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Cisco has organized its Internet of Things portfolio into six categories that are expected to bring order to a confusing assortment of hardware and software.
This week, the company also announced 15 infrastructure products organizations can combine to create networks that carry data from machinery on the factory floor or a transportation system to applications in the data center. Such an Internet of Things (IoT) system, for example, could be used to both manage and maintain equipment.
Cisco's portfolio of IoT gear and software is so extensive that customers and resellers have had difficulty choosing products. "Their customers are starting to go back to them and saying, 'What do I need to build an IoT system?'" IDC analyst Vernon Turner said.
To ease the confusion, Cisco has created specific categories that "cover a fair bit of the ground that enables customers to get an IoT application up and running," Turner said.
The categories, which Cisco calls "pillars," include network connectivity, fog computing, security, data analytics, management and automation, and an application enablement platform. In general, bringing organization to a product portfolio expected to get even larger in time is beneficial for Cisco customers and partners, Turner said.
"It's a good thing for everybody in Cisco's ecosystem," he said. The companies most likely to use Cisco IoT gear include manufacturers, retailers and government.
In general, the IoT refers to scenarios in which data is gathered from Internet protocol (IP)-connected physical objects equipped with sensors. Once analyzed, this information can help people make decisions or trigger other systems to take action. For example, IoT data could help companies track wear and tear on factory floor parts so they could be replaced before a breakdown.
Cisco's IoT products
The new products Cisco announced didn't add any major changes to the company's portfolio. "I didn't see anything that was stunningly different than what Cisco has today," Turner said.
Cisco introduced software called the IoT Field Network Director and the Fog Director. The former manages endpoints and routers on trains and transportation fleets, while the latter manages fog applications across Cisco's portfolio. Fog refers to a distributed computing infrastructure in which some data processing is done in a smart device at the edge of the network, while the rest is handled in a remote data center.
Hardware releases included the Industrial Ethernet (IE) 50000 switch designed for manufacturing, energy and government applications. The device has more bandwidth and Power of Ethernet Plus (PoE Plus) ports than similar IoT switches from Cisco. It is also certified for utility and manufacturing use.
Other hardware included the Industrial Wireless (IW) 3702 access point. The "heavily ruggedized" device is built for transportation, mining and outdoors applications, according to Cisco.
IoT technology and services revenue will rise from $4.8 trillion in 2012 to $7.3 trillion by 2017, according to IDC. The hottest markets for IoT products will be in consumer devices, discrete manufacturing and government. Cisco competes in the market with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
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