• Rachel Taylor

Navigate the Chip Shortage and Regain Control of Supply Chains with Software-Defined Operations



The semiconductor and chip shortage will continue for months and years to come, with some reports projecting it could go into 2023. The prospect of having to wait two years for electronics or components for business critical projects is simply an unworkable timeframe for many companies that have already experienced losses or delays in strategic initiatives.


We're at the point where the bottleneck is starting to require a different way of thinking, it requires innovation. For example, Tesla just announced that it rewrote the software for the microchips that power their vehicles to allow for alternative chips that are currently available.


If this seems like an extreme measure, consider the options: Tesla could take “several weeks” to rewrite their software at no insignificant cost, but had they not done it, they would still be waiting several months for the chips their systems were dependent on to arrive.


An observation: a quick LinkedIn search shows that Tesla has more than 140 embedded engineers on staff. While we don’t know for certain how many of them were dedicated to working on rewriting their code, we can guess it was more than a few. This decisiveness enabled Tesla to deliver more than 200,000 vehicles to customers over the last few months, while other car makers delayed production and pushed new car shipments. Estimates are that 1.3m fewer cars will be made this year than planned due to the shortage.


Tesla's handling of the situation is an example of how software-defined operations can manage against supply chain challenges, mitigate vendor lock-in and support a more agile production model. However, most organizations don't have Tesla's resources and in-house software development capabilities. There are better options within reach that would offer benefits and outcomes to companies even if they don’t have an army of firmware engineers at their disposal.


Nubix, for example, enables companies to build and deploy applications and firmware to existing edge systems (such as IoT), eliminating the requirement to rebuild software based on hardware availability. The platform works by deploying small, containerized code blocks (which we call Tiny Services) to existing hardware. The Nubix architecture can also be used to deploy new or updated firmware, applications, security, analytics, etc.


Once deployed, Nubix enables companies to adopt a software-defined operations model, which provides four key benefits:


TIME

If your company's digital transformation project depends on a specific gateway, chips, or hardware affected by the chip shortage, you're stuck — potentially for a year or more. Nubix can help get your project back on track by enabling your company to switch to a hardware option that is actually available.


Nubix is a software installation, and as such, our platform portability allows you to move the pre-existing application to new, available hardware rapidly and safely, unlocking you from OEM-specific hardware dependency.


Even outside of major transformation projects, Nubix enables our customers to take control of their supply chain. Rather than having the entire supply chain dependent on long-lead, hard-to-get or expensive hardware, it can be overhauled to run on applications that work with a wide range of chips and hardware. This reduces pinch points and allows for a more reliable and predictable schedule, where hardware can be sourced from multiple suppliers based on the production schedule and cost, rather than when specific hardware is available.


FLEXIBILITY

One of the most important benefits Nubix provides to our customers is flexibility. On the industrial edge, Nubix provides a hardware abstraction layer, which serves as an intermediary between the real-time operating system (RTOS) and the Tiny Containers that compose the applications.


With respect to hardware, the immediate benefit is that a company can diversify its supply chain by running the same application on many different devices with different hardware. For example, chips could be purchased from several suppliers based on availability, and the same application could be deployed to those hardware platforms via Nubix. This allows for much more flexibility in the hardware while minimizing the development cost required to write a new application for each chip because there's only one version needed for all the chips.


Nubix also increases flexibility with cloud providers. Our Orchestration Hub, which is a platform-agnostic management and deployment engine, can be installed on any cloud provider, such as Azure, AWS, or Google. Should you choose to switch providers after deployment, edge devices built with Nubix can easily be updated and pointed to the new cloud provider with a containerized application. Also, any data sent from devices can be easily integrated into a new cloud vendor through a Tiny Services update.


This level of increased portability is a tremendous benefit to organizations, as they can switch cloud providers with minimal risk of disruption or incompatibility.


COST

Nubix can reduce the costs of digital transformation through a few different avenues.

Procurement flexibility, as mentioned above, is one of the most important benefits. Instead of being locked-in to a single chip manufacturer, Nubix customers can develop a single version of applications to run on functionally equivalent chips from different manufacturers. As chips are needed, customers can get multiple quotes and buy whichever chips have the lowest costs or meet production deadlines.


Thinking longer-term, Nubix also allows customers to avoid costs associated with specific models of chips being discontinued. For example, if a manufacturer's entire product line is based on a certain chip, and that chip is discontinued, the manufacturer must either redesign the entire line or pay for custom chips to be made, which is much more expensive. With Nubix, the manufacturer would just buy another equivalent chip.


Nubix also offers cost advantages for implementation, as the entire platform is installed as software. The installation can be done at scale across the entire network on hardware already deployed, which eliminates the need to buy large amounts of hardware and pay for slow and expensive manual deployment and installation.


SECURITY

Nubix excels at bringing edge devices online while still providing true isolation. Customers can easily address ever-evolving security vulnerabilities and transition away from less secure platforms.

Nubix provides secure infrastructure for application development and deployment, independent of the target device, and serves as a secure platform for code execution on devices with no application changes required.


In the event of a cybersecurity incident, the platform allows for faster responses through immediate remediation by updating Tiny Containers.


Ready to Escape the Chip Shortage?


If your major transformation project is stuck or delayed for months due to hard-to-find hardware, it doesn't have to stay that way. Nubix can get your company back on track with the business outcomes you need, and we can often do it quicker and more economically than traditional, hardware-dependent approaches.


How is your company innovating to adapt to the chip shortage? I would love to hear about your experience and thought process if you’re looking for ways that software can solve your hardware problems.


I'm the CEO and co-founder of Nubix, and I'll be blogging about how our products increase agility and intelligence at the edge to help companies optimize operations and improve their bottom line with comprehensive data and analytics.