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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Dell Boomi Talking Internet of Things (IoT)

Interview Dell Boomi 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is already changing how consumers shop, live and interact; but it is also changing how companies do business.  For consumers, IoT is a marketing term used to describe everyday objects as Internet-connected devices.  And while IoT "smart home" based applications grab media headlines, it is the industrial and public services sector that will form the majority of the IoT device base.  According to industry reports, connected devices will number 38.5 billion in 2020, up from 13.4 billion in 2015: a rise of over 285%.

To find out more information, I reached out to Michael Morton, CTO, Dell Boomi to discuss IoT in more detail and get a better education as to where things are headed.

VMblog:  What are the biggest challenges/roadblocks presented by IoT?

Michael Morton:  The answer depends on the role of the person being asked. For example, if you ask an engineer/architect, predictably, the answer will be "it depends." If you ask a CIO, the answer may be "to secure and govern device data." If you ask a CEO, it may be "what is the return on my investment?" While this is typical when assessing a new strategy for a company, unifying all levels of a business is particularly challenging for an IoT strategy.

However, the most significant challenge/roadblock presented by IoT no matter the level of the business, is simply defining the problem you want to solve and what new business value you are trying to achieve. Only after overcoming this initial definition challenge can system architects and developers begin answering questions around defining an IoT platform reference architecture, choosing vendors for hardware and software, defining a data security strategy, applying foresight around scaling as additional scenarios are implemented, supportability, operational costs, new skills/hires, etc.

VMblog:  How is IoT changing integration requirements?  What new opportunities does IoT present for IT organizations?

Morton:  The two primary questions that need to be addressed are: "Where is your sensor/device data?" and "How to integrate that data in a hybrid environment?" For example, if you think about the evolution of where data typically resides, traditionally it was in on-premises databases. Now, with hybrid in full adoption, data is located in on-premises databases and in cloud databases and applications. The industry understands how to integrate the data at these locations, and what types of operations to perform against that data depending on where the data resides and the amount of data. But with IoT, data is now in new locations.

In a commercial IoT deployment, it is very typical to have sensor/device data at the following four tiers: on the device, on an IoT Gateway, on servers, and in clouds. For integration, this means: new/different communication protocols, new data models, new security standards, computational consumption for operating on data based on the capabilities of the hardware where it resides (i.e. performing edge analytics), decisions on what data to copy, transform, and move, etc. Now you have to make integration decisions based on what you need to achieve for each of these four tiers.

This change presents new opportunities for IT organizations to innovate new business value. As much as I would claim the importance of understanding your initial business problems or the new business value you want to achieve in order to focus the execution of an IoT strategy, I would follow this with the importance of innovating new business value by integrating and correlating device/sensor data with business data. This is where the next horizon is. Once an IoT deployment is successful, IT organizations have the opportunity to become innovation superstars with all the data at their disposal.

VMblog:  What are the biggest surprises for organizations implementing an IoT strategy?

Morton:  No one vendor provides a complete end-to-end solution for implementing an IoT strategy. Some prominent providers are trying to be a one-stop-shop solutions provider, but inevitably one of the biggest surprises organizations implementing an IoT strategy will encounter is the number of products they will need to obtain to achieve their desired results. In addition, they face integration challenges and the need to understand the different licensing and pricing models, different compliance issues, different SLAs, etc.

VMblog:  Where does Dell Boomi fit into the IoT landscape?

Morton:  The timing of having real integration Platform as-a Service (iPaaS) solutions perfectly aligns with the evolution of the Internet of Things. Generating business value from IoT environments is all about the data. An IoT solution must integrate data from devices, gateways, servers, clouds, on-premises databases, on-premises applications, cloud databases, cloud applications, cloud analytics, etc. In order to manage this ever-changing hybrid data integration landscape, companies must leverage an iPaaS.

A solution like Dell Boomi provides a single platform that becomes the integration hub for all the data used to run a business. This includes IoT-produced data and business data. Whether it be to move data - for example to a data lake or IoT cloud vendor - for the purpose of data analytics; or the need to transform data from multiple vendors for the purpose of correlation and data exchange or web service access to any data source; or integrating IoT-produced data/results with business data and applications, Dell Boomi helps businesses achieve their business-value goals.

VMblog:  What predictions do you have over the next five to 10 years?  Will we see more partnerships?  Will there be strange bedfellows?

Morton:  There is no question that anything related to IoT right now is a startup mecca. In 5 to 10 years, there will be a lot of acquisition activity as smaller vendors mature and find their high-value niche and powerhouse vendors race to be an end-to-end IoT solutions provider. Most of the partnerships that evolve will likely be because IoT solutions require both specialized hardware and software, and very few companies will attempt to offer both hardware (devices, gateways, sensors, etc.) and complete software solutions.

