While expectations are high for the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s also a bit of a mess right now in terms of the number of protocols and platforms that exist. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is trying to address that by giving customers greater control over IoT devices that need cellular connectivity with the new HPE Mobile Virtual Network Enabler (MVNE).
HPE has been working with the enterprise sector and service providers to help them with their existing networks, and it’s become “very clear to us that there are just too many networks that are all attempting to service IoT,” Jeff Edlund, CTO of Communications Media & Solutions for HPE, told FierceWirelessTech.
Besides LTE-based technologies, there are network technologies that use unlicensed spectrum, such as LoRa and Sigfox, and a number of groups are promoting their flavor of IoT, whether it be Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee or Z-Wave. In just the platform category alone, Edlund counts 207 different platforms, and while attempts are being made to diminish fragmentation in IoT, it’s still a bit of a problem.
HPE says its MVNE provisioning, configuration, administration and billing services—paired with wide area mobile network operator coverage—change the economics of large-scale deployments by reducing IoT provisioning costs by up to 80%. Part of its secret sauce, if you will, is not so secret. HPE is using the oneM2M interoperability standard to manage MVNE devices.
Launched by a worldwide group of standards organizations in 2012, oneM2M's initial goal was to address the need for a common M2M service layer that could be readily embedded within various hardware and software and relied upon to connect myriad devices in the field with M2M application servers worldwide.
"The way we envision the market starting to evolve, there’s this space between the device and the IoT platform, regardless of who the device manufacturer is and who the IoT platform manufacturer is,” Edlund said, and there are a lot of different cellular technologies as well as fixed wireless and fixed wired networks that need to be dealt with. “That’s the whole reason for us building this mobile virtual network enabler capability is to be able to allow people who are not a service provider or people who are an enterprise with a large global footprint to be able to go to one global entity and get a mobile virtual network that will work on a global footprint and provide them connectivity for IoT devices.”
HP does not own the radio access network, but it can get access to it from service providers and put in place a wholesale agreement for data, connecting its mobile network core to them. In some cases, it’s more efficient to use an interconnect provider, like Syniverse or Neustar, which can be less profitable for HPE but allows for scaling the MVNO footprint a lot faster.
Even though it looks like HPE is setting itself up as a sort of MVNO for IoT, it is not competing with wireless operators. “I don’t think we’re competing with them at all,” Edlund said, explaining that HPE is giving them access to large enterprise accounts that they’re typically not as good at reaching. Plus, it's buying up wholesale excess capacity on their networks that would otherwise go unsold and introduces an entirely different cost model.
“Our entire network from switching on down is built using network functions virtualization, and it’s all software,” he said. “We can bring a price point to delivering a network for IoT that they can charge $1 per device and still get a good margin and revenue off of it,” whereas with a smartphone model, they’ve got to charge $50 in order to get margin and revenue off of it.
“What HPE is really trying to do is develop an IoT ecosystem that is standards-based, very low cost, addresses the market in a horizontal fashion versus a vertical fashion and provide specialized connectivity for IoT so that we can bring an end-to-end offer not only to our carrier customers but to enterprise as well,” he said.
The HPE Universal IoT Platform supports long-range, low-power connectivity deployments such as LoRa and Sigfox, as well as devices that use cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The latest enhancements to the platform include what HPE describes as lightweight M2M standards support for plug-and-play interoperability between IoT devices; expanded device management that allows management of both SIM and non-SIM-based devices across different systems, devices and applications; and increased LoRa gateway support, enabling the use of multiple LoRa gateways with a common set of applications to simplify device provisioning and control in heterogeneous LoRa environments.
“We’re really taking a holistic approach to connectivity,” said Alan Ni, director of vertical marketing at Aruba Networks, which HP acquired last year. Aruba is unveiling the Aruba ClearPass Universal Profiler and the Aruba 2540 Series Switches to identify and inventory all IoT devices as they connect to the network. The ClearPass Universal Profiler automatically identifies the attributes of IoT devices as they attempt to connect to the network, enabling IT managers to catalog which IoT devices are on wired and wireless networks and assign the appropriate policies to each one.