5 questions for Ravi Subramanyan

»MQTT is standard for IoT messaging«

10. November 2022, 9:00 Uhr | Tobias Schlichtmeier
Ravi Subramanyan
Ravi Subramanyan, Director of Industry Solutions for Manufacturing at HiveMQ.
© HiveMQ

HiveMQ has successfully used data traffic with MQTT for 10 years. With this, the young company from Lower Bavaria has secured many customers. Why this was only possible with MQTT, you can learn in the interview with Ravi Subramanyan, Director of Industry Solutions for Manufacturing at HiveMQ.

Mr. Subramanyan, HiveMQ helps companies to connect OT and IT and transfer data from end devices to the cloud. HiveMQ relies on the MQTT protocol. Why are you using MQTT and not OPC UA or other protocols?

The MQTT protocol is the standard for IoT messaging. Standardized by OASIS and ISO, the MQTT publish/subscribe protocol provides a scalable and reliable way to connect devices to enterprise either on-premise or in the cloud. Today, MQTT is used by many companies to connect data from OT machines and processes to IT systems to improve factory process efficiency, increase Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and reduce costs.

The advantages of MQTT over other protocols including OPC UA are among other things:

  • Requires minimal resources since it is lightweight and efficient
  • Supports bi-directional messaging between device and cloud
  • Can scale to millions of connected devices
  • Supports reliable message delivery through three Quality of Service (QoS) levels
  • Works well over unreliable networks
  • Security enabled, so it works with Transport Layer Security (TLS) and common authentication protocols

HiveMQ has made it from a start-up to an established IT company in 10 years. What is the reason for the company's success?

From day one, HiveMQ has been focused on offering a superior customer experience and providing a product that solves their problems not only today, but in the future as use cases expand. That’s why 130 and more customers have trusted us across different industry sectors like Connected Cars, Manufacturing, Transportation, Logistics, and others. Over the 10 years, HiveMQ has not wavered from its original goal to enable fast, efficient, and reliable movement of data to and from connected IoT devices. We have listened to our customers and have created extensions from our MQTT broker to connect to Kafka applications, to apply customer-managed security methods, to connect different data brokers across different factory locations and more to provide additional value to our customers.

Together with the Eclipse Foundation, HiveMQ helped build the MQTT Sparkplug specification. What is Sparkplug and how does it help companies connect their devices?

Sparkplug is an open-source software specification. It provides MQTT clients the framework to seamlessly integrate data from their applications, sensors, devices, and gateways within the MQTT infrastructure in a bi-directional and interoperable way.

With MQTT communication, clients need to make sure that all participants who are interested in the data know where to subscribe to the data. And they need to make sure all participants can interpret the data. This usually involves data transformation, which requires conventions, and creates a tight coupling between all the applications. With Sparkplug, all participants settle on a common data format. For example, how to receive specific data, how to publish their data, and how data can be interpreted. Sparkplug allows for bringing in data from non-MQTT devices as well as data from other protocols like OPC UA or Modbus. Sparkplug allows discovery of all these devices and applications out of the box for a single source of truth.

The last version of MQTT is version 5. What are the differences to the previous versions and what are the advantages of version 5?

The new features in MQTT version 5.0 are intended to accomplish the following objectives. First, Large-scale system performance:  The communication between thousands, if not millions, of devices is more streamlined with no protocol constraints. Second, the reporting of errors: The return code in the MQTT 5 has been renamed to a reason code, which can indicate a wider range of failures. Third, Common interactions are implemented: MQTT 5 has standardized the many ways devices interact with one another including the ability to define the capabilities of devices and how they respond to queries. Fourth, extensibility mechanisms have been included: With MQTT 5, custom properties can now be specified, as well as the content type or payload format. And least, better support: Particularly for smaller users, MQTT 5 offers better support to increase productivity.

There are open source tools out there, wouldn't it be easier and cheaper for companies to use free data transfer options?

We wrote a blog on the topic of choosing the right MQTT broker where we compare the open source options like Mosquitto with the commercial options like HiveMQ in more detail. There are several limitations of open source brokers compared to commercial, some of them include limited scalability options (number of devices and messages), limited security options or limited options to cluster for high availability use cases. Besides, there are fewer options to monitor the messages and data flow and there is an inability to reduce the rate of incoming messages and connection requests. For these reasons enterprise customers find that they need a full featured MQTT broker to meet their needs. 

Thanks for the interview, Mr. Subramanyan


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