The difficult assessment of IIoT platforms

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May 21, 2020 | minute read

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By Gaétan Raoul, LeMagIT March 2020

This comparative analysis of the Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave devoted to IIoT platforms, attempts to shed light on the selection criteria of Gartner and Forrester.

In its Forrester Wave dedicated to IIoT software platforms, the research firm considers that C3.AI, Microsoft, PTC and Siemens are the leaders in this market. IBM and Software AG lead the “Strong Performers” category. However, Microsoft, AWS (a “strong performer”) and ABB (a “contender”) benefit from the strongest presence on the market ahead of IBM.

On the contrary, in June 2019, Gartner saw neither challengers nor leaders, but visionaries and niche players. In order of importance, Software AG, PTC and Hitachi are the three visionaries of this magic square. Accenture leads the challengers, on the border between the niche player and the visionary.

GE Digital, Oracle, IBM, Hitachi, PTC and Software AG appear as the actors common to both tables. However, they do not occupy the same place at all. Forrester mentions Bosch, Siemens, and Samsung SDS in the ranking. Gartner chooses Eurotech, Atos, RootCLOUD, Altizon, Exosite, QiO, Davra, Flutura, and Litmus Automation’s IIoT niche platforms. In his special mentions, he includes solutions from ABB, Alibaba, AWS, Huawei, IoT.nxt, Microsoft, Schneider Electric and Siemens. Gartner excludes SAP Leonardo from its Magic Quadrant.

Forrester perceives an established market, Gartner highlights lack of competitiveness

Thus, Gartner does not identify leaders and considers that the market for IIoT platforms, although there is no shortage of participants, is not yet sufficiently competitive. Most of the publishers mentioned are considered to be niche players. If products evolve quickly, manufacturers are barely starting their connected adventure.

To explain this difference in treatment, it must be understood that Gartner and Forrester are not based exactly on the same criteria. The two firms analyze the feedback from their clients, two slightly different audiences. For its part, Gartner only considers standalone software solutions, independent of components offered by several suppliers, equipment manufacturers or publishers. For example, Siemens was excluded from Magic Quadrant 2019 because it builds on the device management layer of Software AG.

Gartner believes that a publisher of an IIoT platform must offer in a single offer analytical capability, device management, integration tools, IoT data management, means of creating and orchestrating applications, as well as a security layer. Everything must be available on site and in the cloud.

Forrester does not specify in its methodology the choice of choosing all-in-one solutions, although it mentions the same technical evaluation criteria. In addition, the firm performs its analysis in the fourth quarter of 2019 and publishes it in November 2019 while Gartner offers it in June of the same year.

Significant differences between the “leaders”

In addition to these differences, it is interesting to consider the remarks and comments justifying the choices of analysts concerning the actors at the top of the two rankings. In general, Forrester tries above all to present the advantages and functionalities of each of the products. Gartner takes a more critical look with his famous positive and negative points.

Let us first take the example of PTC, an editor highlighted by the two firms. Forrester discusses all the capabilities offered by the PLM expert in its Thingworx platform. This solution, available on the cloud or on site, benefits from a combination of IoT and augmented reality capabilities while being compatible with a large number of industrial equipment thanks to Kepware. PTC relies on an ecosystem of established partners. The strategic alliance with Rockwell Automation is a good example.

In essence, Gartner takes up the same arguments and even considers Thingworx to be “one of the best-known platforms” on the market. It would support nearly 40,000 developers. The firm points out the limits of the analytical tools integrated into Thingworx, reminds that the digital twin functionality is not fully compatible with industrial machines and that its prices are “20 to 50% higher” than those of its competitors.
Software AG, the German publisher of the Cumulocity IoT platform, would offer all of the functionality needed to conduct IIoT projects, according to Gartner. The suite includes Cumulocity IoT Core and Cumulocity IoT Edge. Forrester also highlights the capabilities of edge computing, data management and real-time analytics, and machine learning.

The two analyst firms note the creation of a division dedicated to IoT activities, the partnership with Siemens around the Mindsphere suite and the creation of the ADAMOS joint venture. Gartner mentions that Software AG generates 50% of the revenues from Cumulocity IoT through 55 reseller partners. The publisher has also set up a center of excellence.

