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Build, buy or rent your IoT communications stack?

Wendy Schott, CMO, PubNub | Aug. 9, 2016
The key things to consider when evaluating the options.

With multiple providers, you have a choice of features, functionality and services. Some vendors choose to be generalists, providing a comprehensive suite of services to meet most basic IoT requirements. Other providers focus on becoming specialists, providing unique features such as minimum worldwide latency, global redundancy and uptime guarantees.

SaaS providers offer multiple pricing models, from per-device or per-node charges to charges based on transactions or data volume. Other factors that affect pricing include SLAs, QoS, geophysical presence and per-feature charges. This gives you flexibility and the ability to control your costs based on your specific application. It also allows you to start small and grow as your application grows, limiting your capital investment.

SaaS solutions are designed to be quick and easy to integrate into your application. In fact, some solutions require only a few lines of code. This allows you to focus on your application, ignoring all of the complexities of IoT communications. The speed and simplicity of SaaS solutions lend themselves to the fail early, fail fast and fail often development model, ensuring that you rapidly innovate towards the most valuable solutions and once you launch, they can scale with your business.

In conclusion, as with most other business decisions, the build versus buy decision boils down to time versus money, CapEx versus OpEx, and Total Cost of Ownership. Building your own IoT communication stack, with or without commercial or open source software, ensures that you have every feature you need. However, it takes a significant investment of time, capital and resources and requires highly specialized technical expertise. 

You should only build your own solution if you can a) create a competitive advantage with your custom software, b) build a big enough business to spread the cost of your proprietary system over a large number of clients, minimizing the per-client cost of the effort c) afford the long time to market and d) have the in-house expertise needed to build and maintain a complex distributed computing environment. 

Given the IoT is still in the early stages the more practical and pragmatic strategy is to use a SaaS provider, enabling you to develop robust, secure and reliable IoT applications while drastically shrinking your capital investment, development.


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