Beer, security by design and actual revenue: HPE shows off IoT offerings

Modular Edge servers and augmented reality too

IoT World Congress Beer-as-a-service at American football games is just one of the things Hewlett Packard Enterprise has brought to the Internet of Things playground, its chief IoT technologist, Colin I’Anson, told The Register this morning.

I’Anson also said that, as far as IoT goes, HPE will not be signing any exclusivity deal with partners.

“Nobody is willing to set up exclusive deals. With one company in manufacturing, if you lock in, for example, GE, how do you work with Schneider Electric or Siemens? You have to be very open in this industry and therefore you've got to know what your role is and why you’re important,” he said.

“I’ve got to offer them a really exciting future roadmap into the IT infrastructure, in particular how we secure those environments, how we understand quality, the availability,” he added, revealing that HPE has about 20 IoT partners so far.

Explaining how HPE’s edge processing tech works, I’Anson said: “Local business owners working on data at the edge is a major piece of our strategy.”

The basic principle is that instead of shifting IoT data to and from the cloud, complete with all the overheads that involves, HPE wants to offer potential customers on-premises compute, reducing the amount of data that needs to be beamed up to central cloud-based analysis points.

In theory, said I’Anson, this would enable a local factory manager to monitor all of his instrumented machines himself, rather than relying on a remote techie telling him that something needs servicing - as well as reducing the 80 or 90 per cent of compute workload given over purely to “shuttling stuff up and down between various caches”.

However, with the short lifecycle of IoT components, doesn’t this lead to problems with obsolete kit later down the line?

“The compute engine is just a module you can swap with a more powerful one,” I’Anson said, explaining that other modules in the edge server are also modular and swappable.

El Reg was shown an HPE EL1000 Edge server running an Intel ProLiant CPU, the whole system being hooked up to an IoT-instrumented pump, demonstrated by the company’s Kenneth Leach. On top of the usual sensor data dashboard readout, HPE is also punting an augmented reality offering, allowing factory floor workers using tablets to see exactly which instrumented components of a particular machine need a closer look.

HPE demo at Barcelona. Pic by Gareth Corfield

HPE EL1000 Edgeline server with Intel ProLiant CPU, hooked up to an IoT-instrumented pump - viewed via augmented reality tablet

The specs of the Edge box we were shown was 128GB memory, 2TB storage and a 16-core Intel ProLiant CPU. This, we were told, would be typical of HPE’s edge server offerings for IoT use cases.

Secured by design, we say

Security is baked into HPE’s IoT thinking, I’Anson said. “The other thing we can get, thanks to redesigning the compute architecture, is security. All data is encrypted at rest, all data in transit is encrypted. Accidental exploits and the ability to get in touch with memory space is useless.”

He continued: “Everyone is waving their arms about security. Very good, but you’ve got to come back to the fundamentals. If you don’t understand how to do the security design properly at the beginning, you’re not going to do a proper end-to-end solution. When we teach architecture, we show [our students] what is special about the threats and issues in the environment. We show them why there’s a large attack surface, we start to tell them about what you need to do with that. Many IoT systems are mission and business critical; if they stop working, your product will fail… as far as we’re concerned, all new products will have security by design.”

I’Anson added that everyone should read the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture security standards (PDF overview here) “because it gives a great introduction for security experts to understand our end-to-end requirements” and also “exposes them to lots of the mechanisms.”

Nonetheless, he was realistic about securing the Internet of Things: “You can’t protect all of the IoT world because it’s designed around living inside trusted factories, i.e. with security fences and other physical security features. That’s OK where there are wired networks but you have to be very careful when wireless networks are on the [factory] floor.”

He concluded: “Security isn’t something people say is a tickbox. It’s got to be taken on a systematic end to end basis.”

The really important part of IoT

As for beer-as-a-service? HPE deployed its IoT gear into the home stadium of the San Francisco 49ers. Around four per cent of the Levi’s Stadium, home to the 49ers, took up the BaaS offer, equating to about 2,740 thirsty punters. I’Anson said this was a worked example of Aruba’s Wi-Fi networking - Aruba was bought out by HP for $3bn in 2015 and has since been absorbed into HPE - combined with its own value-adding IoT proposition. HPE’s chief IoT technologist added that as well as providing beer-as-a-service, the basic concept of ordering beer through your stadium seat was easily extended to ordering food and merchandise too, extending its revenue-generating opportunities.

Now, about that pint... ®

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