Will the Cloud Become the Internet of Things' Operating System and Bus Paradigm?

We must look for and use patterns all the time.
By Ed Featherston

Auto-discovery, USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth: Brave New World, Brave New Risks
Let's fast-forward to the present day, when we connect devices to our PCs physically, via a Universal Serial Bus (USB), or wirelessly, such as through a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. The computer's OS auto-discovers these devices, finds the drivers on the Internet and configures itself to provide a connection for applications to leverage. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, in particular, have become virtual buses for our PCs' accessories, whether we are talking about printers, keyboards or webcams.

All of that convenience does come at a price, however. Everything is a tradeoff. The tradeoff here is increased risk, especially in the area of security. Internal buses created physical connections. You knew the device that was connecting to your system was safe, since you had the physical control. Now, with this virtual bus, you need to be sure the device to which you are connecting is the actual device you perceive it to be. There are mechanisms in place to mitigate risk. One example is Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). A user initiates this at the target (the router), is provided with a personal identification number (PIN) and can then initiate a connection from the device using that PIN. This helps validate that you have physical access to both, limiting the risk of allowing an unplanned device to connect to your virtual bus.

This model works for devices I want on my network. The challenge will be this: How do I determine if that device should have access to a cloud environment, or if the cloud environment has access to that device? One way may be to extend the virtual bus pattern to a cloud bus, with devices and clouds mutually authenticating each other.

Will the Cloud Become the New OS and Bus?
No analogy is perfect, including the one I have just presented. In the Internet of Things, we are already connecting a massive amount of new devices to a virtual bus. In the process, though, we still communicate with these devices with specialized applications, harkening back to the days of serial ports on our PCs. In order for us to get full value from this brave new world of things, we need to think about how we make it easier to connect and share these devices and the information they provide. Wireless communication standards are not enough. They allow a physical connection, but do not address the virtual connection of devices to cloud environments for mutually agreed access.

Perhaps, if we were to think of the cloud as an operating system, and define a virtual cloud bus for connectivity, this could provide a standard mechanism for all of our devices to communicate with other devices on the virtual cloud bus. That, in turn, could help lead us to solutions for the ecosystem challenge. Will it work? It is difficult to predict at this early stage, but I will say this: The patterns are interesting, and it will be fascinating to see where these technologies take us.

Ed Featherston is a senior enterprise architect and director at Collaboraive Consulting.

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