grow together with the business and support it throughout various development phases. Equally so, flexibility regarding the technology should not be an issue. 

Pricing model and business case

This could be a differentiating factor for a variety of reasons. For example, some platform vendors start you off at a low cost and increase pricing after an initial period. Others offer a low price that, however, comes with limited functionalities. And once you upgrade to a full-featured platform, you end up paying significantly more. 

Security

Security by design is already the standard in the world of IoT platforms. This may encompass items as varied as device-to-cloud network security, session initiation, app authentication, cloud and device security including authentication and certificates, and data encryption, among others.

Time to market

Some platform vendors provide starting packages during customer onboarding to help with product development and cut down time to market. Others additionally offer their in-house expertise in accompanying customers throughout their journey. So look into how the platform provider will navigate through the after-sales environment. Also, consider how customers will be supported during the process of building their own products all the way to market-readiness. 

Data ownership

Extracting and processing IoT data comes with the question of data ownership. You have various legal interpretations, rules, and regulations involved depending on the country of jurisdiction. Before selecting a cloud IoT platform, it may be helpful to look into data rights and the data protection regulations that are binding to the IoT platform provider.

Data analytics and visualization

Not all cloud IoT platforms have built-in data analytics and visualization tools. So when selecting a vendor, look for the platform provider that gives you the capabilities to extract, aggregate and analyze data while offering data visualization tools or integrations on top. If there are no built-in data analytics capabilities, look into how the IoT platform handles integrations with well-known tools. 

Ownership of cloud infrastructure

Some IoT platform vendors may only come with the software layer without providing a hardware infrastructure. Other vendors certify their IoT platform on one or several public cloud providers and therefore run their services on a single platform. Organizations should check the compatibility of their enterprise cloud with the IoT platform provider. 

Role of legacy architecture

IoT devices are made to work with many different infrastructures and IoT platforms are increasingly becoming hardware-independent. Still, organizations need to ensure they are selecting an IoT platform that works with older-generation technologies. The platfotm should utimately be compatible with the existing infrastructure. 

Protocol support

Together with the typical protocols supported by most IoT platforms such as MQTT, HTTP, AMQP, and CoAP, organizations should aim for an IoT platform that can support new protocols and makes it possible to upgrade these with ease. 

System performance

Before selecting a platform, organizations should look at the given possibilities to optimize and maintain platform performance. 

Interoperability

IoT platforms function as a middleware layer and, at times, may be entirely open-ended. So it is essential to see if the selected IoT platform can integrate with other (open-source) environments.

Redundancy and disaster recovery

As errors invariably occur, organizations should make sure that their IoT platform offers a dedicated infrastructure to safeguard the integrity of data and other assets during unforeseen events. This may include regular data backups and failover cluster provision, among others. 

Attractive interface

An easy-to-use interface is essential to an organization-wide IoT platform adoption as the platform will be used by a diverse set of experts including both technical and non-technical staff. All services and functionalities should be easy to access and intuitive to navigate. 

Application environment

IoT platforms with a cloud IDE or an integratable IoT development environment are becoming increasingly popular as they are significantly speeding up IoT deployment. When selecting a platform, organizations should look into the capabilities of the provided app development environment, the common interfaces, and the already available IoT apps. 

Platform migration

As companies grow and begin to scale or as technological requirements change, a given cloud IoT platform may no longer be able to respond to company needs. So the organization may have to migrate to another vendor. Buyers should consider the possibilities of platform migration and look for well-documented interfaces, API, and schemata for a potential migration to other IoT platforms.

Hybrid cloud

A somewhat less essential requirement for some, the hybrid cloud could become important in the scenario where companies need to handle sensitive data or mission-critical processes locally while leaving the less critical operations to be managed by the cloud IoT platform. Also, an on-premises model or the possibility to install on a virtual private cloud may be of interest here.

Bandwidth

IoT platforms require low latency and high bandwidth. They need to be able to move device data efficiently and facilitate communication between various layers and components within the IoT ecosystem.

Edge intelligence and control

Edge computing has been pronounced to be the future of IoT. And equally so, cloud IoT platforms are now shifting towards the edge of the IoT network. So apart from cloud computing, platform providers are beginning to incorporate edge capabilities into their IoT product go expand across the entire IoT infrastructure. Cloud IoT platforms are no longer solely a cloud service but are becoming increasingly oriented towards distributed edge intelligence. To facilitate the work of the connected device that processes data locally at the IoT edge, these platforms need to be able to support new topologies and incorporate edge capabilities.

Previous experience

A solid team with a history of successful prior deployments and extensive experience in the field of the intended application is typically a good sign.


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