Much has been made in the past few years about the massive business opportunities that the Internet of Things (IoT) will provide. But capitalizing on this potential is going to be a challenge.
Two recent research reports show that most enterprises are unprepared for the IoT.
Research from Infoblox showed the infrastructure to support the IoT is too weak. And research from Spiceworks found the IoT will put already overburdened networks under unbearable pressure. Combined, the studies suggest that far from being the financial cornucopia it could be, the IoT may in fact buckle enterprise infrastructure.
Laying the Foundation
One of the really interesting things about the Infoblox research — How the Internet of Things Impacts Enterprise Networks — is that 57 percent of the 400 enterprises surveyed in the US and the UK report they embrace the IoT, but lack the infrastructure and networks to support it.
This corresponds with Spicework’s research, a survey of 440 IT pros in North America and the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). It showed IT departments believe the IoT will result in major infrastructure issues — and that more than half of the respondents are doing absolutely nothing about it.
There is a positive here, though. In the information management space, the historical trend has been for technology to outpace business readiness for the implementation or use of a given technology. Usually, it has been the business side of the house that has been forced to play catch-up.
Think, for example, of all the times we have pointed to major holes in the planning of data management or information governance as a general trend in enterprises. Even business planning around SharePoint has been lax in many cases.
The result has been the underutilization of business technologies and the failure to use technologies for best business advantage. Lack of planning and governance has also, of course, created major security concerns.
This case, though, the opposite appears to be true. The business side of the enterprise appears ready, while the IT, including networks and infrastructure are trailing business needs or expectations.
Better Hurry Up
It’s not clear why IT is dragging its heels on this. However, both reports highlight security issues. Spiceworks found that 86 percent of IT pros believe the IoT will force them to support more Internet-connected devices that will generate more data, take more bandwidth, hold more IP addresses hostage and place more enterprise data in the cross-hairs of system hackers.
The Infoblox research indicates that one of the core issues here is that line-of-business workers are not communicating to IT about the use, type and possible applications of the IoT devices they expect to purchase.
Both explanations should send shivers up the spine of any right-thinking C-Suite executive, who must be able to see in this evidence that their IoT plans and aspirations are hurtling out of control.
The problem, as Infoblox sees it, is that many enterprises will not have enough network capacity to handle the demands put on them by the IoT and the millions of devices that will connect with each other.
It is still not certain how many devices this means. Gartner, for example, predicts that by 2020 IoT will grow to more than 26 billion devices. IDC puts the number closer to 30 billion, with an industry value of around $8.9 trillion, while Cisco estimates 50 billion “things” by 2050, with a value of $14.4 trillion by 2022.
There’s quite a difference between all the estimates, but they all agree that by 2020 the IoT will consist of a minimum of 26 billion devices and will grow at an astounding rate thereafter.
The result, Spiceworks says, is that before you can say “connect me up, Scottie,” the IoT will be invading your network and taking aware from resources that are already under considerable strain from the raise of Big Data and Big Data applications.
Too Late to Stop
There is no stopping it either. The Infoblox research shows 90 percent of enterprises are either planning or already implementing solutions that are designed to deal with the increased demands on networks.
Most enterprises have also put the resources in place to deal with it, with 78 percent of respondents saying they have sufficient budget in place to implement IoT technologies, 75 percent noting they have enough staff to run their IoT deployments and 88 percent assuming they will get an increase in resources to deal with next year.
In the current economic climate, it seems that IoT initiatives are one of the few areas of IT that is receiving increased funding.
It’s not all good, though. While 86 percent understand what will happen to the networks once the IoT kicks in, 57 percent confirm that their networks are already working at full capacity.
Cricket Liu, chief infrastructure officer at Infoblox, points out that enterprises are already struggling to manage the increased infrastructure demands that bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies have put on enterprises.
Network administrators have struggled in recent years to stay on top of the ‘bring your own device’ trend, and the IoT will create an increase in end points that is an order of magnitude greater. At the same time, many network teams will have to respond to the IoT without significant increases in budgets or head count. Network automation will become crucial as IT departments confront this massive growth in network complexity.”
Spiceworks’ found that while 71 percent of IT departments acknowledge the IoT will affect both consumers and the workplace, more than half have yet to do anything to prepare for the inevitable impact.
However, at least some of this is bravado with most enterprises working on expanding infrastructure capacity even if they are not aware they are doing it.
Spiceworks found that more than half of IT pros are already using fiber-optic networks, while 40 percent are still on DSL or even ISDN connections.
Growth, though, will be driven by factors outside of the IoT space, with 80 percent stating that data usage and information management will be the principal mover behind infrastructure expansion.
Security has been identified on numerous instances as one of the big issues holding back the development of the IoT. Of those surveyed, 63 percent said they believed the IoT is a threat to network security. in addition, IT leaders are finding it more difficult to stay in the loop when devices are added to enterprise networks.
More than half — 56 percent — of IT managers said that there are finding it difficult to control where IoT deployments are occurring across the business. And 45 percent report they do not get sufficient information from line-of-business teams to manage these deployments.
One of the positive findings is that 74 percent report their organizations have an integrated IoT deployment plan and note that, in theory at least, IoT-related developments require direct IT involvement. IT departments are now pushing their way to the table where business units like marketing, sales and customer service are pushing forward IoT deployments.
The problem: Infoblox found that in many enterprises business units get deep in the buying process before calling in IT, forcing IT to play catch-up once the devices are already up and running.