IoT Readiness: 3 Big Changes

Don't get blindsided by the sweeping effects an IoT initiative will have on your IT infrastructure, especially in the areas of networking, security, and change management.

Steve Hilton

December 5, 2014

4 Min Read
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Connecting the unconnected. This is the mantra companies like Cisco repeat when describing the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT). According to MachNation forecasts, the IoT will generate $4 trillion in technology and communications spending by 2024. Enterprises will need to alter technology deployments and implement internal change management to fully capture the IoT's value. Let's talk about three areas of change you won't be able to avoid when your enterprise adopts IoT applications.

Distributed networking environments
MachNation believes that, for the next 10 years, IoT processing will happen with a distributed architecture in a hybrid networking environment. Some processing and analytics will happen at the network edge, and some will occur in the fog layer. Sometimes the IoT application will reside in a public cloud, and other times in the enterprise data center.

In some cases end devices will be very thin, and other times they will have high levels of computing power. Enterprise networks and data centers will need the flexibility to address these hybrid and heterogeneous computing requirements, ramping resources up and down in conjunction with IoT needs.

What does this mean? Data center managers and network engineers must support more complex networking architectures. We have gotten pretty good at supporting employees with their never-ending desire for more devices. In an IoT world, we will also be supporting endpoint devices with different operating systems, computing horsepower, and usage characteristics.

In an IoT world, operations technology (OT) departments will have to rethink security paradigms. OT departments are usually the organizations responsible for the prioritization, selection, and operation of internal enterprise IoT applications. However, OT and IT organizations often have different views about the importance and efficacy of WAN Internet connectivity, cloud-based applications, and systems management -- three critical pieces of an IoT application that have important security implications.

MachNation believes that we need to extend IT security paradigms and solutions to the OT environment. Most of the hacks of IoT solutions come through edge devices. And compromised devices are generally part of an OT network environment, rather than an IT one.

One of the challenges we have in current IT security paradigms is an overreliance on people -- primarily security analysts -- to investigate possible security breaches. People are slow; it can take weeks for an analyst to determine if there was a security breach and weeks or months to fix the problem. While the analyst is working on one breach, lots of other potential breaches are happening.

If we simply extend current IT security paradigms to IoT/OT environments, we will not have enough security analysts to handle the additional workload. We are already sorely underresourced with security staff for IT.

What does this mean? IT and OT organizations must conduct careful security analysis and audits of proposed IoT deployments. The integration of networking, platforms, applications, and management tools across IT and OT organizations could expose enterprises to new security vulnerabilities. We will need to use network security solutions that rely on automation to help minimize these disruptions.

Change management
Change management will be another major factor in the IoT, requiring extra effort for implementations. IoT projects cause enterprises to redesign business processes, which could be related to asset management, inventory management, trouble ticketing, physical surveillance, warehousing, logistics, or myriad other processes.

As OT starts adopting IT architectures during IoT implementations, these process redesigns will create job realignment (e.g., moving people from IT to OT, and vice versa), new job requirements (e.g., employees will need to learn new technology platforms and applications), and likely some job elimination (e.g., some processes that relied on manual intervention will be automated, leading to reduction in headcount).

What does this mean? MachNation believes that enterprises must implement detailed and well-planned change management programs to ensure that IT and OT organizations are working together for successful IoT deployments and business process redesign. Without change management programs, organizations will not fully capture the value of the IoT. Or, as the saying goes, "While change is inevitable, growth is optional."

An IoT implementation affects many employees across an enterprise's functional areas. Without careful coordination and change management, a business process redesign will often go awry, whether IoT technology is used in the project or not.

Enterprises must address both technology and human factors in order to realize the IoT's full value. We have talked about three of the changes required, but undoubtedly there are many more changes that enterprises will need to address. Feel free to comment on the ones we have identified or some different ones that are critical in your organizations.

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