• 06/26/2014
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IoT: How Ready Is Your Infrastructure?

The Internet of Things will bring a plethora of new devices online, but next-generation technologies can help you prepare for the influx.

The concept behind the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming very interesting. As we become ever more interconnected, the prospect of entirely new types of devices coming online is a very real possibility. The evolving cloud platform must continue to support a growing type of architecture where a number of commodity items such as houses, refrigerators, recycling bins, and cars will begin to communicate with the cloud.

The idea is to interconnect these end-points to create a powerful infrastructure based on efficiency, automation, and the capability to scale. While there’s no stopping the evolution of the cloud, there's also no slowdown in sight for the growing number of devices that are coming online. So what can you do to stay prepared? Here are some next-generation technologies that can help:

  • Software-defined everything. Software-defined technologies are very real and are making a very real impact. Storage, network, compute, and even the entire datacenter can be abstracted into the logical layer. All of this translates into better control mechanisms and resource delivery options. When it comes to IoT, our ability to interconnect a variety of devices using one common logical platform will be further simplified.
  • Making fog a reality. Fog, or edge-based computing, allows us to deliver data to smaller datacenters and bring it all much closer to the user. Many organizations are distributing their environments to bring applications, workloads, and critical datasets closer to the user. Micro-clouds and fog environments allow organizations to replicate only what is needed and enhance overall device and application performance. This is really great for a distributed user base and big-data management.
  • Logical optimizations. Yes, you can buy a new piece of hardware to help your server run better, but do you need to? Powerful caching mechanisms, software-based WAN optimizations, and even client-less computing are all making an impact around the modern cloud. New delivery mechanisms now allow an organization to deliver apps and desktops completely through a browser -- pretty amazing stuff! What does that mean for IoT? Clientless computing can bring rich data and application experiences to pretty much any end point. For example, Tesla already supports HTML5 on its center console. Soon, these kinds of capabilities will expand to even more interconnected IoT end points.  
  • Learning to scale and automate your cloud. As more devices come online, you’ll need a way to dynamically scale and control resources. To really enhance your infrastructure, look for ways to dynamically provision and de-provision resources. Automated scale solutions spanning private, public, hybrid, and even community cloud models exist today. You don’t have to keep everything in that private datacenter any more.

As your cloud and datacenter models continue to change, keep an eye on your business goals and organizational direction. A lot of new technologies are being driven by end-users. How well can you optimize their experience? How well can you deliver rich content to them? How interconnected can you keep your business? The future business model will revolve around empowering the end-user and incorporating IoT solutions. As the world gets even smaller and more interconnected, how well can you keep up?


industry sectors

Hi Bill -- What industries do you see IoT impacting the most heavily?

Re: industry sectors

Marcia, I believe the biggest impact of IoT will be on the telecom industry. This was widely discussed during the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. 

In the words of Adam Gould, vice president of the Sensinode Business at ARM:

"We need standards at the radio level, the security layer, and the data format level... For developers it is necessary that they know that those devices are going to be able to talk to each other and [that they] really focus on the application."

Re: industry sectors

Thanks for sharing that link Pablo, and it does seem like the telecom industry will likely feel the biggest impact. Perhaps another industry sector would be retail?

Re: industry sectors

Retail is already being affected. Many large shops are installing tracking devices such as iBeacons and location sensors.

Another one is logistics, the cost of NFC and wireless sensors is low now, and many logistic companies, the likes of UPS and FedEx, are now starting to use wireless sensors placed inside the packages to track them more efficiently.

fog computing

If you're interested in reading more about this Cisco-coined term, this article provides some good context:


Re: fog computing

Marcia, I think that Cloud computing has been the era which enabled the centralization of the datacenter, to gain the economies of scale and specialization needed to deliver lower cost to clients/consumers. Fog computing is the natural evolution, one that delivers computational to the user's devices, the Cloud will still remain very important and will continue to grow, however, fog computing will be much more visible to the end user. 

Re: fog computing

Thanks for that observation Brian. Fog computing sounds like an interesting concept, but it's hard to get past it as more marketing lingo -- one I'm not sure is totally effective since who wants to be in the fog?

Re: fog computing

@Marcia that is an excellent point, one vision for the IoT is that lots of not-so-smart devices will connect to the network and will seemly appear as smart devices -- providing a high level of value. Shifting all the computational needs of the device onto the network helps to keep the cost of the device low -- the Cloud's ability to scale and specialize, manufacturing simple devices are cheaper and users gain the highest possible plug and play environment.

The fog vision comes into play because of interoperability, the device needs to take care of the user-end security, manufacturing smart devices are expensive unless, the market has gained a relative scale, devices need to communicate with each other, and some devices have sensors that require a DSP before the information can be communicated digitally. 

Re: fog computing

That's interesting Brian. I'm curious if you've heard many vendors talk about fog computing outside of Cisco and IBM with its edge computing initiative.

Re: fog computing

Marcia, you are right, I have also not heard of the term Fog Computing outside of Cisco and IBM. When a SMB innovates and makes an IoT product, the Cloud becomes their best friend, since, it is easy to off load the processing needs onto the Cloud and scale the service as and when demand for the IoT product increases.

Large businesses on the other hand, have the capital needed to create the optimal level of devices, required to enter economies of scale (I am thinking about Microsoft's initial Surface line and the likes) -- market demand becomes an afterthought. SMB can also create devices that utilize Fog computing, by utilizing Open-source and modular designs, etc. One question that comes up is whether the business needs to activity differentiate to the consumer whether they are producing for example, an IoT Cloud device or an IoT Fog device, and would a differentiation matter.

Re: fog computing

Let's not tar IBM with Cisco's Fog Computing brush (as if the term Cloud wasn't bad enough), while IBM are attempting to execute on their strategy, Cisco still appear to be devising their's!

Re: fog computing

I have alternatively -- but more rarely -- heard the term fog computing to refer to "cloud-in-a-box" solutions (such as those discussed here).

Security, though...

The problem is security, however.  When your air-conditioning system is connected to the same stuff that your customer data and AR are connected to, then you risk winding up like Target.

With the security systems that abound already with IoT, it's difficult to justify using a shared cloud solution.