Global scale, with legacy sub-systems, cloud services, connected edge-devices, Fog Computing concepts, OT/IT alignment, Enterprise/Industrial IoT (IIoT) systems present a new challenge in terms of interoperability, end-to-end performance and security. Who will deliver them?
Of course if everything were plug-and-play out-of-the-box we wouldn't have such a problem. But anyone who remembers connecting a printer to a PC back in the 1980s knows that takes time to arrive. So for the foreseeable future how will IIoT systems be implemented, deployed and maintained? Step forward the systems integrator. One aspect of the IIoT that hasn't been well discussed is the huge opportunity it represents for systems integrators. So it's no coincidence that Accenture, PwC, etc. are producing regular and optimistic reports on the impact of the IoT, it's a huge opportunity for them now (consulting) and over the next decade (development, deployment and evolution).
The vast majority of IIoT systems will include data sources and sinks (sensor networks, edge devices, brilliant machines, proprietary sub-systems, etc.) from both legacy (brown field) and new environments. In effect, IIoT systems can be regarded as an overlay on existing OT and IT systems that complements them and adds new business value through incorporating new connected devices, supporting distributed analytics, leveraging the Internet and cloud services for global scale and mobility, facilitating enterprise OT/IT alignment, enabling supply-chain optimization, etc., etc.
As such, this IIoT overlay will need to integrate legacy systems, new packaged sub-systems and new connected devices. The IIoT is a game-changer in the sense of enabling new business value (see my), but it does create a systems integration challenge. Over time this challenge will decline (note how configuring a new Smartphone is so much easier than a few years ago) but for the foreseeable future the systems integrator will play a necessary and vital role in IIoT system delivery.
IIoT system integrators will come from various backgrounds:
- In-house teams of experts helping end-user corporate business units - an evolved CIO's office
- Major IT services vendors - such as IBM or HP
- Major IT infrastructure vendors - such as Cisco or Intel
- Major IT consultants and integrators - such as Accenture or PwC
- Domain specialist OEM/integrators - such as Siemens or Rockwell Automation
- Major government contractors - such as Raytheon or Thales
- Independent local integrators - as in many Smart Cities projects
But at least one of these will be required in every IIoT installation.
Analysts IDC recently identified that an average of 40% of any IIoT system's cost will be related to services (consulting, design, application development, integration, deployment, maintenance, etc.), so the IIoT is a massive opportunity for all the flavors of systems integrator.
IIoT enabling technologies are coming to market at a rapid pace (connected devices, data-connectivity platforms, cloud services, etc.) but it will be some time before IoT nodes plug-and-play with each other through self-configuration (don't hold your breath). Until then systems integrators are right to be investing heavily in marketing their IoT business consultancy and implementation resources. Their opportunity is 40% of a multi-trillion dollar market.