“The more a company can automate and eliminate manual tasks, the less it needs to worry about firefighting, and the more it can focus on innovation,” says Jim Xiao, CEO, Mason, in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk.
ET Bureau: Do you think there’s any disconnect between hardware and software in today’s enterprise landscape? If so, how is it affecting business operations across the enterprise world?
Jim Xiao: Yes, absolutely. Today, the makers of the smart device hardware and the creators of enterprise software are not one and the same — device OEMs like Zebra, Samsung or Apple are tied to either the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store and both are focused on beating the other on the consumer experience.
Enterprise hardware should be purposefully designed for the exact enterprise use case, because, unlike software, hardware can’t be recompiled to deploy a new version — it would need to be rebuilt from the core circuit board on up.
Today, a lot of conversations focus and tooling on cloud infrastructure (servers in someone else’s data center). Examples include Docker, Kubernetes and microservices — all the technology to build large-scale enterprise web applications.
However, when it comes to building a product-centered hardware, there’s a huge gap in terms of the tooling needed to deploy and maintain the software for a product.
Companies are building products on dedicated hardware — critical infrastructure to their business — without the same mature, modern, DevOps tooling that’s offered in the cloud. When a company doesn’t have the resources that larger enterprises have to build everything themselves, it can lead to bottlenecks and scalability issues.
ET Bureau: How can CIOs bring the required speed and control of software development to hardware systems?
Jim Xiao: Cloud infrastructure is composed of massive hardware deployments in warehouses that provide maximum uptime by making it fast and affordable to replace server blades.
Smart mobile devices can be thought of as mini servers deployed all around the world.
With a new infrastructure that connects these new device ecosystems on the edge, companies can start to apply the same cloud DevOps methodologies and automation to maintain uptime and speed up the logistics side of their business.
The more a company can automate and eliminate manual tasks, the less it needs to worry about firefighting, and the more it can focus on innovation.
ET Bureau: What steps can enterprises take to seamlessly combine enterprise-grade hardware with a secure as well as customizable Android OS?
Jim Xiao: This industry has traditionally been fragmented, with users needing to use multiple platforms and companies to harness the power of enterprise-grade hardware, a secure and customizable OS, the tools needed to manage the product lifecycle and service delivery including logistics and connectivity.
Enterprises should look to a more flexible approach for procuring and designing enterprise-grade smart devices that provide access to expensive hardware and software IP.
Access to API, feature and security controls will make it possible to effortlessly add, remove or lockdown device capabilities and build devices, as envisioned.
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ET Bureau: How can enterprises leverage advanced technology to maximize the Life Expectancy of Hardware Products?
Jim Xiao: There are three main things enterprises should consider to maximize Life Expectancy of Hardware Products:
- Leverage over-the-air (OTA) update technology to continuously improve the software on devices in the field. Incrementally improving performance, fixing bugs and applying security updates can tremendously increase the lifespan and usefulness of a product. This is similar to how Tesla can upgrade their vehicles via software.
- Use observability tools to remotely gain insights into what’s going on with devices in the field. This can help enterprises diagnose and resolve issues before they become systemic. Observability tools allow managers of enterprise device fleets to remotely monitor devices in real-time, fetch application logs and view and control the device screens.
- Utilize a provider that supports refurbishing and remanufacturing, as this is another way to extend the product life cycle. We see many companies discarding devices with minor cosmetic or repairable defects. Rather than buying new devices all the time, it’s possible to recycle devices, which results in less waste of rare earth metals and lower cost of ownership for an enterprise.
Jim Xiao has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, from starting his early ventures in junior high school to his first company in college. Since then, Jim worked for visionary giants such as Microsoft and Nexlink Communications and worked as an analyst at Detroit Venture Partners. Jim founded Mason to fill an inefficient gap in the B2B hardware space—mobile infrastructure that is elastic and as easy to deploy and scale as AWS. As CEO and founder of Mason, Jim constantly challenges the Mason team to think laterally, question the norms and add value, advancing the company’s mission to build smart and sustainable products that help drive value for humanity.