EMM-managed IoT versus 3-tier IoT

The use cases may not all be horizontal or apply to typical office workers, but we finally can answer the question, "What does IoT mean to EUC?"

We’ve been trying to figure out just exactly what the Internet of Things means to end user computing folks for a few years now, and IoT was one of the topics we covered a few weeks back when Gabe and I visited VMware in Atlanta.

Since that meeting, Gabe wrote about the relationship between IT and operational technology (OT) roles; today I’m going to look at another part of the IoT puzzle that’s falling into place: the line between EMM-managed IoT and three-tier IoT.

IoT categories

Key differentiators for IoT scenarios are the nature of the devices (or things) and the architecture of the supporting infrastructure. The scenarios can be lumped into two categories:

  • First, there are simpler devices, like sensors, that often run real-time operating systems. Instead of connecting directly to the internet or a backend system, they connect through a gateway, creating a three-tier architecture.
  • The second category comprises more complex devices, including smart glasses, watches, kiosks, and other devices that have an interface that a user interacts with directly. These devices often run Android, Linux, or Tizen, and connect directly to backend services in a two-tier architecture.

As Gabe explored, a lot of three-tier systems with simpler things are currently the domain of operational technology, but in the future, OT and IT will certainly come together.

What’s becoming more clear is that EMM vendors will mostly deal with the the second category, not the first. These more complex devices often have a lot in common with phones and tablets, and can be treated as such. Several EMM vendors have already gone down this path. I’ve heard this category be called EMM-managed IoT a few times, so that’s the term I’ll use for now. (Another term I’ve heard is human-interface IoT.)

How EMM vendors are addressing IoT

This three-tier IoT versus EMM-managed IoT distinction is exactly how VMware is thinking about it, as Gabe and I learned from Pulse IoT product marketer Avanti Kenjalkar. AirWatch will cover things that function similar to mobile devices, like Google Glass; VMware’s other efforts like Pulse IoT Center and LIOTA (Little IoT Agent), which are applicable to three-tier scenarios, are in a separate business unit.

In another EMM vendor example, we watched as MobileIron began to evaluate the IoT space, and then settled on EMM-manageable use cases as their target market.

What about the three-tier IoT market? As Rachel Berry explained a few months back, this is a very difficult and competitive space with a lot of players. Dell is making a big push, emphasizing the edge computing and AI/machine learning aspects, in their IQT efforts.

There’s also the question of the IoT “insights” plane (using all the data once it’s collected) versus the infrastructure plane. Again, the distinction is fairly clear. There are a few insights that IT and EUC folks might care about (When is the battery on this device going to fail?), but mostly our job is infrastructure. Insights (How can we make this machine produce more widgets?) are mostly the domain of the business.

What does this mean for EUC folks?

It’s apparent that—for the time being—EUC shops are going to be primarily interested in EMM-managed IoT, not three-tier IoT. Gabe and I occasionally use a litmus test to decide what to cover on BrianMadden.com and what’s outside of our area, and for IoT, this distinction seems like a good one.

(Of course we’re bloggers, so we get to bend our rules and we’ll still keep an eye on the rest of the IoT space. We just won’t be writing articles like “Deep dive into the TPS-42 temperature sensor protocol” or “Unboxing and first impressions of the GlobalMegaCom 7500-Series IoT Gateway Appliance.” )

In other words, after years of asking, “What does IoT mean to end user computing?,” I think we’ve found our answer. Sure, not many of the use cases are completely horizontal, nor do many of them apply to typical office workers. (The amount that IoT matters to your company will correlate to how many “things” are involved in your core business.) However, as I wrote recently, there are many interesting things going on in the extended enterprise. EMM-managed IoT is one of them.

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