The Five Clouds of IoT is a tool I’ve been developing for some time as a way to help people understand the role of the cloud. This is a mental model I developed as a way to explain service offerings to people interested in building fleets of IoT devices. It includes services developed in-house and services they choose to purchase from external providers.
We will discuss the genesis of these classifications and why there is more than one cloud type in the first place. It’s important to focus our understanding of these broadly-general terms (like cloud and IoT). Doing so lets us define what problems need to be solved in the IoT space, and how best to approach them.
IoT Cloud Services
When starting a business or looking for an enhancement, it can be difficult to choose between all the different service offerings in the marketplace.
As a first step, the following questions should be considered:
- How are you connecting to the internet?
- What kind of device are you building on?
- What’s the scale of your deployment?
- What’s your cost and cost structure?
- What is your business model?
But the most important questions to answer for picking cloud services are:
- What are you willing to outsource?
- What should you outsource?
- What would get you to market faster if you went with a provider?
From there we can have a more grounded conversation on which aspects of the cloud are needed and which combination of providers they might want to evaluate. Very few service offerings will cover every aspect of an IoT deployment and business needs.
With each conversation I had, the more I started to realize that there might be different types of IoT cloud solutions. In fact, I think there are five. And while in practice different cloud companies might offer overlapping features, describing them as separate clouds will help us better understand the core strength of each cloud type and why we might want to use them.
Why Are There Five Clouds of IoT?
Here are The Five Clouds of IoT:
- Device Cloud
- Connectivity Cloud
- Data Cloud
- Application Cloud
- Development Cloud
These are classifications based on the service offerings of companies throughout the ecosystem, including the company I founded a couple of years ago (Golioth). However, each cloud represents a business case being served. Each cloud type has a prime example of at least one company serving a particular area of focus. That’s how big the market is and how much need exists for services.
Bringing IoT to the Masses
Each IoT cloud solution helps make deployments possible without massive internal cloud teams at a device maker or service company in the IoT space. Someone who wants to keep their core team small can do so by hiring out parts of the business to different service companies representing one or more of the Five Clouds. They focus on a particular part of the business and lean on service providers to help scale their applications.
We’ve already mentioned Golioth as one example of a device cloud. We are a device cloud because we focus on the management and security of devices and the data they produce. An example of a different cloud would be Soracom, which is a connectivity cloud that addresses different aspects of connecting devices to the internet that spans SIMs, data plans, VPNs, and more.
The key here is that the fundamental focus of a cloud like Golioth and Soracom are different: device offerings vs. connectivity offerings. You need to understand what problem you want to solve when choosing between clouds. For example, why you would want to leverage Golioth, Soracom, or both.
The Best Cloud for You
As you start to put together your business needs for your company or your next startup idea, you will be able to decide which clouds you will need and find the best companies that can help you achieve your goals.