The Internet of Things will do more than ramp up the data load for the enterprise. It represents an entirely new style of networking in which the traditional edge is pushed all the way to the consumer and data travels to and from literally millions of points across a broadly diverse network topology.
Naturally, this environment will not build itself, so it is up to today’s network professionals to work out all the kinks on the way toward crafting a seamless, and largely autonomous, data ecosystem.
One of the key facets of IoT networking is its need to support successful machine-to-machine (M2M) communications on a broad scale. Connected devices will not only link to centralized or edge data facilities, but to each other as well, so the wireless networks they rely upon will have to be much more adept to supporting high-speed, extremely small-packet data flows than current cellular infrastructure. In Los Angeles, a company called Ingenu is building a metro-class IoT network that supports transportation, manufacturing and other initiatives using the RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) protocol. The company is counting on the fact that many leading IoT developers are based in that area and will likely roll out their products locally before expanding worldwide.
IoT networks will also require a highly sophisticated management stack that can only come about through artificial intelligence and machine learning, says ALE’s Heitor Faroni. Smart devices, after all, require a smart network, which itself should be built around four key competencies: visibility, predictive analytics, comprehensive management and convergence. A single network with state-of-the-art switching coupled with remote management and in-depth intelligence gathering is the only way to ensure that smart devices will make smart decisions.
The fastest way to achieve this state, of course, is through a turn-key solution, although at this stage of the game it is difficult to see how one provider can cover all the requirements of a functioning IoT ecosystem. But vendor’s like HPE are certainly willing to try. The company recently announced an integrated solution aimed at enterprise and industrial environments that purports to remove much of the complexity surrounding greenfield deployments. The package incorporates the HPE Mobile Virtual Network Enabler and Universal IoT Platform, along with the Aruba ClearPass Universer Profiler and 2540 switch, plus the Edgeline control stack, to enable IoT workflows to be integrated into mainstream operations quickly and easily. At the same time, it oversees the diverse nature of IoT connectivity, protocols, security and other facets to enable broad data aggregation across heterogeneous fabric architectures. (Disclosure: I provide content services to HPE)
Building an IoT fabric, however, is not as easy as it sounds. Traditional protocols tend to break down when confronted with massive scale, which is why development communities like The Thread Group are working to unify disparate efforts covering consumer, business and enterprise functions. The idea, which originated within Alphabet’s Nest division, is to devise a single IP-based scheme that incorporates proprietary solutions in order to maintain broad interconnectivity between platforms. The group is working with the Open Connectivity Foundation to integrate the Thread protocol into upper-layer software, according to PCWorld, and is working with industry organizations like the Connected Lighting Alliance to propel device-level integration.
Like today’s Internet, the IoT will have to provide virtually universal connectivity in order to maintain the level of functionality that makes the whole effort worth the bother. But that does not mean all of its constituent parts will work seamlessly at all times, which is a problem given the safety concerns that arise when connected devices like cars or industrial control equipment are suddenly disconnected.
In all likelihood, the IoT will emerge as a functioning entity over the next few years, but its optimization will be an ongoing process.
Arthur Cole covers networking and the data center for Enterprise Networking Planet and IT Business Edge. He has served as editor of numerous publications covering everything from audio/video production and distribution, multimedia and the Internet to video gaming.