Cisco published earlier this week the 2013 Cisco Global IT Impact Survey, exploring the relationship between IT and the business goals of the companies they support. Among other things, 42 percent of those interviewed responded that they know about the Internet of Things, “as well as I know Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.” In other words, beyond a passing knowledge of e=mc2, the relevance of the Internet of Things to IT is about as illuminated as a black hole.
Does that really matter at this point? you might ask. Isn’t the Internet of Things about Nike FuelBands and talking toasters? In fact, a lot of what we call “industrial automation” or “safety and security” is the leading edge of the Internet of Things. It’s already here today, called into the service of greater efficiency, productivity, and safety. This is “operational technology” instead of “information technology”: in other words, technology that directly monitors or controls physical objects and processes, such as assembly lines on a factory floor.
This has enormous implications for IT:
1. Security threats go from the merely cyber to the cyber-physical. Gartner summed it up nicely in the WSJ last week. And let’s not even talk about Shodan.
2. Beyond BYOD. The consumerization of personal electronic devices transformed the enterprise networking landscape. IT adapted to the new security threats posed, figured out how to associate multiple devices to a single user, etc. Now imagine “bring your own programmable logic controller.”
3. Redefining networking scalability and data management. And we thought video was a huge driver of traffic on the network. SAP and Harris Interactive recently estimated that 4 billion terabytes of data will be generated this year alone. (For some idea of the scale, take a single IoT use case — smart meters. Jack Danahy estimated 400MB of data per year. Not much, you say? Multiply that by, say, 1 million households, and you get 400 terabytes already. For a single use case. In one city.)
IT has much to offer, and should. As proprietary connectivity networks converge onto TCP/IP, IT can bring its expertise in securing IP-based networks. With experience in deploying cloud services, IT can bring in network management best practices. And with expertise in software-defined networking, IT can help re-architect networks to support immense scale, real-time requirements, analytics at the edge, and more.
From the outside-in, the Internet of Things may seem like a fast-moving train that’s zooming by too fast to board. But if you’re in IT, get on board: you’ll experience relativity and relevance.