Don’t be a sitting duck, plan now for Device Lifecycle Management


Google Cloud IoT Core is to be retired, a timely reminder to emphasize the importance of a vendor-agnostic approach to your device lifecycle management.

Last week, came the news that Google plans to retire Google Cloud IoT Core on August 16th, 2023. This gives current enterprise users of Google Cloud IoT Core services less than 12 months to prepare and execute a migration plan.

What this news brought home to us is the strategic importance for users to implement device lifecycle management (DLM) without vendor lock-in. One should consider the importance of having a vendor-neutral device lifecycle management solution that enables your organization to manage device fleet integrity and to plan for such dramatic changes in 3rd party public cloud roadmaps and withdrawal of services.

In any case, you probably connect to several cloud services. The cloud-side, just like the device-side, can change at any time and move outside of your control: Therefore, you need to have device lifecycle management in place to respond to changes and have over the air (OTA) software updates integrated into your devices to help manage these changes successfully. Otherwise, your device fleet is a fragile, “sitting duck” unable to manage changes that will be beyond your control.

Without having a cloud-agnostic device lifecycle management in place, there is no practical way to migrate public cloud services for IoT in just 12 months. And it could have been worse - at least there was some advance notice in the case of Google Cloud IoT Core; in other cases your enterprise could be relying on a vendor that suddenly raises prices or makes other short-term hostile changes that hurt your business.

We believe that as device lifecycle management is at the core of controlling your fleet, you need a long-term, technology agnostic solution as it is too risky to be locked into a single vendor.

Avoid the time-drain of homegrown device lifecycle management solution

Device lifecycle management can be implemented by a development team in house but this is cost-prohibitive and takes time away from your engineering team, which should be used to build product features that differentiate in the marketplace.

With all the major pieces you need to get in place such as product manufacturing, application development, and handling customer support, building and maintaining your own device lifecycle management solution from scratch is the last thing you want to worry about.

Open source device lifecycle management is the superior choice

A better approach is an open source device lifecycle management solution. Mender as a best of breed OTA updates manager can provide device lifecycle management capabilities by acting as a single source of truth for device identity and configurations. This is a good tradeoff between the two: you can have a commercial relationship with the Mender team and use SaaS to save the most time but since the core is open source, you always have the option to host your own open source server and migrate to that.

Crucially, there is no lock-in and your development team won’t waste a lot of time and energy building a homegrown device lifecycle management solution.

Device identity and its lifecycle separate to application layer

It is also worth bearing in mind that public cloud IoT providers' focus is on the application layer and message broker. From their perspective, the device identity is a set of credentials an application can use to connect to the cloud and send and receive messages over MQTT or similar protocols. However, the device identity and its lifecycle are crucial aspects you need to manage independently from the application layer. They represent the foundational layers on top of which you establish trust and build a secure environment where you can run your applications.

Being vendor-neutral and a fully open-source solution, Mender guarantees you complete control over your devices' identities and security. Cloud providers' IoT platforms can use the trust chain established by the Mender client and leverage it to deploy the credentials required by the applications to connect to the Cloud's provider message broker. In this case, switching from one provider to another because of product sunsetting, different feature sets or pricing change becomes less intrusive and impactful. Therefore, it lowers the operating risks of depending on one specific platform.

Get in touch to discuss device lifecycle management planning

We are available to advise Google Cloud IoT Core users with their plans for migration and to ensure that vendor agnostic device lifecycle management is part of that strategic migration. Some notable developments that users of public cloud services for device management should be aware of:

Mender has a reference integration with Azure IoT Hub. Mender will release a reference integration with AWS IoT Core by September 2022. Mender will also release web hooks to integrate with other 3rd party cloud provider IoT platforms and systems by September 2002.

Get in touch with us for advice on your device lifecycle management strategy, and for a migration from one cloud provider (or in-house build) to the next.

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