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19 October 2018

Intel teams up with ARM’s Pelion PaaS

ARM’s Pelion PaaS has signed new ecosystem partners, as ARM tries to extend up the stack from its chip designs to a fully-fledged platform offering. To this end, Intel’s support is quite notable, but the addition of Arduino and myDevices is a sign of developer buy-in too. ARM is looking to build on a recent win with MNO Sprint, which is using Pelion as the basis of its Curiosity IoT service, and just to spice things up a little more, ARM has also launched Mbed Linux OS too.

Some have been too quick to liken this to a coming-together of rivals, but nowadays, Intel has effectively conceded defeat in the low-power IoT silicon world. And while Intel threw in the towel on its IoT chips, it doesn’t have much to worry about in the immediate future from ARM’s server-grade CPU ambitions. Intel has other fires to fight in the data center world, from GPUs and ASICs that could steal the bulk of AI-based workloads.

In a connected building, Intel’s chips are going to turn up in gateways and control centers or plant rooms, while ARM’s lower-power designs will be driving the edge-devices – sensors, actuators, nodes, etc. To this end, Intel and ARM don’t have all that much overlap. Sure, ARM would like to be a stronger presence in the sensor gateways that are collecting data from the end-points and then processing it before piping it up to an Intel-powered cloud, but as it stands, ARM’s presence in the end-nodes looks incredibly secure from potential Intel incursions.

Perhaps one of the strangest lines we’ve found in a press release, ARM says that the “IoT requires a village, and ARM is tapping into its leadership in building ecosystems by fostering a diverse team of partners to enable the IoT to scale securely.”

Maybe we’re missing a cultural touchstone somewhere, but ‘village’ is rather quaint, and not particularly cutting edge. Either way, Intel is on board, and is collaborating with ARM to ensure that any device running Mbed Linux OS will be able to talk to the Pelion IoT Platform, which in turn then links that device to whatever cloud application you desire.

It’s important to reiterate that Pelion is not a cloud-based application platform, like Amazon’s AWS, Google’s Cloud Platform, or Microsoft’s Azure. Rather, it is trying to do everything below that level, from the device right the way up to the application pushing that data out to an analytics system, ERP management tool, or asset tracking function.

ARM put the finishing touches to Pelion back in August, acquiring Treasure Data, an enterprise-focused data management specialist, for a rumored $600mn, and stacking it on top of the also recently-acquired Stream Technology connectivity and MVNO assets. Those two companies were integrated inside ARM’s existing Mbed Cloud platform, to create Pelion.

ARM currently plans to use Pelion as a way to prepare data to be exported to other data analytics providers. Currently, those analytics are delineated, carried out by customers or partners. ARM’s Dipesh Patel, president of the IoT Services Group, said that this was because there are such large segmentations between different verticals and applications.

Partnering to create an ecosystem of experts is an easier approach than having a one-size-fits-all approach, it seems. So, Pelion’s role is getting the data from the end-device ready to be exported to a third-party cloud. For now at least, that’s the extent of ARM’s ambition.

As for the other two new partners, Arduino is partnering to get access to better data plans via Pelion Connectivity Management, ranging from prototype to production scale. For myDevices, a LoRa proponent that has its Cayenne IoT development system, the company’s IoT in a Box developer kit is being closely integrated with Pelion, so that its target SMB customers can more easily fire up a prototype via Cayenne and then Pelion.

The Mbed Linux OS is meant to be a sister to ARM’s older Mbed OS, the latter of which was based on an RTOS kernel and designed for microcontrollers (MCUs). Both are open source, but as the name suggests, the Linux OS variant is based on the Linux kernel, apparently borrowing from Yocto Linux. Essentially, the Mbed OS is for designs using the Cortex-M family of MCUs, while the new Mbed Linux OS is for the more capable Cortex-A family of CPU cores – not that this is especially clear from the launch materials. The new OS is available through an early access program.