Friday 21st January 2022

Why we turned to an open source database to back our IoT platform

Published on January 12th, 2018

At their core, Internet of Things (IoT) solutions are all about data – collecting valuable information at a magnitude and level of granular detail that has never before been possible. This is perhaps especially true when it comes to enterprise IoT applications, where the ability to oversee operations and utilise data to gain real-time insights and take informed, effective actions is set to revolutionise entire industries, says Conrad Seaman, senior business operations manager at BlackBerry.

Because data is the most crucial element of IoT solutions, the systems that manage this data must be up to the task of handling and delivering it with absolute integrity and consistent availability (at least if those solutions are to perform to their potential).

In our development of the BlackBerry IoT platform, the goal was to produce a product with the reliability, security, and scalability to deliver on a wide range of industry-specific needs in a versatile manner. It was a data challenge that made database selection critical to success.

To give one particular example of what these solutions look like, the completed BlackBerry IoT platform now powers the BlackBerry Radar IoT solution, which enterprises use for logistical visibility into all assets within their transportation fleets.

Within this system, a centralised event processing and analytics engine captures time series data and derives insights based on communication with thousands of tracking devices that are attached to every trailer, chassis and container within a fleet. Given command of this data, enterprises are empowered to rapidly address logistical issues when they arise, and optimise their supply chains for both speed and efficiency.

With the three core design principles of reliability, security, and scalability top-of-mind, the engineers developing the BlackBerry IoT platform set upon the task of investigating and vetting various database options, eventually settling on open source Apache Cassandra as the most appropriate and advantageous choice for following these principles.

As a NoSQL database designed for the cloud, Apache Cassandra offers IoT-ideal capabilities as far as achieving scale and delivering high-availability that other databases find hard to match. The technical team also selected Instaclustr as the managed Apache Cassandra Database-as-a-Service solution provider, in order to realise the benefits of the open source database while keeping internal resources focused intently on building out (and fine-tuning) the platform’s features.

The support and expertise provided by a DBaaS strategy has proven invaluable throughout the development process, and ever since.

As implemented and managed as-a-service, our Apache Cassandra database fulfills the IoT platform’s need for reliability by maintaining better than 6-nines uptime, as well as ensuring that data could be ported to clients’ systems when requested. Overall, Cassandra provides absolute availability (to a degree that downtime has been taken off the table as a concern), while delivering data speeds that achieve the low-latency many IoT applications call for.

With the systemic need of IoT solutions for rapid and near constant data access and data transmission, the success of this NoSQL database in providing the required facility with the data is essential to the functionality of the IoT solutions it supports. Cassandra also meets the stringent security requirements of the platform, where so many IoT devices face risks from hackers and other escalating attacks.

In practice, the database safeguards the privacy and confidentiality of the data it contains, establishing a bulwark from which the platform can transmit information securely. Finally, with the IoT solutions requiring the flexibly to add countless additional sensors and IoT-enabled devices as needs grow and evolve, the database’s capability to seamlessly and painlessly scale to match the scope of maturing deployments is critical.

With our Apache Cassandra NoSQL database environment functioning as a stable, reliable, and secure foundation, we strongly believe it’s possible to build increasingly sophisticated IoT solutions atop that base that’ll include those same key attributes.

The author of this blog is Conrad Seaman, senior business operations manager at BlackBerry

About the author:

Conrad Seaman is senior Business Operations manager at BlackBerry, a mobile-native security software and services company dedicated to securing people, devices, processes and systems for today’s enterprise.

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