Cisco Expands IoT Capabilities With Big Data Analytics

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

The company is rolling out its new suite of analytics software that will be integrated into network switches, routers and other systems

Cisco Systems executives have said that the company will provide the foundational technologies—from networking gear to data center servers and storage—for the tens of billions of devices that will make up the Internet of Things.

However, the full value of the Internet of things (IoT) – or what Cisco calls the Internet of everything, when including processors, applications and people into the mix—won’t be realised until businesses and service providers are able to take the massive amounts of data generated by all the connected devices, parse it and come out with usable information that will help them save and make money.

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That’s where analytics come in, and now Cisco is making a major move into that highly competitive space that includes the likes of IBM and Oracle. At an event at the company’s San Jose headquarters yesterday, Cisco executives unveiled a broad portfolio of data analytics offerings aimed a range of markets—from retail and telecommunications to events and mobility—and positioned to address data wherever it is, whether in the data center or at the edge, where the devices sit.

Cisco already offers much of the infrastructure technology for the IoT, from its Unified Computing Systems (UCS) converged data centre solutions to security software to protect the data. Where Cisco was lagging was the in the area of big data analytics. The importance of Cisco’s new Connected Analytics for the Internet of Everything portfolio to the company was underscored by the fact that CEO John Chambers and Edzard Overbeek, senior vice president of Cisco Services, were on hand at the vendor’s Global Editors Conference.

The key differentiator for Cisco is that the company can integrate analytics capabilities into its hardware, including its routers, enabling organization to analyse the data out at the edge of the network near the devices and sensors that are generating it, giving businesses the information they need more quickly.

“Just connecting all this doesn’t create value,” Mike Flanagan, vice president and general manager of data analytics at Cisco, told eWEEK. “It’s what you get out of the data that is important.”

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Cisco executives have said that by 2020, there will be more than 50 billion connected devices and sensors, generating huge amounts of data, and that over the next 10 years, the Internet of everything will be worth $19 trillion to organisations worldwide, in new business and cost savings. Of that, $7.3 trillion of that will come from analytics. A recent Cisco survey found that 40 percent of respondents said their inability to interpret data was the biggest challenge to creating actionable information from the data.

According to Chambers, the bulk of analytics technology was designed to deal with data generated within a business’ firewalls and analyzed in the data center. However, with the Internet of everything, important data increasingly will be generated by devices outside an organisation’s walls, the CEO said.

The company this year has been promoting the idea of fog computing—what other vendors are calling edge computing—by putting greater computing capabilities to the edge of the networks. In January, Cisco introduced the IOx platform, which enables organisations to run and manage applications and operating systems directly on Cisco network devices—such as routers, switches and IP video cameras—and in October added to the list of products that support IOx.

There is a broad range of other vendors looking at edge computing, including Intel, IBM, Extreme Networks, VMware and EMC.

Adding the analytics capabilities is the next step in Cisco’s IoT evolution, and adds to the IOx strategy, according to Cisco officials. The eight analytics offerings in the new portfolio are aimed at events, retail, service providers, IT, network deployments, mobility, collaboration and contact center. The software comes from acquisitions the company made in 2012 (Truviso) and Composite Software (2013).

Cisco’s Flanagan said there were an array of use cases where these analytics capabilities can help businesses. Taking data from in-store video cameras and WiFi networks, retailers can figure out where customers are spending most of their time and when shelves need to be restocked. Businesses can use business intelligence to better align technology with business needs and service providers can plan Wi-Fi capacity based on use patterns and adoption.

Flanagan talked about a store that used video data to forecast when check-out lines would get busy and could get help there ahead of the rush. The store found that people tended to shop in the frozen food section last, so when store officials saw a crowd in those aisles, they knew the check-out lines would soon grow.

He also talked about another company that needed data to show how the use of Cisco TelePresence collaboration technology was impacting its bottom line. Using Cisco’s collaboration analytics software, the company determined that it had saved $12 million and 140,000 travel hours.

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Originally published on eWeek.