Cisco’s blue ocean: Big data analytics at the edge
By Goh Thean Eu December 23, 2014
- Focusing on analytics in real-time, complements existing solutions
- Move could also boost revenue from routers and solutions business
CISCO Systems Inc, the world's largest networking equipment maker, has created what may amount to a ‘blue ocean’ – an untapped market – with its latest salvo in the big data analytics space.
The San Jose, California-based company believes that it has ventured into a market where it can remain dominant for a long time, as it will be difficult for its rivals to catch up.
Currently, most providers are building analytics solutions that sit in the data centre or at a centralised depository.
For example, a hypermarket store may have data such as daily revenue, types of products sold, and employees’ attendance. These data would most likely be stored at a data centre – where most analytics solutions are also hosted – along with data from other hypermarket stores of the same chain.
The data can then be used to predict market trends – for example, historical data may show that sales of potato chips and other junk food increased every Wednesday over the past nine months at a particular store, perhaps because there’s a cinema near the hypermarket.
Management can decide to stock up on more junk food on Wednesday mornings, or to organise special promotions on that particular day.
However, such an approach may not be the most efficient way of harnessing big data in the world of the Internet of Everything (IoE), where the amount of data being generated is increasingly massive, messy, everywhere, and on the move.
Cisco defines IoE as a technology transition within the Internet of Things, which links up smart devices of every stripe, from smartphones to wearables. IoT focuses on things, while IoE adds people, process and data to that.
The emergence of IoE puts in organisations in a delicate situation – key decision-makers are struggling to make sense of the data and use it to their advantage, while IT managers are struggling to provide the business with all the data they need in real time.
“Understanding these challenges, we know that a new approach is needed to get analytics to the data for instant insights,” Cisco chief executive officer John Chambers (pic) told the Global Editors Conference in San Jose recently.
He said that in order for an organisation to apply analytics effectively, it would need to do two things: First, aggregate the data which sits in the centralised depository (or data centre); then perform analytics at the edge of the network (at the router layer).
By doing so, organisations would be able to correlate historic data at rest, with real-time streaming analytics at the edge, enabling them to immediately respond to threats, dramatically improve business operations, and provide their employees and customers with the best experience possible, Cisco argued.
“In any environment, you need to bring both of those data pieces together. So, our focus is going to be the aggregation of data sitting in the centralised depository, as well as analytics at the edge – and bringing those two together,” said Cisco’s services senior vice president Mala Anand.
Analytics for the IoE era
Moving in that direction, Cisco unveiled the Cisco Connected Analytics for the Internet of Everything portfolio, which collects eight “easy-to-deploy” software packages that bring analytics to data regardless of where that data is located.
The software packages currently available are ‘Connected Analytics’ for events, retail, service providers, IT, network deployment, mobility, collaboration, and contact centres.
Although Cisco may be a little bit late into the big data game, this move may significantly improve its position, and may even strengthen its leadership in the router business.
This is because its big data move involves its analytics software sitting inside its routers within the same premises, instead of inside data centres tens of miles away.
With the solutions sitting inside a router, retailers can have real-time analytics on their customers, and operational data on their stores.
Using the hypermarket example as above, retailers would be able to track customer flow (using data collected from closed-circuit TV), so they would know when to open up a new cashier counter to avoid long queues. With sensors at the shelves, they would know when they need to restock.
The data traffic will go through a router and the analysis will take place there, instead of at the data centre, making analytics quicker and more ‘real-time.’
Another sector that will benefit from analytics at the edge is sports. Using insights from WiFi and device usage reporting, stadium managers would be able to understand what fans are doing, where they are in the venue, and what kind of experience they are having.
This allows them to enhance fan experience by deciding where concession stands need additional staffing, or where extra event security may be needed.
“So basically, we are creating this streaming analytics software that will sit on top of the routers,” said Mala.
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