The Internet of Things (IoT) is still early enough in the hype cycle so that most attention is focused on all the wonderful things it can do. For those tasked with implementing the infrastructure and architecture to make it all happen, however, the conversation is already starting to veer toward more practical concerns.
The fact is, the IoT is not only the most advanced data environment ever contemplated, it exceeds the complexity of today’s internet and scale-out data architectures by multiple orders of magnitude. With data points literally everywhere and traffic flows moving at high speed and in extremely dynamic patterns, the IoT represents a high-stakes game for the enterprise in which the challenges are great but the outcomes are still uncertain.
To date, the success rate for the IoT is spotty at best. According to Cisco, nearly 60 percent of all IoT initiatives stall at the Proof of Concept stage, while only 26 percent of organizations can point to one project that they consider fully successful. At the moment, the stumbling blocks run the gamut from poor time to completion and low levels of internal expertise to a lack of cross-team integration and high-quality data. The lesson at this point is that the IoT requires more than just technology it requires strong human oversight to produce optimal results.
Indeed, echoes ZDNet’s Joe McKendrick, the critical factor in most IoT deployments appears to be architecture, rather than infrastructure, which is a distinctly human-driven element. Citing a recent Government Accountability Office report, McKendrick noted that the four primary IoT architectural layers – device-to-device, device-to-cloud, device-to-gateway and cloud-to-cloud – will require careful deployment and constant fine-tuning of technologies like containers and microservices. A lot of this will be handled by artificial intelligence and other smart technologies, but ultimately it will be the enterprise architect who will make the greatest contribution to successful IoT initiatives.
The overarching challenge of the IoT is the pace at which new technologies and services are being introduced, says Internet of Business’ Sooraj Shah, and this makes it extremely difficult to roll out new services in a secure fashion. A recent study by the Ponemon Institute says that 72 percent of senior IT professionals say the rate of IoT technology and standards development is complicating efforts to secure devices and applications, while 94 percent say this could lead to a catastrophic breach at some point. Among the contributors to IoT security challenges is the number of vendors currently plying the market, as well as a lack of training and awareness programs and lax precautions for third-party on-boarding.
The other big challenge, of course, is the sheer scale of the IoT. The whole point is to collect data from virtually anything so that it can then be gathered, scrubbed, analyzed, combined with other data and hopefully provide knowledge that would otherwise have remain hidden. But as VMware pointed out in a recent post, all of this will depend on everything – every sensor, network connection, application, processing unit – working properly. If the history of IT is any guide, however, this is unlikely, which means the enterprise will be thrust into a never-ending battle to expand the reach of its IoT environment without letting scale become the enemy of knowledge.
The IoT is uncharted waters, technically speaking, so it’s no surprise that there are no guides or maps to lead us through the rough spots. But this is a massive undertaking that will have a profound effect on humanity, so even though the possibilities are intriguing, the enterprise still has a responsibility to ensure that its own piece of the IoT is designed properly, and with adequate safeguards, long before the technology becomes an everyday facet of modern society.
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 and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.