Fortify IoT infrastructure now, even for simple deployments

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IT pros in the data center are more likely to sing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” about their internet-of-things deployments so far — but, soon, they may change their tune to “Highway to Hell.”

Typical enterprise projects today that involve the internet of things (IoT) are relatively simple. IT departments, however, must consider the needs of future IoT applications and the needs of the supporting infrastructure to avoid an IoT calamity.

“Most of the real-world uses out there today aren’t all that sexy,” said Kuba Stolarski, a research director at IDC, speaking at the recent IDC Directions event in Boston, in a discussion about the data explosion expected to hit IT infrastructure from the IoT. It’s all very simple, compared with what is expected to come, he said.

In many IoT applications, companies send IoT data back to their data center and largely rely on existing infrastructure and architecture. Some examples of IoT deployments from an IDC focus group of 10 IT managers include a utility company with devices attached to home oil tanks and a trucking company that uses GPS to calculate fuel economy.

“A lot of the current deployments really don’t need that much bandwidth,” Stolarski said.

Latency is not a concern for these IT pros, and they typically view data on dashboards, rather than use real-time analytics or decision-making at the edge, Stolarski said.

Kevin Roberts, director of platform technology at FinancialForce, a cloud-based software startup in San Francisco, is building out the financial back end to support a growing number of IoT deployments in the enterprise. Roberts said he’s seen a turnaround in terms of the acceptance of cloud computing in recent years, which has shifted from mistrust of the cloud to widespread acceptance.

Right now, it’s unclear what sort of backbone enterprises will use to support their IoT efforts, Roberts said. There will continue to be a shakeout to decide who will buy, own and manage IoT infrastructure.

Stolarski concurred. Some of this will be premises-based that is bought, owned and managed by enterprises, such as a retail store, while other IoT infrastructure may come in the form of shared gateways in public locations, he said.

The logic and approaches with which IT pros will choose and deploy hardware, and use cloud computing and their enterprise data centers, will continue to evolve, Stolarski said. The current IoT deployments may be manageable for now, but the number of external nodes generating data may overwhelm the network at some point.

“Don’t just fire-hose your data back to your data center, because you will kill your bandwidth,” he said. “They are totally not thinking about any scenario in the future.”

Different paths to IoT life on the edge

While software continues to eat the world, Stolarski urged IT pros not to lose sight of the importance of hardware in an IoT project, especially out at the edge versus a centralized strategy. IoT sensors designed to detect a gas leak, for example, should immediately shut off the gas and not send data across a network to make that decision, Stolarski said.

[Enterprise IT teams] are totally not thinking about any scenario in the future.
Kuba Stolarskiresearch director, IDC

To that end, vendors increasingly look to support IoT outside traditional data centers. Some IoT gateways may be servers, Stolarski said, citing the Edgeline IoT System from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) as one example.

At the other end of the scale are entire mini data centers, such as Schneider Electric’s Micro Data Center Xpress product, launched this week. It combines power and cooling with monitoring software in an integrated and validated enclosure, with IT hardware from Dell EMC, HPE and Cisco. The goal is to ship an entire mini-standard data center to a ruggedized environment, rather than design and test a package in one place and ship all the pieces separately to a remote site.

The characteristics of how IoT infrastructure will appear in the enterprise are still emerging. But for a look at the next generation of enterprise IoT projects, start with oil and gas companies, where a wave of IoT innovation is underway, said Srdan Mutabdzija, senior project manager at Schneider Electric.

“[IoT infrastructure] is absolutely being clarified. It is where cloud was 10 years ago,” he said.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at rgates@techtarget.com.

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