AWS takes IoT beyond data analytics, into management

Amazon dives into the Internet of things with a two-pronged strategy covering both data and devices

AWS takes IoT beyond data analytics, into management
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Quibble if you will about the definition or long-term viability of the Internet of things, but Amazon is charging full ahead to fashion itself into an catch-all IoT platform.

At the Re:Invent keynote today, Amazon unveiled the AWS IoT framework to not only gather data from devices, but provide device-specific management and introspection functions as well.

AWS IoT presents devices in two ways: the devices themselves, aka "things," and virtualized representations, or "thing shadows." The latter lets the user preemptively set the state of devices without requiring a network connection; once a disconnected thing reconnects, it attempts to sync with its shadow and apply any changes pushed (a function natively supported in the MQTT protocol). Devices can also be tracked through a registry.

Messages are relayed to and from devices via a message broker that speaks MQTT and HTTP 1.1, through a rules engine to any number of AWS endpoints courtesy of a "SQL-like syntax." Amazon has also provided SDKs for C, JavaScript, and Arduino-based devices, and it introduced a number of branded starter device kits from the Beaglebone, Intel, Marvel, and others.

Amazon surrounds these features with a few additions that, while not explicitly IoT-related, can fall under the heading. A new function for Amazon's Kinesis Analytics allows SQL queries to run against streaming data -- for instance, as part of a time-series processing job. The service is set to include many prebuilt functions, such as moving averages or totals.

In terms of construction, the heart of AWS IoT isn't drastically different from that of other Web service back ends. The fact that it's Amazon makes the difference, what with so many customers already building on top of Amazon's application, data-storage, and data-ingestation frameworks. Anyone already on Amazon's cloud has one fewer reason to bother with other IoT integrators. Contrast that with Salesforce IoT Cloud, which limits its appeal to existing Salesforce customers, whereas nearly everyone is a potential AWS customer.

InfoWorld's David Linthicum made a case for why IoT and public clouds like Amazon's complement each other: a measure of built-in security, elasticity, and a geographically distributed architecture that works with the devices themselves. It was inevitable that Amazon would become a center of gravity, but now we'll see if its device-management-plus-data-collection approach pulls people in.

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