The Internet of Things has been given much coverage in the news in the last few years; articles abound with information of how many IoT devices will exist in 2016 or by 2020. (Those numbers are a projected 6.4 billion and 38 billion, respectively, for 2016 and 2020.) I’ve started researching the Internet of Things movement as well, including a recent article on whether the IoT requires IPv6. Generally, the Internet of Things is presented as a positive change, and it seems to be an inevitable one. But questions do remain about challenges surrounding IoT implementation, particularly in the enterprise market.
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One issue that is important, but perhaps not greatly talked about, is the complexity of the network supporting the Internet of Things. To see why this is a concern, it makes sense to start with a high-level overview of IoT connectivity versus regular Internet connectivity. Normal Internet connections and networks are more familiar to us right now; generally speaking, we have people using apps or browsers to access the Internet. This is pretty straightforward. With IoT, however, the connectivity situation is more complicated. Instead of having a simple route from user to Internet, the IoT features connections between people, apps and even business processes. Because of this difference, the data access process is more complicated for IoT. In contrast to the client-server model that goes with normal Internet access, the IoT model requires a different approach. In IoT, sensors are providing real-time data and sending it to a data center or server room; this is nearly the antithesis of a client-server model. However, to ease network demand, not all data from the system endpoints – in this case, sensors – will need to go all the way to a data center. Some of it may be processed in intermediate stages of the system instead, as this article notes.
Related: Network Traffic Analyzer, provides the “who, what and when” of traffic flowing on the network
A few other IoT networking challenges are worth mentioning briefly. One is the new demands on DNS infrastructure due the vast, increasing number of devices that will be Internet-connected. Since there will be billions more Internet-connected devices, it seems sensible to conclude that the number of DNS queries will scale accordingly. To handle this, companies have created new solutions, such as the F5 BIG-IP platform, that help with load balancing and traffic management. Another challenge is figuring out how to unify IoT. Some vendors, such as Cisco and Avaya, have been trying to create solutions to help interconnectivity with Ethernet devices. Since Ethernet is one of many types of connectivity that could be used in IoT (others include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), these solutions are steps in the right direction.
Regardless of how solutions are found, it is clear that efforts will be made until the IoT is working properly. Performance may be an issue in the early stages of IoT, and some vendors may have ambitions for IoT that exceed reality for a while. But it is clear that no one plans on turning back. The Internet of Things is here to stay, and given the amount of money that is being thrown in the direction of building IoT, it is a matter of time before companies develop reliable solutions to these problems.