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IoT Drives Partnerships between NetOps and Operational Technology Groups


Internet of Things
(Source: Pixabay)

More than half of the enterprise network infrastructure teams that provide connectivity to Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives have formed close partnerships with their counterparts in the operational technology organization.

As part of our biannual Network Management Megatrends 2020 report, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) surveyed 350 IT organizations about the impact of IoT on the network team. Overall, 76% of companies have IoT devices connecting to their corporate networks.

More notably, 53% of network teams that today supply this connectivity for IoT are forging close partnerships with the operational technology (OT) group that owns IoT devices. OT groups look very different from industry to industry. In hospitals, they are responsible for medical equipment. In heavy industry, they are responsible for manufacturing equipment, construction equipment, or oil and gas extraction technology. In retail they might own point of sales systems and inventory management systems. In the general enterprise they might be responsible for physical security systems or building facilities. What’s clear is that regardless of industry, the network teams must come together with OT to facilitate IoT.

Security is likely a major driver of networking and OT partnerships. When EMA asked network professionals to identify their top IoT-related responsibilities, IoT security was their number-one response (65%).

Most enterprises will need to adapt their network security architecture in response to IoT. For instance, many of these devices will be vulnerable to exploitation. Thus, 62% of enterprises with IoT on their network are investing in additional network security technology to support IoT. Furthermore, 47% are investing in network access control and authentication technologies. This latter investment highlights the fact that identity-based access controls are often useless for IoT devices that are not associated with an actual end user. Thus, new controls are required.

Security isn’t the only area where the network team and OT will need to come together. Depending on the role of connecting “things,” the health and performance of both IoT devices and IoT applications might be extremely critical. For instance, in hospitals, medical equipment performance can be a matter of life and death. Network operations and OT need to work together to set monitoring thresholds and service level objectives.

Administration of IoT will also be a critical issue. Today, 39% of network teams claim that they have at least partial responsibility for IoT device administration, such as operating system updates and patches. This represents a very new area of responsibility for many network teams, and collaboration between them and OT groups will be critical for success.

These networking-OT partnerships will be essential moving forward. New network technologies are coming to market this year that will have a major impact on IoT. For instance, Wi-Fi 6E and private LTE/5G solutions will be extremely relevant to IoT connectivity for different reasons. The former provides high-bandwidth, low-range connectivity. The latter provides lower-bandwidth, long-range connectivity with better service tiering. As network teams evaluate whether to adopt and implement these new technologies, OT will need to join the conversation to make sure that network technology capabilities are matched appropriately with IoT connectivity needs.