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Google IoT service checks box years after AWS, Azure

Google's new IoT service plays catch up with AWS, Azure and others, but its analytics prowess could help close the gap in a nascent market.

Google jumped into the IoT competition, but it's got ground to make up to be a truly viable option for enterpr...


Currently in private beta, Google Cloud IoT is a suite of services that combines new and existing offerings in a fully managed service via Google Cloud Platform. The move is important for Google in a crowded market where its cloud competitors have cultivated their own IoT services for more than 18 months.

At the heart of the Google IoT service is Cloud IoT Core, which centrally automates data ingestion, scale, availability and performance to manage millions of globally distributed devices and build applications that integrate with Google's analytics services. Cloud IoT Core uses the MQTT protocol to register devices, and firmware can be updated automatically for devices built with Google's Android-based device OS, Android Things.

The Google IoT service is akin to what AWS and Microsoft Azure initially offered in 2015, to connect their public clouds and external devices. That architecture can work when devices are scattered globally, but it's not always the best for multiple devices close together, such as a factory floor, said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research Inc., in Hampton, N.H.

"What Google is doing with this is adding an asset and passively saying, 'If you want to use our platform for other reasons, now you can,'" he said.

AWS and Microsoft have embraced the use of edge devices to manage data flowing directly from devices to the cloud. In such cases, companies may be better served with a server or small data center that summarizes and reacts immediately to any critical event and then communicates to the cloud for further analysis, Gottheil said.

Moreover, IoT isn't exclusive to the major cloud infrastructure providers. Big companies with industrial pedigrees, including Bosch, GE, Hitachi, IBM, and Siemens, are all going after the same market. Google isn't even the only major tech vendor to roll out an IoT service this week, with the launch of Cisco's IoT Operations Platform.

The winner in cloud and hybrid computing will win in IoT as well.
Ezra Gottheilanalyst, Technology Business Research Inc.

The good news for Google is that the IoT market is still nascent, and first-movers don't have an enormous advantage, so there's time to catch the competition by leveraging its superior technology, Gottheil said. One advantage for Google could be its reputation in analytics -- Cloud IoT Core natively integrates with services such as Google Cloud Dataflow, Google BigQuery and Google Cloud Machine Learning Engine, and partner services from Looker, Qlik, Tableau and Zoomdata.

"Google isn't Amazon, but it would be unwise to rule them out," said Paul Miller, an analyst at Forrester. "They have some hard work to catch up, but they also have some very good technology."

Google Cloud IoT Core isn't necessarily special, but it's important for Google to take this first step, Miller said. The biggest opportunity for IoT at the moment is in markets such as manufacturing, where there are lots of sensors collecting data in controlled environments to enable automation and responsiveness. However, Google could eventually find success integrating with other parts of its business, such as connected cars and entertainment.

Google also needs to build a strong sales team and connection to senior decision-makers in the enterprise market, Miller said. That's a common refrain about Google's cloud efforts -- and Gottheil questioned Google's commitment to make that a reality.

"The winner in cloud and hybrid computing will win in IoT as well," he said. "But Google is less focused on business apps and a platform for unique apps, and much more on advertising and related businesses."

Trevor Jones is a news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at [email protected].

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