What changes in architecture will be needed to accommodate the Internet of Things?
Even the most headstrong CIOs can be reluctant to embrace IoT. To an extent, those operating in certain industries may feel that they can forgo some of its aspects. While connected sensors will become mandatory in industries such as manufacturing, those operating in other fields may decide that the associated risk is just too much for now.
Whatever their thoughts on IoT, its introduction to the enterprise will demand a rethink of architectures, as well as new platforms that can integrate and analyse vast sources of data. Devices. Storage. Analytics. Powerful wireless networks. Security. All these elements and more will be mandatory for successful deployments.
Deploying all these components successfully will require complex and time-consuming systems integration. The end goal for CIOs is clear: easy-to-use, secure IoT infrastructure that benefits the business.
“An IoT-based system must be easy to design, install, maintain and use,” Marwan Khoury, regional marketing manager, Axis Communications says. “One size does not fit all. To maximise its potential, it requires an in-depth knowledge by suppliers who understand how each feature or component work together, can design a solution that can be used to solve specific challenges and are able to deliver it as an integrated offering whose long-term value has more value than just the sum of its parts.”
The scale of this task is not lost on Fady Younes, deputy managing director and operations director, Cisco Middle East east region. He acknowledges that as the IoT increases its advance, fast, strategic action is necessary.
“IoT is increasing the connectedness of people and things on a scale that once was unimaginable,” he says. “Connected devices outnumber the world’s population by a ratio of 1.5:1. IoT comprises billions of connected devices that are creating more than two exabytes of data every day. But to truly provide value, this data must be rapidly processed and transformed into actionable intelligence.”
A crucial pillar of this new architecture will be a level of connectivity that is able to process huge quantities of data from a range of disparate sources, Younes adds, saying that network flexibility will be at the core of a successful strategy. “In the IoT era, where the Internet is connecting people, processes, data, and things to form one holistic connected network, organisations now need their networks to become more agile to accommodate the increased amount of transmitted data and the expansion of connected devices,” he says. “A successful IoT platform should be able to connect the IoT endpoints to the applications and analytics required to generate business outcomes.”
Once data has been successfully transmitted across a network, ingested and then analysed, it ultimately has to reside in a location that makes sense based on each organisation’s individual needs.
Anthony Sayers, Internet of Things and embedded strategic alliances EMEA lead, Dell EMC, believes that efficient storage is imperative, and has to underpin any successful IoT strategy. “The IoT architecture consists of 4 main layers – devices, networks and gateways, management and applications,” he says. “However, to interconnect these factors, it is critical for an organisation to adopt a highly available and scalable storage infrastructure. There’s simply a lot more data to collect, analyse and archive. More importantly, the value of the data is only as much as the capability to analyse it.”
Nader Henein opts for a more optimistic view, however. The BlackBerry Middle East regional director for advanced security solutions believes that IoT, rather than bringing complexity, will deliver great simplicity once successfully deployed. “Planning and focus is critical,” he says. “The traffic generated is one aspect, however the volume of system-generated data is another. IoT can fill this gap. It processes information in real time and makes networks and grid more efficient thereby simplifying everyday functions.”
He goes on to reiterate the importance of concise strategy in IoT architecture if any positive results are to be achieved. “Businesses should not be hasty and should avoid approaching anything without clear targets and performance measurements,” he says. “We saw this with mobility for instance, where organisations embraced BYOD and belatedly realised that without careful planning and the right solution and strategy, the cost outweighed the benefits.”
Delivering a unified view of information and operational technology is the name of the game when it comes to IoT, and Khoury believes that IoT is the perfect way to deliver this objective. “The IoT will allow for combined systems integrating previously disparate devices such as video surveillance cameras, smoke detectors, gas sensors, access control panels and loudspeakers into a common management console, providing a single pane of glass overview across entire buildings and sites,” he says,
Sayers believes that ushering in the era of IoT will require the transformation of a range of aspects if successful platforms are to be delivered. “IT transformation involves modernising data centre infrastructure, automating IT processes and driving exponential growth in digital data,” he says. “Workforce transformation refers to changing user experiences, empowering new ways of working and innovate decision-making with intuitive apps and data insight. Security transformation requires the consideration that one million cyber-attacks are released every day. An IoT platform needs to ensure customers are better informed through superior threat intelligence, analytics and shared expertise.”