The solution has the advantage of supporting 150 pre-integrated devices, 350 protocols. Finally, it benefits from regular updates (every two weeks with a major addition every month). However, Gartner pointed out that Cumulocity IoT did not fully support the OPC UA protocol (which has been the case since December 2019) and Edge functionality, while code review techniques needed to be improved.

Siemens has named its Mindsphere platform. Designed on an open source core (Cloud Foundry), it allows interconnection with third-party applications and is itself composed of elements that do not belong to Siemens (Tableau, Software AG and hosting on AWS, Azure or Alibaba Cloud). This is what Gartner accuses him of, while Forrester sees this actor as a leader. German manufacturer expands equipment management beyond its own devices with Software AG solution.

If C3.AI is not among the candidates selected by Gartner, it is undoubtedly because this editor offers above all an analytical and data science platform. Forrester recalls that this PaaS compatible with Microsoft Azure, was formerly called C3 IoT.

Although the company maintains partnerships with equipment manufacturers, it does not offer a device management system per se but connects with systems allowing it to aggregate the data necessary for analyzes. It is therefore not an IIoT platform in the sense understood by Gartner.

Another element can play in the evaluation of different solutions. Publishers simply have to play the game of analysis. Hitachi declined to respond to Forrester’s request. The latter mentions it in his Forrester Wave based on his knowledge of the Lumada platform and information transmitted by his customers.

According to Gartner, Hitachi has endowed bricks essential to the conduct of IIoT projects. Lumada can integrate with offers from OEM suppliers in different industrial sectors. Customers surveyed see integration features as a definite advantage. Hitachi’s alliances, technological and industrial partnerships would place it in a good position to meet the needs of its customers. However, Lumada’s device management and digital twinning capabilities fell short of customer expectations, according to Gartner.

Cloud providers: IoT bricks versus end-to-end solutions

Regarding cloud providers AWS, Oracle Microsoft, and IBM, only Oracle and Big blue fully meet Gartner’s criteria. Watson IoT Platform has key functionalities, from equipment management to integration and security capabilities to access to analytics and machine learning tools (optional, but that both firms do not specify it).

Customers can rely on the Node Red programming language to build IIoT applications, however Watson IoT Platform support would not be as good as other IBM services, say Gartner analysts.

Oracle IoT Cloud has the merit of offering practically the same functionalities this time in SaaS mode on its own cloud or on private instances. The tool would integrate with third-party applications such as ERP, SCM and CX (Customer Experience) tools. In addition, the supplier offers Oracle IoT Cloud in a pack with its middleware and enterprise applications (MES) offers. However, this application-centric platform is subject to proprietary confinement generally practiced by this operator.

These players are above all partners of choice for all publishers specializing in the integration and analysis of data from connected equipment. Most market players offer their platform from the IaaS layers of these cloud giants.

If AWS could not previously offer a deployment of its solution on site, the availability of Outposts should change Gartner’s opinion regarding his exclusion from the Magic Quadrant. However, both AWS and Microsoft do not offer a platform as such, but managed services that must be added up to deploy use cases. The two players do not have direct connectors to industrial standards and integrate their solution at a gateway capable of communicating data via an MQTT protocol.

They rely on Edge functionality and are able to couple it with embedded machine learning functionality. Microsoft has a large footprint in the augmented reality market complementary to IoT, and partnerships with industry specialists like ABB and Schneider Electric. AWS claims to be the world’s largest IIoT project, Volkswagen’s, in partnership with Siemens.

A complex assessment

The reading grids offered by the two analysis firms are relevant for obtaining an initial opinion on the offers available on the market. They advise you to monitor their publications to fully assess these tools. In an industrial context, the adoption of a PaaS IIoT requires an evaluation of the standards, machines, and operational systems in place.

Consulting the documentation of each publisher is the best action to take to understand if a tool can meet your needs.

Depending on the scale of the project and the existing infrastructure, certain players will be better able to meet your constraints. However, fully connecting a factory is a particularly expensive and complex initiative. Most of these players will recommend that you start with a production line, then deploy step by step. It is also possible to rely on observability bricks to provide an analytical layer to existing systems.

A software suite, as powerful as it is, should not make us forget that the IoT brings together a good number of IT problems (network, storage, compatibility, data ingestion, processing and restitution, etc.) in a single point of attention.

This feature was published in French on www.lemagit.fr.


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