Company Emerges from Stealth to Power Real-Time Apps at the Edge

Company Emerges from Stealth to Power Real-Time Apps at the Edge

The Internet of Things ecosystem is changing computing in almost a seismic shift. But like geology, it builds up over time and then the event happens before you know it.

We had centralized, on-site computing revolutionized by PCs. We networked PCs and wound up with centralized computing in the cloud. Demands from building the Internet of Things (or Industrial Internet of Things for us manufacturing and production geeks) expose the flaws of cloud computing. The next hot thing—edge.

Yesterday the CEO/co-founder of Zededa talked with me about the computing platform his company is building with no less a mission than to build the largest computing company on Earth without owning infrastructure. Its vision—create a new edge economy that allows applications to run anywhere.

Some of what follows may sound familiar. I’ve talked with many companies doing a piece of what Zededa has laid out, but none are as audacious as this.

In brief, Zedeta…

  • Closes $3.06M in Seed Funding
  • Pioneering a secure, cloud-native approach to real-time edge applications at hyperscale for solutions ranging from self-driving cars to industrial robots
  • Built a team comprised of distinguished engineers from top tech companies in cloud, networking and open source to solve the edge computing puzzle and disrupt the status quo
  • Seed round was led by Wild West Capital; other investors include Almaz Capital, Barton Capital and Industry Veteran Ed Zander, former CEO of Motorola and former COO of Sun Microsystems

“Tomorrow’s edge computing environment that enables digital transformation will be distributed, autonomous and cooperative. The edge is complex and not only has to scale out securely, but simultaneously must become friendlier for app developers. That’s the problem we are solving at ZEDEDA,” stated ZEDEDA CEO and Co-Founder Said Ouissal. “It will require a drastic shift from today’s embedded computing mindset to a more secure-by-design, cloud-native approach that unlocks the power of millions of cloud app developers and allows them to digitize the physical world as billions of ‘things’ become smart and connected.”

ZEDEDA will use the funding for continued research and product development, investment in community open-source projects for edge computing as well as further investment in sales and marketing initiatives. ZEDEDA investors include Wild West Capital and Almaz Capital, whose funding was part of a broader group investors, some of whom also invested in IoT/edge companies Theatro and Sensity Systems (now Verizon).

In the coming wave of pervasive computing, real-time apps, cyber-physical systems and data services such as machine learning and analytics will become commonplace. ZEDEDA envisions an open ecosystem and a completely new technology stack that creates a service fabric essential to achieving the hyperscale that will be required in edge computing.

To realize that goal, ZEDEDA has pulled together a distinguished roster of industry veterans from legendary technology companies with expertise in areas of operating systems, virtualization, networking, security, blockchain, cloud and application platforms. This unique blend of skills combines with the team’s deep connections to core open-source projects and standardization bodies. The team’s work has directly contributed to software and system patents as well as industry standards used by billions of people around the world today.

“A new paradigm and massive innovation is needed to meet demand for IoT and edge computing,” said Kevin DeNuccio, Founder of Wild West Capital and ZEDEDA’s lead investor. “Massive shifts in technology, including the proliferation of IoT, paves the way for industry disruption, which large incumbents tend to inhibit. Disruption takes a combination of an entrepreneurial team with a very unique set of collective experience, groundbreaking ideas, and the ability to garner immediate traction with global industrial leaders, who can transform their business with machine learning and artificial intelligence delivered by the Edge connected IoT world. ZEDEDA is simply one of the most promising edge computing startups out there.”

“Operations Technology teams face major challenges when it comes to fully realizing the advantages of an IoT world. Their worlds are becoming massively connected systems dealing with virtualization, networking and security,” stated Christian Renaud, Research Director, IoT at 451 Research. “Our recent research shows that while OT teams have the application plans for leveraging IoT, the vast majority of organizations’ IT resources and capabilities are maxed out. This leaves open the question of how these edge applications and IoT will scale out without compromising security or taxing resources even further in the future.”

Ouissal told me, “Edge is the next big wave, bigger than cloud, simply because of the sheer size of the number of devices. The goal is ubiquitous compute where applications want to interact real-time. The problem with the cloud is that it’s centralized. This ecosystem is truly Cyberphysical—just like your Industry 4.0.”

