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Xively buy broadens Google Cloud IoT tool utility

The latest Google Cloud acquisition points to a doubling down on IoT, as the company tries to keep pace with AWS and Microsoft Azure in this emerging market.

Google was late to the internet-of-things game, but its latest additions show it intends to run with the pack.

Google has agreed to acquire Xively, a division of LogMeIn, to make its cloud platform more attractive to build applications that rely on data collected by remote sensors. The deal, once finalized, will likely be integrated into Google Cloud Platform to bolster its device management capabilities as part of Google Cloud IoT Core.

The deal comes days after Google hired Injong Rhee, the former Samsung Electronics CTO, to head its internet-of-things (IoT) efforts. Together, these two moves suggest a serious effort to jump-start Google's support for IoT, said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research.

The IoT platform market consists of a wide range of players, including the major cloud vendors, networking providers and industrial heavyweights. There are also vendors that focus on the devices themselves, connectivity to those devices, and integration with analytics and AI platforms.

Forrester Research analyst Frank GillettFrank Gillett

LogMeIn has shifted its focus from remote connectivity to collaboration, so the Xively components around IoT device management became less relevant to its business strategy, said Stacy Crook, an analyst at IDC. That direction makes more sense for a cloud vendor, and particularly Google, as it seeks to add some standardization for customers that want to build applications that integrate this type of data.

Google has plenty of analytics tools, but was late to offer an IoT-tailored product when it rolled out Google Cloud IoT Core last year. The platform has some tools to access and ingest streams of data and device management, and then pass the data off to other Google services, but Xively will help bolster some of those components that are critical to successful IoT deployments, Crook said.

"I'm not sure, at this point, if they're going to break it up as separate features, or if [they are] looking to enrich and add some other tools like data management or more visualization and dashboards," she said. "It certainly gives them some additional pieces of functionality."

The Xively acquisition indicates Google will emphasize device management at a broad level, rather than focusing on narrow subsets of devices, said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton, N.H.

"Whether you're dealing with tens of millions of cameras on door locks or tens of thousands of sensors on generators or wind turbines, that kind of device and connectivity management is one of the things that cuts across both consumer and commercial applications, and Google is playing in both of those pretty aggressively," he said.

Device and connectivity management is one of the things that cuts across both consumer and commercial applications, and Google is playing in both of those pretty aggressively.
Ezra Gottheilanalyst, Technology Business Research Inc.

The public cloud is great for applications that rely on widely dispersed devices, such as mobile phones. But a company with a bunch of sensors on a factory floor needs to collect and process data on site, rather than incur the time and money to ship everything to the cloud.

Xively's approach appears to be based on servers, rather than edge software, which is a stripped-down approach to processing closer to the device. Still, it will be an asset for Google's IoT service to put software management and analytics inside a data center to handle data movement, Gottheil said.

Another potential benefit to incorporate Xively into its cloud is it gives Google a means to build its software into devices. Designers must embed client-side software on these devices with hooks to application platforms, and Xively has those types of relationships to get its own technology incorporated as part of its device management capabilities, Gillett said.

The results could have a twofold effect for Google, Gillett said. Once its software is embedded in these devices, there is a natural tilt toward its cloud platform created not just by the designers, but by the customer who may choose to build applications on a cloud platform that orchestrates better with the devices on the market.

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