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Intel and the Intel-of-Things

Intel and the Intel-of-Things
by Tom Simon on 03-22-2015 at 1:00 pm

When I joined Calma in 1982, Intel was a small company making microprocessor chips in a crowded marketplace. They had scored big with IBM who was using their 8088 in the very first personal computer. Wind River was a hatchling with David Wilner and Jerry Fiddler working out of a rented warehouse in Berkeley – I know, I hung out with them back then. And, the internet was something Universities used.

Things have come a very long way indeed. Now, of course Wind River is part of Intel, and the internet is, well, everywhere. In fact, it’s likely that you would have a panic attack if went out without your phone and had to endure an hour or two with no internet. Despite all that has changed and developed in the intervening years, there is more to come, much more.

The internet of things is upon us. Lots of companies are generating marketing buzz around the internet of things, and Intel has put out a white paper that presents a preponderance of evidence that it really should be the Intel of Things. The paper pretty exhaustively makes the argument that everything needed to construct the internet of things can be sourced from Intel.

Remember when they were a hardware company? No so anymore. In reading the paper I was struck by just how far afield they have collected offerings. For instance, while John McAfee himself is sliding into the abyss, his namesake company, now part of Intel, figures prominently in Intel’s IoT strategy, offering key security software. McAfee Embedded Control limits what code is whitelisted, ensuring no malicious code is run. The white paper mentions McAfee Endpoint Encryption as the cornerstone of data security. McAfee Integrity Control provides auditing and compliance information. Lastly, McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator provides central security management.

Intel also reviews their processor line up, for use from sensor control and fusion, to up to server class Xeon cores for building the cloud backend. One of their strong arguments is that there is a great deal of code compatibility across Quark, Atom, Core and Xeon families. And even though Wind River started out as an embedded RTOS company, they now provide OS’s for each link in the IoT chain.

Intel defines the links in the chain as “things”, gateways, network infrastructure, and the cloud. Wind River can still provide bare metal RTOS, to Linux, all the way through code stacks to implement heavy duty network layers on network and cloud hardware. In the cloud layer for application development Intel has acquired companies like Mashery and Aepona for API management and monetization. Clearly Intel wants to play in the software space.

It’s unlikely that a company developing an IoT offering will go whole hog and use everything from Intel, but it is impressive how many pieces they have put together. Even so, while they are strong in processors and networking, sensors are another key area for IoT devices. But the bigger question in my mind is how much is the internet of things like the internet itself? Or, in other words, how much of it will be developed vertically by one company, versus a mosaic (no pun intended) of contributions that add up to larger whole?

To answer this I’d like to come back to my FitBit for a thought experiment. It is a device (aka thing), and it talks to the Fitbit mothership, but how much of all the stuff in the middle does FitBit care about? Well, rightfully, it is agnostic as to what kind of phone I have, or even what kind of Bluetooth chip that is inside my phone. Also does my Fitbit care what embedded OS the network switches at Verizon’s backbone use? It’s impressive that Intel has all this capability. But will there even be one Intel customer that will get it all? Probably not. But if so, what could make it such that everything provided by Intel was used, versus the implied balkanization that the internet offers?

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