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Reekoh leverages Azure and open software to strip away IoT complexities

Demand for more data and greater control is accelerating the deployment of internet connected devices across all sectors of the Australian economy.

Analyst Gartner estimates that this year 8.4 billion connected “things” will be deployed globally, and that will soar to 20.4 billion by 2020.

What’s driving demand for Internet of Things (IoT) devices is the race to establish smart cities, to automate mines and factories, deploy autonomous vehicles, to drive economies in business, and to create more sustainable environments. Put simply IoT has the power to transform utterly every business, every sector.

The challenge for enterprises deploying IoT is that there are multiple devices running different code, using various protocols and with few standards. The risk is that IoT networks quickly become tangled and fragmented spaghetti webs of different components – hard to manage, harder to secure.

Australia-based Reekoh however has created an IoT integration platform that restores order and control, and allows richly functioned yet manageable IoT networks to be created swiftly and securely with a focus on open systems that removes the risk of vendor lock in. It’s the reason why Gartner named it one of 2017’s Cool Vendors for the IoT.

Dale Rankine, CEO and co-founder, explains that the company was founded in 2015 just as IoT was gathering pace. With a background in Software as a Service, product development and systems integration, Rankine and his Philippines-based cofounder and Chief Technology Officer Benj Sicam, understood that organisations would need to use many components from different vendors to access and make use of the data flows that would allow them to transform their businesses.

They decided to create an IoT integration platform that would let them do just that, using cloud services, open frameworks and container services such as Docker and Kubernetes. The approach allows Reekoh to remain completely agnostic to the IoT solution components that an enterprise wanted to use and ensures the complete freedom and flexibility of its clients.

Says Rankine; “In Australia we are working with large enterprise customers and system integrators who are looking to develop their own IoT products, services and solutions to take to market. They want to utilise many of the components they are familiar with. As the integration platform we are very much in the background – in the plumbing of data between devices and applications.”

It’s powerful plumbing.

“We power IoT business development for large enterprises in various sectors – telco, property development, utilities, and we have traction in areas such as “smart city” as a vertical market here and in Asia.” In smart cities for example there is an array of IoT point solutions being deployed for smart lighting, smart parking, water management, utilities management, waste management; Reekoh provides the integration and interoperability platform to bring all of that together in a cohesive, manageable solution.

Open Azure offers flexibility and scale

When designing the platform Rankine and Sicam were determined to avoid the complexities and problems associated with vendor lock-in. In any effective IoT deployment there are multiple layers of technology – the device, the network, middleware, analysis, storage – all potentially coming from different vendors.

While the array of alternatives is extensive and growing, and could create challenges for organisations, Rankine says that the rich ecosystem of IoT solutions is beneficial – if the integration and interoperability issues can be addressed efficiently.

Enter Reekoh. Rankine says; “Our aim is to be the glue so the customer can use best-of-breed components for their IoT solution, and be able to do that knowing that there is an abstraction layer allowing them to make the pieces of the puzzle completely interoperable.”

Reekoh itself also operates a rapidly growing marketplace of IoT integrations that can be swiftly deployed and configured into the platform, using its Pipeline Studio visual data workflow design tool.

Underpinning the Reekoh platform is Microsoft Azure and its associated technology stack. Microsoft’s commitment to Open Source Software reassured Rankine and Sicam that there would be no vendor lock in, and Azure’s performance and scalability when running container software such as Docker and Kubernetes would ensure complete flexibility for its clients.

“Microsoft and Azure really aligned well with the outcomes we were trying to achieve,” says Rankine. And that openness extended to Reekoh customers being able to run their IoT network on any cloud – there is no requirement for Reekoh customers to run on Azure; Reekoh and Azure’s support for containerisation assures complete flexibility and vendor agnosticism for its clients.

As Rankine says, customers can; “Plug and play with best-of-breed. Run it yourself, get us to run it. Become an Azure tenant yourself or use another provider.”

Rich IoT solutions

Built on Azure, Reekoh’s IoT platform and its marketplace of integrations leverages multiple elements of the Azure stack alongside over one hundred other technologies, offering clients plug-ins to components such as Cortana, SQL and Power BI, that clients can then integrate into their solutions.

Having been a member of Microsoft’s BizSpark initiative to support startups, Rankine says that Reekoh recognised Azure offers; “Great product alignment with regard to the outcomes that we wanted. It offered scale, ease of customer deployment, automation, and the infrastructure and monitoring that seemed to click with the direction Azure was going in.

Benj Sicam adds that Azure’s support for containerisation meant Reekoh could offer that to its customers without having to manage that element itself – Microsoft took care of containerisation as part of the Azure stack. At the same time basing the Reekoh IoT platform on Azure means; “We don’t have a single point of failure and we can scale applications and platform and deployment of plug ins into Azure.”

“According to Rankine; “According to Rankine; “Reekoh is providing the tools for organisations to not just start, but to mature their adoption of IoT and ultimately move to a more transformative business model that we call the Business of Things.”

“By working with partners such as Microsoft and leveraging their cloud and support for open technologies such as containers, we are delivering IoT capabilities that go beyond what the market perceives as an ‘IoT Platform’ and providing enterprise customers with a way to secure their IoT strategy in a fast-changing environment.”

Rankine says Reekoh is now working on a range of new features to extend its customers’ capability within the Pipeline Studio design tool, a part of the product that isn’t just about creating the data workflows but that has also been helpful for quickly bringing into clear view how solution components work together. This has been particularly helpful for visualising components such as those in the Azure stack that normally require a greater degree of development to bring together, allowing organisations to quickly visualise what they could achieve with IoT.

The goal he says is to provide a platform that organisations can use to; “Interconnect and integrate quickly without a huge amount of application development on top of it.” For organisations which do choose to use Azure components in their Reekoh integrated IoT solution, there is a low technical overhead, and deployments can be completed in a matter of days, if not hours.

“Speed to market is something that we bring compared to competitors,” says Rankine.

The recognition from Gartner is also a feather in its cap. “Gartner and other research firms have been saying for some time that beyond security, integration is one of the largest hurdles for enterprise IoT adoption. Even industry verticals such as “smart city” are now proclaiming “interoperability” as a must-have in any solution.

“And that’s not getting better, in fact it’s getting worse as more technologies flourish and new protocols, attempted standards, applications, networks pop into the ecosystem on a regular basis.

“We take out the pain of integration and interoperability for enterprise customers.”