The current IoT model of sending all data to the cloud for processing, won’t scale due to:

  • Bandwidth
  • Latency
  • Privacy issues

Three problems that the company is attacking:

1. Moving apps now running in the cloud to the edge

2. Edge-to-edge communication, key for autonomous systems, peer-to-peer

3. Security, cloud requires cyber security, but at the edge we must add physical security—someone could walk in and carry out an intelligent device

Ouissal often mentioned the need to rethink management of the edge. There exists a big difference between managing cloud and edge. Zedeta is tacking the variety of management challenges for updating and managing thousands to millions of embedded devices.

Solutions the team are developing include:

1. Security-built on platform, use keys, trusted, health check with every plug in, embedded virtualization

2. management-virtualization->can run multiple sessions on a device, eg robot motion on one session and analytics on another all on same embedded system, can scale this to millions of devices

3. Networking-monitor, watch lists, anomaly detection, analyze why, VPN architecture

This is all fascinating. I can’t wait to talk with competitors and potential competitors in a couple of weeks in Hannover and during some upcoming trips to get responses.

Digital Transformation Leads To Digital Reinvention

Digital Transformation Leads To Digital Reinvention

“Digital Transformation is so last year. While many legacy companies around the world are still grappling with “transforming” their digital ecosystems, the true leaders are already on to next hot topic: Digital Transformation 2.0. We’ll call it ‘Digital Reinvention.’ ” Media relations agencies, aka PR agencies, must be under constant pressure to get messages published however they can. I’m flooded with teasers such as this one. And few, if any, take the time to know if their target is a good place for the news. It’s almost like there is no strategy other than send out as many promos as possible and hope some land.

Most I just delete. Then I get the inevitable follow up, when are you going to run my news (that probably doesn’t apply to your coverage but I need numbers)?

I bit on this one. Is Digital Reinvention an attempt to coin a new marketing phrase? Is it a real thing with a real definition? Dr. Google told me that the phrase has been around for several years, but it has not caught on. Maybe Rick Bullotta will catch on with Industry 4.5? (Search on LinkedIn)

The press release introduced me to Alfresco co-founder John Newton. He was quoted, “the whole notion of infinite computing, infinite storage, and resilience is just completely different.” Those changes are having a profound impact on how companies think about their future. Cloud adoption is happening at the speed of light as companies embrace the idea that they are no longer limited by server space. Responsive design and responsive applications are driving not just apps, but the entire business model. Companies like Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit and the behemoth, Amazon, are taking those words to heart and constantly reinventing each day.

So, I talked with Newton. He mentioned they had done a survey on what companies were achieving with Digital Transformation, how fast they were growing—innovative, size, etc. That formed the foundation for his thoughts. He told me to look at platform, design, and business operations. How open are they to connecting to customers and suppliers. Innovators looked at Digital Transformation not as technology only but also as business operations stretching to customers and supply chain.

Newton called out ‘design thinking’ that looks from the users point of view to make technology human. Another type of today’s thinking is ‘open’—open source, open standards, open architecture. “This will trump all other forms. It is naturally attractive to customers. The more profound is platform thinking. This is dominating in the stock market. Five of the top 10 value companies are platform plays, including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon. They have a long term relationship with customers. In manufacturing think after-service care, maintenance and service relationships. Product is almost a loss leader. Digital twin is part of the platform play, for example, using it to predict failures.

Twenty-five minutes into the conversation, Newton had not tried to sell me on Alfresco. I had looked him up and noted he had founded Documentuum before founding Alfresco. So, I had to ask. Always need to learn about new companies. “We help create and manage documents and processes,” he told me. “We have a different way of thinking—open, open source, architecture, cloud friendly, AWS templates, manage in a matter of minutes.” Sounds interesting. All of my favorite concepts.

HMI SCADA Supplier Launches Enterprise Integrator Program

HMI SCADA Supplier Launches Enterprise Integrator Program

HMI SCADA as a technology product continues to grow and adapt in this Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) world. Once a control room technology, new iterations make it a natural for the Internet of Things. Steve Hechtman, founder of Inductive Automation, approached me some 15 years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long) at a trade show to explain a new HMI SCADA product built with Java and IT-friendly technologies. The product has evolved substantially over the years, but the IT-friendly aspect is proving valuable in this new IT/OT convergence atmosphere.

So, now we have HMI SCADA and Enterprise linked. Inductive Automation has named Brock Solutions as the first system integrator in the new Inductive Automation Enterprise Integrator Program. Inductive Automation defines Enterprise Integrators as those with a high level of Ignition certification, a global presence, the ability to take on enterprise-wide projects, and 250 or more engineers, among other requirements.

