The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming and the enterprise needs to get its data house in order or be swept away by the flood. Or not.
It seems that every few years another dramatic challenge is produced that vendors and service providers use to justify big spending by the enterprise. But even though the IoT is clearly a phenomenon driven by larger numbers of data-generating devices, is there really a threat, existential or otherwise, that should cause panic in the IT shop?
According to Evaluator Group’s John Webster, the IoT isn’t new--only the buzzword is. He points out that the idea of web-connected devices dates back to the mid-1990s, when the headlines then were about intelligent toilets delivering urine and stool reports to your doctor, or Java-equipped paint molecules that would serve some purpose that even Scott McNealy could not fully explain. So the idea that the enterprise will suddenly be deluged with mounds of data that have to be captured, stored and processed is wrong on the face of it. And even those who do embrace the IoT will find that much of that data is valueless outside of a real-time context, so forget about having to expand storage into hyperscale territory overnight.
If there is any impact on actual infrastructure, it will be in networking, says eWeek’s Nathan Eddy. But it won’t necessarily be volume causing the biggest headaches; it'll be complexity. With all those objects and IP addresses in play, most network managers anticipate controlling the location of IoT deployments to be a significant problem, which will then extend to issues like security and authorization. As well, with business units now taking it upon themselves to provision their own infrastructure, enterprises run the risk of losing control of the data chain, which would ultimately diminish the value of analytics and coordination of effort that the IoT is supposed to address.
How, then, is the enterprise supposed to respond to a growing universe of Internet-connected devices? First off, recognize that infrastructure is only a small part of the equation, and even then it is more a question of integration than scale. Most of the data will be machine-to-machine (M2M), which will require new approaches to analytics, security and control. If anyone is behind the curve on the IoT, then, it is the standard-setting bodies, which have only recently shifted their attention toward common formats and protocols that will bring this digital diaspora into some semblance of order.
IT can support the IoT with four main pillars, says THINKstrategies’ Jeff Kaplan in InformationWeek:
Fortunately, this all dovetails with the growing recognition that IT must align itself with the business of the enterprise in order to drive greater value from infrastructure and the data environment in general. The bad news is that most organizations are only just beginning this transformation, but the commoditization of sensor technology and the rapidly escalating availability of broadband services will produce the IoT sooner rather than later.
In short, then, the IoT represents a few changes to the way IT infrastructure is evolving to meet existing challenges like cloud computing and Big Data. But it does not mean that the way both infrastructure and data processes are managed and operated will need to be updated.
IoT won’t require all new stuff, just better use of the stuff you already have.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.