Some partnerships will form because they make sense, but others will form out of desperation for a business transformation. Some unimagined partnerships will likely involve telecommunications providers. Just think about your cable and mobile phone providers. Like any business, they too need to transform and expand, and they already own and control a lot of the network fabric that is required for IoT in the commercial and residential space. Would AT&T acquire National Instruments?

VMblog:  Can I leverage some of my existing investments for IoT scenarios?

Morton:  More than likely, yes. Although with IoT-centric products comes features specialized for IoT, there will be some fundamental and commonly used building blocks for an IoT platform. Databases are a perfect example. If you already have an investment in enterprise database technology, expanding that to accommodate your on-premises data storage needs will be easy. If you are investing in an iPaaS, then you already have a solution and the skills to incorporate IoT data into your company's data integration strategy.

VMblog:  What are some of the current integration challenges that make it difficult to produce business value?

Morton:  The name of the game to generating business value from IoT is the ability to mine a sea of data and confidently correlate it to a desired business outcome in the time that you need it. So let's take this loaded statement one step at a time. First, IoT environments will generate a lot of data. Second, it will likely be data from a landscape of heterogeneous vendor devices, many with different data models, so a data transformation solution may be necessary. Next, you will need to reliably obtain the right data from potentially many sources (devices, gateways, database, etc.) concurrently. You will likely need only a fraction of the data reported by a device, but from many devices. And lastly, IoT is a living ecosystem of data, so data is typically continuously being produced in IoT environments.  You have to take this into consideration when establishing a level of confidence to make a business decision, such as automating the opening of a support ticket in a cloud CRM system based the timeliness and completeness of the response. Ultimately, the challenge is timely data integration in a heterogeneous hybrid environment.

VMblog:  What is the difference between a company IoT integration strategy vs. a line of business (LOB) IoT integration strategy? 

Morton:  Ordinarily, you think of a company defining a corporate direction and mandating what products, solutions, vendors, and partners will be used across the company for the typical reasons of consistency, standards, economies of skills, pricing, etc. For the most part, this has traditionally worked out fine, with your usual sprinkle of distain for some products vs. others at a LOB level. But introducing an IoT strategy into the mix makes things a bit more complicated. For example, if a large manufacturing and retail company has one LOB that wants to introduce an IoT strategy for warehouse inventory and energy optimization, while another LOB wants to introduce a solution for analyzing customer sentiment and behavior in their retail locations, the IoT requirements will be quite diverse and require much different hardware and software.

Each scenario will require unique devices, sensors, and cameras, and each LOB should be left to make the best decision on edge components (devices and gateways). However, at the end of the day, whether it is a device or a user entering some information on a company website, data is being produced, and ultimately that data will be moved, copied, transformed, cleansed, and integrated with other data. Although each LOB will have its own unique data integration needs to produce the desired business outcomes, at the center of this should be a common hybrid data integration solution. Therefore, I would contend that whether it be at a company or LOB level, and regardless if the data is IoT-produced data or traditional business-generated data, the efficiencies to be gained by adopting a common iPaaS solution across the company is paramount to moving the entire business forward.


Once again, a special thank you to Michael Morton, CTO of Dell Boomi, for taking time out to speak with

About Michael Morton, CTO, Dell Boomi

Michael Morton is the Chief Technology Officer of Dell Boomi, where he drives product direction and innovation. He has been leading and producing a wide range of enterprise IT solutions for over 25 years.

Prior to joining Dell Boomi in 2013, Michael had an impressive career with IBM, where he became an IBM Master Inventor and worked directly with a number of Fortune 100 Companies. He was a founding developer and Chief Architect of IBM WebSphere Application Server, providing architecture leadership on the IBM InfoSphere data integration and IBM Tivoli systems management family of products. Michael's experiences have allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the complexities and challenges that enterprise customers face when modernizing while attempting to remain competitive in their industry.

Michael earned a B.S. in Computer Science degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and an M.S. in Computer Science degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton.
Published Thursday, June 02, 2016 6:41 AM by David Marshall
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thekhan - June 6, 2016 10:20 AM

great blog ! I agree that there is no one vendor who can provide end-to-end solution and also that the IoT strategy needs to provide business value. The classic problem with the industry is that

everybody wants the next  "shiny object" without realizing, what value it brings to the org. The discussion on Company Vs LOB IoT strategy is pretty interesting. Looking forward and excited about the innovation that IoT is bringing to the table.

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