Smart networking – paving the way to IoT adoption

The hype surrounding the potential of IoT shows no sign of subsiding, and now IoT is morphing from a smart concept to reality - investment bank Goldman Sachs cites IoT as a $7tn opportunity by 2020, with IoT set to have an impact at every stage in the production and distribution of products. The 'smarts' are now on parade: smart cities with their smart grids and smart transportation systems and smart cars, all demonstrating the benefits of machine to machine (M2M) connectivity.

It is the consistent connectivity that becomes critical to how effectively these devices will perform, and this connectivity relies on having the right network infrastructure in place. ALE is already involved with the communications and networking backbone of Gujarat International Finance Tec-City in India, a Smart City development that implements IoT at a fundamental level.

There are four key network requirements to enable businesses to take full advantage of the transformations that IoT will drive:

Extend your network visibility

The sprawling nature of IoT requires comprehensive management of the entire network, wired and wireless, right to the edge as devices - smart and not so smart - seek access and transfer data to core network components. The exponential growth of connected devices and sensors transmitting data can be overwhelming, cause bottlenecks on the network, and impact the performance.

An intelligent network needs to extend functionality right to the edge so data can be partially analysed and processed before any information is sent to a centralized system. This improves the scalability and the response time for any network enforcement. For instance,   switches at the edge of the network will need to offer enhanced security and integrated analytics in order to manage the increased flow of IoT traffic.

Consolidation is key
It is virtually impossible for a network that has been installed and upgraded on an ad-hoc basis - often with a separate solution for voice, data, wired and wireless - to deliver on the promise of IoT. 

A single converged network is fundamental to an IoT environment and guarantees a greater level of interoperability and support for IoT applications and devices. A converged network with unified management offers cost savings, operational simplification, and a consistent policy enforcement everywhere which is required for a successful IoT deployment.

Smarter feedback for smarter decisions

IoT brings an additional level of complexity to a network infrastructure that has already seen a tremendous increase in connected user devices and the utilization of new applications with unknown behavior. Predictive analysis and reporting functions are vital in enabling enterprises to use big data to build proactive, data-driven, decision making. Analysis of traffic behaviour in the form of reports or KPIs can also provide valuable insight into optimizing network operations.

This can be as simple as automatically prioritising IoT data traffic, determining whether a new IoT based service being rolled out will exceed current network capacity, or learning that every Thursday afternoon the R&D department needs extra bandwidth to support its data heavy processes.

Defending smart and dumb devices

Poorly secured 'smart' devices such as smart watches and activity trackers, as well as traditional 'dumb' devices such as door locks, pose a threat to essential network security. Monitoring and controlling the flow of packets to and from IoT devices and correlating with the applications they are supposed to interface with, can guarantee better security.

Comprehensive preparation for IoT
IoT offers the chance for enterprises to deliver new applications. Supporting deployments of millions of endpoints, it can provide real-time insights that help enterprises capture, understand and make more effective use of device data. But it will also bring new challenges and expectations.

The key to successfully support IoT is one converged network supported by state of the art switches that enable an enterprise to remotely manage, monitor and safeguard all devices, giving IT departments an in-depth intelligence to make smarter decisions. Feel free to tell me if you agree or have a different view. I'd welcome the discussion.

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