Ignition by Inductive Automation is an industrial application platform with fully integrated tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Ignition is used in virtually every industry, in more than 100 countries.

“We’re very excited to be the inaugural member of Inductive Automation’s new Enterprise Integrator program,” said Davin McDougall, operations leader at Brock Solutions. “This program focuses on organizations looking for an integration partner like Brock Solutions with global/national reach, technical expertise, and breadth of services to roll out enterprise-wide Ignition solutions that are repeatable, scalable, sustainable, and — most importantly — that drive business value.”

Inductive Automation first made the announcement at its Ignition Community Conference (ICC) in 2017. Also at ICC 2017, Brock’s John Southcott presented a session with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company about how Brock aided Reynolds in its highly successful enterprise-wide transformation.

Brock Solutions worked closely with Inductive Automation on the development and launch of the Enterprise Integrator Program. “It’s been a pleasure working with Brock Solutions the past three years, and we’re very happy to designate Brock as our first Enterprise Integrator,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “Brock Solutions’ thorough knowledge of its customers, its committed team members, and its strong business processes have led to some very impressive installations of the Ignition software platform, and we look forward to seeing Brock put together more large-scale projects in the future.”

Brock Solutions is an engineering solutions and professional services company specializing in the design, build and implementation of real-time solutions for broad-based industrial/ manufacturing and transportation/logistics organizations globally. With more than 400 employees, Brock Solutions is a privately held, employee-owned organization with more than 30 years in the real-time solutions space.

Inductive Automation creates industrial software cross-pollinating IT with SCADA technologies.

[Disclaimer: Inductive Automation is an advertiser, but they do not dictate my coverage of either it or the space.]

Feedback on My AVEVA and Schneider Electric Software Post

Feedback on My AVEVA and Schneider Electric Software Post

There were some good responses to my post on LinkedIn regarding the AVEVA software / Schneider Electric Software deal. Check out Sandy Vasser’s comments. Those remind me of a conversation I had with a Schneider executive many years ago following a small acquisition. I was actually enthused with the acquisition and explained all the cool things I thought they could do with the new technology. He responded, “Wow. I should have you talk to my product team. These are great ideas.”

The conversation went no further. 2-Evidently is was just an acquisition with no strategic thought. 3-In the end, it went nowhere. Maybe like the Citect acquisition that never really panned out.

Sandy Vasser, retired from ExxonMobil, said, “This is a significant opportunity for Schneider to make more and more project delivery, operation and maintenance activities almost “just happen”. There should be opportunities to simplify HMI development. By interfacing AVEVA Electrical with ETAP and Schneider electrical systems, there should be opportunities to automatically program protective relays and update the settings when the electrical systems change. Schneider should sit down with all of their users and brainstorm all of the possible activities that could be automated or greatly simplified.”

He is right on. This is an opportunity. But I don’t know if it will happen. When I was evangelizing MIMOSA and its non-platform platform OIIE, we had that vision of automatic interfaces of data from design to construction to operate & maintain. There is some interest in the owner/operator community, but in the end they will probably pay big money to the Accentures of the world.

Robert Zwick, Automan Controls, noted, “New alliances will be formed in response to this AVEVA reverse takeover by Schneider Electric. We have already seen Emerson align themselves with Aspen Technology. I’m sure we’ll see Intergraph start making significant alliances as well.

The reverse takeover moves the Schneider Electric Software business into UK, where there is a different taxation environment than France. Plus Schneider Electric can now begin to see a P/E multiple of a software business rather than a stodgy old electrical manufacturer. Both of these points should put dollars into this new business to accelerate the merger, consolidation, and growth. At least one can only hope.”

Yes, there has been substantial consolidation in the industry over the past five years or so. This is probably good. But this will ultimately free up space for the innovative startups that solve real customer needs–until they sell out to the big companies.

Digital Transformation Council

Digital Transformation Council

Digital Transformation has generated so much news that company executives have begun ordering projects and task forces within the company to begin that transformation. The pressure on engineers and IT people increases with each new directive. To help clients deal with these new directives, ARC Advisory Group launched the Digital Transformation Council (DTC) at its 2018 Forum.

The council is a member community for industry, energy, and public-sector professionals. Membership is by invitation only and restricted to end users of digital transformation technology, such as professionals working for manufacturers, utilities, and municipalities. There is no fee to join.

