The Battle for the Industrial Network Edge

By Chantal Polsonetti

Industry Trends

Cloud-based industrial enterprise applications, particularly in the important analytics arena, require ongoing data flows from the myriad of sensors, devices, assets, machinery, and other equipment resident in the field.   Increasingly, edge devices are being called upon to translate data from these end devices and serve data up to enterprise clouds and their associated business applications.  This need to “feed the beasts” is behind the push for sensor-to-cloud and edge-to-cloud integration and is driving enterprise platform agents to the edge.

Much of this activity is from IT-oriented entrants looking to enable sensor-to-cloud connectivity to feed analytics and similar applications that reside on higher-level IoT platforms. Enterprise platform suppliers are migrating cloud platform agents onto industrial network edge infrastructure devices in pursuit of seamless delivery of filtered output to the cloud as well as the ability to run applications on the device-resident platform agent.  Edge-to-cloud integration and migration of enterprise platform agents to the edge are needed to fulfill these objectives.

ARC perceives an emerging “battle to the edge” as a result of these developments, one that is currently most obvious between the GE Predix Machine and the Cisco/IBM IOx/Watson IoT environments. These industry heavyweights are bringing their platforms to edge devices via field agents embedded in both their own and their partners’ products.  Examples include the Predix Machine agent used in network gateways from GE, Dell, and HPE, as well as the IBM Watson IoT agent resident on Cisco routers.  Cisco has also attracted industrial partners such as Mazak as a result of its recent unbundling of the IOx platform.

Supplier Products Cloud Platform Agent Device Resident?
Cisco 8x9 Series Routers IOx/IBM Watson IoT Yes
Dell 5100 Series Gateways Predix Machine Yes
General Electric Field Agent Gateway Predix Machine Yes
Hewlett Packard Edgeline Predix Machine Yes
Mazak SmartBox Cisco IOx Yes
Siemens SIMATIC IoT 2000 MindSphere Future

Current and potential adopters of cloud-based application environments need to evaluate which device-to-cloud integration is best for them: a tool-based strategy or one that relies on platform agents that tighten integration with the overall enterprise architecture and enable edge applications.  Industrial edge infrastructure suppliers must also evaluate whether their customer base will be looking for this type of device-to-cloud integration via one of these platform agents.  ARC expects the choice of lead supplier will determine whether or not to adopt a platform agent and that we’re most likely to see hybrid installations.

Content for this blog was drawn from ARC’s recently-released Industrial Gateways Global Market Research Study, part of the company’s ongoing coverage of the markets for Industrial Internet of Things devices, network infrastructure, and enterprise applications.  Further information is available at:


Engage with ARC Advisory Group