The Industrial Internet – The New Front Line in the Battle for the Enterprise


Information flows follow a similar route within most organizations. Proprietary information builds up in databases, from where its funnelled into reports that rise up the chain of management. Then there’s external data, that which is gathered from public sources, accumulated from feedback, purchased from information suppliers, or simply harvested from the internet.

Most Big Data follows this route at present, but these pathways are changing as the physical world around us slowly transforms itself into the primary source of our information. This concept – the Industrial Internet – refers to the vast number of connected ‘things’ – actuators and sensors that are embedded in physical objects, be they pacemakers, cars or something as colossal as road bridges and nuclear power plants. These ‘things’ are all linked together via networks that often use the same IP as the Internet itself, and they churn out data that flows to computers in previously unheard of quantities. Physical objects now possess the capability to sense the environment around them and communicate what they learn, effectively becoming tools that allow us to understand complexity, and more importantly, respond to it quickly.

We’ve only just begun exploring the possibilities that the Industrial Internet might be capable of, yet already it’s driving the developer community onwards and upwards. Developers are racing to maximize its potential by connecting businesses and people to the 50 billion machines in our world. Meanwhile, in turn, vendors such as EMC and VMWare are striving to make it easier for developers to do so. As SiliconANGLE founder John Furrier predicts, these new APIs and apps “will allow businesses to analyze and understand the Big Data being generated by machines and stored in the cloud”.

The Industrial Internet Arms Race


Furrier likened this new competition to an “Industrial Internet Arms Race“, one that promises untold riches for whichever companies and developers can cross the line first. These sentiments were echoed by VMWare’s CEO Pat Gelsinger himself, when he spoke of a “$50 billion dollar market opportunity” in the industrial internet, something that’s just too big for vendors to ignore.

For a good many years, the Industrial Internet was the sole domain of IBM. Its Smarter Planet division, which launched more than five years ago, is the chief reason why its now the leading power in the Big Data arena – indeed, it was one of the few bright spots in Big Blues’ otherwise poor Q1 results earlier this year.

Not surprisingly, other vendors are starting to take notice at the success IBM’s been having, and are looking for avenues and opportunities to exploit this opportunity. The newest kid on the block looks to be GE, which last month wrapped up a $105 million investment in EMC & VMware’s lovechild: Pivotal, a project that is heavily focused on this modern new era of developers and the cloud.

Vellante recently spoke about the implications of this investment, saying that, “The combination of GE, and now EMC and VMware and Pivotal, essentially brings another big player to the Smarter Planet world… the Industrial Internet, this is now upon us and we’re seeing a real example of collaboration to drive that forward.”

Thanks to GE’s investment, VMWare and EMC are now well positioned to realize their goal of expanding the Industrial Internet’s horizons and taking advantage of potential Big Data analysis services with cloud applications. Dr. Muddo Sudhaker, VP, Cetas Cloud and Big Data Analytics, VMware, appeared on theCUBE earlier this week, explaining that the Pivotal Initiative will take a combination of open source and proprietary code, and the two companies will combine in a software stack designed to attract developers to build the next generation of applications to the cloud.

IBM is suddenly faced with the prospect of serious competition, but it’s unlikely to be worried just yet. That’s not because the GE/VMWare/Pivotal collaboration isn’t a formidable one – it is, very – rather, the reality is that this new world of intelligent, interconnected devices presents such an enormous market opportunity, there’ll be plenty of space for both entities. GE and IBM may compete on certain fronts – as will up-and-coming players like Cloudera – but ultimately there’s so many possibilities that each will find its own opportunities for growth.

That’s not to say that the Industrial Internet is all about vendors growing their bottom lines, because its not. As Wikibon’s Jeff Kelly pointed out last month, the rise of the Industrial Internet will lead to solutions for a swathe of the world’s problems, helping to provide clean drinking water, rebuild crumbling infrastructure, prevent climate change and a myriad of other challenges. In other words, when these vendors succeed, the entire world will be able to share in that success.