“As data-driven market disruption grows, professionals across similar industries need to connect and learn from one another,” according to Jesus Flores-Cerrillo, Associated R&D Director at Praxair, one of the world’s largest providers of industrial gases. He added, “It’s becoming mission-critical to understand how to use data to develop services and products and optimize operations and assets. That can only be accomplished by understanding the possibilities provided by modern data tools such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and digital twins.”

“We are delighted to support the Digital Transformation Council by bringing members together in person and online,” commented Greg Gorbach, Vice President at ARC Advisory Group. “This community will enable individuals and companies to get up to speed quickly on digital transformation innovations and share ideas about what provides value and what doesn’t.”

Each February, a member-only meeting, anchored to the annual ARC Industry Forum, will bring the Council together to set the focus and agenda for the coming year. Members will also gather via virtual quarterly meetings to discuss research findings, activities, and other topics.

In addition to annual in-person meetings and quarterly virtual meetings, Digital Transformation Council members will have year-round access to research and fellow members via an online community. ARC Advisory Group’s role will be to conduct research, organize meetings, provide venues, and facilitate peer-to-peer discussions. ARC will also deliver technical support for the group’s online presence.
The DTC will address topics such as analytics, industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity, and additive manufacturing.

Open Platform and Digital Twin

Open Platform and Digital Twin

I am a sucker for open platforms. When the PR agency wrote with a teaser about discussing open platforms with Marc Lind, SVP Strategy at Aras, a PLM supplier, I bit. They threw in “digital twin” and “digital thread” as the topping and cherry atop the sundae, and the appointment was made.

We talked just before Christmas, but I’ve had such a crazy January that I’ve just now gotten to this in my pile of things to write.

PLM is often thought of as an enterprise application and covered by analysts who also watch such areas as ERP. I’ve talked with suppliers for years as a magazine editor, but they didn’t really seem to fit well within the magazines and they most likely were not advertising prospects, so there wasn’t pressure to write much. I’m saying that I’m not an expert in the area like some of my friends.

But I’ve followed the technology for many years. I’ve seen it coming—this coordination of digital and physical. As soon as the digital folks could get it all together—especially better databases and interfaces—then I knew we’d be much closer to the realization of digital manufacturing.

Lind told me something about the Aras platform. First, he said, was the attempt at doing away with silos where you might have your mechanical CAD, then have your electrical CAD, then perhaps your MES, and your ERP. He said not only was there a problem within manufacturing, think about the next step, say connected cars and other systems of systems, where things really need to interact across boundaries.

Check out the Aras platform. It’s interesting. And once again as I’m seeing more often, it is exploring a different business model that can make its platform and products available to a wider customer base. For other writing I’ve done on open platforms, click the small “ad” on my site to download the MIMOSA white paper.

Digital Twin

We also talked digital twin, one of the foundation concepts for digital manufacturing.

He said the term Digital Twin was coined back in 2002 by Dr. Michael Grieves while at University of Michigan. Effectively, the Digital Twin is an exact virtual representation of a physical thing. It’s as if the physical product or system was looking in a virtual mirror.

Grieves describes it as a mirroring (or twinning) of what exists in the real world and what exists in the virtual world. It contains all the informational sets of the physical ‘thing’ meaning its cross-discipline – not just a mechanical / geometric representation, but also including the electronics, wiring, software, firmware, etc.

Many people talk about Digital Twins in the context of monitoring, simulation and predictive maintenance which are all incredibly valuable and potentially transformative in their own right, however, there would seem to be much more to it.

“As products of all types move to include connectivity, sensors, and intelligence we can’t just think about the data streaming back from the field.”

Without accurate “Context” – Digital Twin – time series data generated during production and ongoing operation is difficult or even impossible to understand and analyze.

In addition, the ability to interpret and act upon these data often require traceability to prior information from related revisions – Digital Thread.

“To complicate matters further as artificial intelligence / cognitive computing is introduced the necessity for the Digital Twin becomes even greater. If Knowledge = Information in Context, then without a Digital Twin, machine learning won’t work as intended, will be rendered ineffective or worse… potentially leading to risky misinterpretations or misdirected actions.”

Finally, Lind warns, “Because without Context – Digital Twin – the IoT-enabled value proposition is severely limited and could introduce real liability.”

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