The future of cloud convergence and the three P’s

There is a need to evolve our relationship with the cloud specifically for the device world. Let’s call that “the three P’s”: perception, packaging, and process.

Cloud technology has already made major impacts on our everyday life. We take for granted that we can hail a ride, stream live sports broadcast or jump onto video meetings via a mobile device from any place in the world. The mechanics of how that works is hidden and we barely notice that it’s the cloud that has enabled these services.

Day-to-day, we don’t think about all the on-demand computing power and storage which cloud technology provides – we just go about our business using our mobile phones, fitness trackers and smart watches.

Though it is invisible, the cloud is critical.

Why cloud convergence is important

After more than 20 years working with businesses making robots, planes, medical equipment, manufacturing controllers and many other machines, I believe thinking differently about the cloud can help us take a leap forward in imagining the future, a future which is marked by cloud convergence .
Cloud convergence is a trend that pulls in cloud technologies in all aspects of what we do and interact with, connecting things that were previously not related or connected.
With cloud convergence, we’ll increasingly see cloud computing and IoT concepts come together.

In all aspects of the development, deployment, and operation phases of the device lifecycle, cloud convergence brings to bear savings by leveraging standards, existing infrastructures and, most importantly, human knowledge and experience. Fully embracing cloud convergence — what it can help accomplish and how to evolve to get it done — is the next step in digital transformation.

As I discuss with our customers, it seems that there is a need to evolve our relationship with the cloud specifically for the device world. Let’s call that “the three P’s”: perception, packaging, and process.

Changing the perception of what the cloud can do

For many, the cloud is thought about in relation to the IT world for tools, email, and web searches. But devices are not standalone objects anymore. They are part of a global cyber-physical system that spans hyperscale clouds, edge clouds and the electro-mechanical edge.

Manufacturing is a good example of what a cyber-physical system can look like. McKinsey’s Digital Manufacturing Global Expert survey reveals that most manufacturing companies (68%) consider Industry 4.0 manufacturing initiatives to be their top priority. In a more intelligent future, we’ll get a better sense of the world around us with improvements in how data is collected, harnessed, processed, and put into action. The compute made available thanks to the cloud can assist with monitoring and analytics, as well as the ability to store massive amounts of data that would be too much to store locally on the devices themselves. In short, software-driven manufacturing could enable a massive shift for assembly lines giving way to data-driven and modular assembly. The cloud is an extension, not a replacement, adding value and opening new technical and business values.

And this is just a single use case; you can imagine how this could apply across any number of industries.

Software packaging for the intelligent edge

Cloud technologies have driven much innovation that makes it easier to manage software. One such technology is the container: a simple elegant concept designed to abstract application dependencies to increase modularity and ease deployment between different systems.

By leveraging the same construct (and specifications), we can now deploy and operate traditional embedded applications with cloud native tools and infrastructures. Granted, this requires some decoupling but with a real-time grade container engine, one gets the benefits of all worlds.

With these capabilities, aerospace and defense organizations, energy providers, large-scale manufacturers and medical organizations can take advantage of low-latency, high-bandwidth performance for the most challenging applications.

Enabling end-to-end cloud-based edge infrastructure with processes

People are most familiar with containers as part of cloud-native architectures in which applications, decoupled from the hardware, operating system (mostly), and infrastructure, are managed and updated at a very fast pace. According to TechBeacon, Amazon deploys code every 11.7 seconds. Contrast that to traditional updates in an embedded device done a handful of times in a year (if not every other year).

In order to accelerate our ability to develop, deploy and manage embedded software better, we need to update our processes to leverage cloud technologies where they fit. Be it to build, test, validate, verify, or deploy and update.

This level of complexity is just the reality and a hurdle for innovative organizations leveraging technology and the cloud in fresh ways today. As a way forward, teams must have tremendous flexibility in how systems are deployed and managed.

In summary, I’m excited to see cloud technologies converge in helping address some of the challenges that the intelligent edge has been facing for a while, whether in the fields of manufacturing, healthcare, aerospace, or any others on the cutting edge.

And I’m sure we can achieve the future together if we keep an eye on the 3 P’s – perception, packaging and processes.

Michel Chabroux is responsible for the Product Management team driving technology and business strategies for Wind River’s runtime environments, including the VxWorks and Wind River Linux families of products. He has more than 20 years of industry experience including roles in technical sales, support, training and product management. Prior to joining Wind River, he was a consultant in Business Management and Information Systems working with a variety of clients. He holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science Applied to Business Administration from Universite de Lorraine.

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