Put the Mainframe at the Heart of the Internet of Things

Does the Internet of things (IoT) sound familiar? It should. Remember massive networks of ATMs connecting back to the mainframe?

The mainframe is poised to take on the IoT challenge writes Advanced Software Products Group, Inc. (ASPG), a company specializing in mainframe software, in an interesting document called the Future of the Mainframe.  Part of that future is the IoT, which IBM refers to in a Redbook Point of View as the Interconnecting of Everything.

In that Redbook the IoT is defined as a network of Internet-enabled, real-world objects—things—ranging from nanotechnology objects to consumer electronics, home appliances, sensors of all kinds, embedded systems, and personal mobile devices. The IoT also will encompass enabling network and communication technologies, such as IPv6 to get the unique address capacity, web services, RFID, and 4G networks.

The IoT Redbook cites industry predictions of upwards of 50 billion connected devices by 2020, a number 10x that of all current Internet hosts, including connected mobile phones. Based on that the Redbook authors note two primary IoT scalability issues:

  1. The sheer number of connected devices; the quantity of connected devices, mainly the number of concurrent connections (throughput) a system can support and the quality of service (QoS) that can be delivered. Here, authors note, Internet scalability is a critical factor. Currently, most Internet-connected devices use IPv4, which is based on a 32-bit. Clearly, the industry has to speed the transition to IPv6, which implements a 128-bit addressing scheme that can support up to 2128 addresses or 4 x 1038 devices, although some tweaking of the IPv6 standard is being proposed for IoT.
  1. The volume of generated data and the performance issues associated with data collection, processing, storage, query, and display. IoT systems need to handle both device and data scalability issues. From a data standpoint, this is big data on steroids.

As ASPG noted in its paper cited above, the mainframe is well suited to provide a central platform for IoT. The zEnterprise has the power to connect large dispersed networks, capture and process the mountains of data produced every minute, and provide the security and privacy companies and individuals demand. In addition, it can accept, process, and interpret all that data in a useful way. In short, it may be the only general commercial computing platform powerful enough today to crunch vast quantities of data very quickly and is already proven to perform millions of transactions per second and do it securely.

Even with a top end zEC12 configured to the hilt and proven to handle maximum transactions per second, you are not quite yet ready to handle the IoT as it is currently being envisioned. This IoT vision is much more heterogeneous in all dimensions than the massive reservation or POS or ATM networks the mainframe has proven itself with.

At least one major piece still needed: an industry-wide standard that defines how the various devices capture myriad information for a diverse set of applications involving numerous vendors and ensure everything can communicate and exchange information in a meaningful way. Not surprisingly, the industry already is working on it.

Actually, maybe too many groups. The IEEE points to a number of standards, projects and activities it is involved with that address the creation of what it considers a vibrant IoT. The Open Internet Consortium, consisting of a slew of tech-industry heavyweights like Intel, Broadcom, and Samsung, hope to develop standards and certification for devices involved in the IoT. Another group, the AllSeen Alliance, is promoting an open standard called AllJoyn with the goal of enabling ubiquitously connected devices. Even Google is getting into the act by opening up its Nest acquisition so developers can connect their various home devices (thermostats, security alarm controllers, garage door openers, and such) via a home IoT.

This will likely shake out the way IT standards usually do with several competing groups fighting it out. Probably too early to start placing bets. But you can be sure IBM will be right there. The company already has put an IoT stake in the ground here (as if the z wasn’t enough).  Whatever eventually shakes out, System z shops should be right in the middle of the IoT action.

Expect this will be subject of discussion at the upcoming IBM Enterprise 2014 conference, Oct. 6-10 in Las Vegas. Your blogger expects to be there. DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding. Follow him on Twitter, @mainframeblog or Technologywriter.com.

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3 Responses to “Put the Mainframe at the Heart of the Internet of Things”

  1. Spencer Hallman Says:

    How often in history have we seen the best technical solution pushed aside for the best marketed solution. The Sony Betamax and VHS are a prime example of this. If the Mainframe is to be at the heart of the IoT or have a chance to be there. IBM and ISVs are going to have to do a better job of marketing the Mainframe as part of the IoT. Looking at the companies that are part of the different alliances mentioned, I didn’t see IBM or any other company associated with the Mainframe. Maybe they don’t need to be, maybe the battle will be fought and won elsewhere but standards will probably be the field they ultimately fight on and if they are not participating in the standards the battle may already be lost.

  2. Mobile Steps Up at IBM Enterprise2014 | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] mobile and smartphones are hot, driving everything from the Internet of Things, (IoT) to shifts in mainframe peak volume trends. Between IoT and mobile you very well could […]

  3. IBM Simplifies Internet of Things with developerWorks Recipes | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] retailers have assembled networks of ATMs and POS terminals. DancingDinosaur has been writing about IoT for mainframe shops for several years.  Now deveoperWorks Recipes promises a way for just about anyone to set up their […]

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