The Internet of Things (IoT) is morphing from smart concept to reality. Investment bank Goldman Sachs cites it as a $7 trillion opportunity by 2020, with the trend set to have an impact at every stage in the production and distribution of products.
By Ben Rossi
The 'smarts' are now on parade: smart cities with their smart grids and smart transportation systems and smart cars, all demonstrating the benefits of machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity.
Consistent connectivity now becomes critical to how effectively these devices will perform, and this connectivity relies on having the right network infrastructure in place.
There are four fundamental network requirements to enable businesses to take full advantage of the transformations that IoT will drive.
1. Broaden the horizons of network visibility The sprawling nature of IoT requires comprehensive management of the entire network, wired and wireless, right to the edge as devices – smart and not so smart – seek access and data transfer to core network components.
This is why the switch is key. All the connected devices and sensors are transmitting data on the network, but sending data from devices straight to the data centre can be inefficient, cause bottlenecks on the network, and impact performance.
An intelligent network needs to extend functionality right to the edge so data can be analysed and processed on the way to the core, or from device to device. To manage the increased flow of IoT traffic, switches at the edge of the network will need to offer enhanced security and integrated analytics.
2. Are you fit for IoT purpose?
It is virtually impossible for a network that has been installed and upgraded on an ad-hoc basis – often with a separate solution for voice, data, wired and wireless – to deliver on the promise of IoT. There are many enterprise IT systems out there that are simply not fit for IoT purpose.
A single converged network is fundamental to an IoT environment and guarantees a greater level of interoperability and support for IoT applications and devices.
3. Smarter feedback for smarter decisions
Predictive analysis and reporting functions are vital in enabling enterprises to use big data to build proactive, data-driven decision-making. Analysis of big data can also provide valuable insight into network operations.
Predictive network analytics tools delivered alongside network management systems provide reporting utilities that offer detailed network performance indicators. This can be as simple as automatically prioritising data traffic, determining whether a new service or application being rolling out will exceed current network capacity, or that every Thursday afternoon the R&D department needs extra bandwidth to support its data heavy processes.
4. Defending dumber devices
Not every device is smart. Poorly secured 'smart' devices such as smart watches and activity trackers pose a threat to essential network security – as do traditional 'dumb' devices such as door locks.
Simply monitoring and controlling the flow of packets to and from IoT devices is not enough to guarantee security. All devices right out to the network edge must be made smarter by the network management and the switches on the network.
Related: Security and The Internet of Things
IoT offers the chance for enterprises to deliver new applications and support deployments with millions of endpoints by providing real-time insights that help enterprises capture, understand and make more effective use of device data. But it will also bring new challenges and expectations.
The key lies in having one converged network supported by state-of-the-art switches that enable an enterprise to remotely manage, monitor and safeguard all devices, software and data to provide IT departments with in-depth intelligence to make smarter decisions.