Internet of Things (IoT) and the Data Center

Article by Nitin Mishra



Internet of Things or IoT threatens to generate huge amount of data,and bring in new challenges related to model, security, management, and more that will transform the data center

A new buzzword or a serious road to transformation? Internet of Things or IoT is no buzzword alone. The ability to connect everyday things and devices to the Internet to be able to innovate a new world is definitely a road to transformation.

What is Internet of Things?

It started off as a “mote” – a sensor node inside a wireless network that was the result of the “smartdust” project done by UCLA, University of Michigan, MIT, NASA, etc. to imbibe computing in every device possible. Motes can perform computing tasks, gather information from its physical surroundings, and communicate with other wirelessly connected nodes. Then came the research around RFID and standards for automatic identification of objects, things and devices.

Internet of Things is about connecting everyday devices that were previously never connected to the Internet. These connected devices or things can then talk to each other, enabling bi-directional communicating. Basically put, Internet of things (IoT) is the ability to connect objects, things or devices around us to the Internet and have a unique identity.

According to research firm Gartner, IoT connects remote assets and provides a data stream between the asset and centralized management systems. Those assets can then be integrated into new and existing organizational processes to provide information on status, location, functionality, and so on. Real-time information enables more accurate understanding of status, and it enhances utilization and productivity through optimized usage and more accurate decision support. Business and data analytics give insights into the business requirements data feed from the IoT environment and will help predict the fluctuations of IoT-enriched data and information.

The opportunities around IoT are myriad!

Key developments in the world of technology further fuelled the propagation and advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT). The major ones are cloud computing and maturing mobile technologies. Things and devices connected to the Internet, or Internet Connected Devices (ICD) or Smart Devices, generate data on real time that have to be stored, analyzed, secured and used for various purposes. Cloud computing paved way for enabling this at a cost efficient manner.

One of the biggest technological advancement that enabled IoT is the availability of computing devices in small factor. There is a whole market that started working on making computing devices smaller and smaller, using solid state components to reduce power consumption and use of operating environment that can help write applications easily on open source technologies. This is unlike use of embedded operating systems that required specialized skills to write applications, which inherently increased cost of putting these devices out in the market as well as make it usable only by select few.

Advent of advance analytics such as Big Data further enabled the IoT with the ability to process and analyze large amounts of data on commodity hardware or hosted computing models. Advancements in networking and connectivity, ubiquitous Internet connectivity helped place these computing devices with sensor networks in almost anything and anywhere.

How does it all affect the Data Center?

Reports from various incumbents in the IoT space as well as predictors of future in the technology arena pegs number of connected devices at a wide range. One such prediction states 14 billion connected devices by 2022. Texas Instruments pegs the number at 50 billion, and Gartner at 26 billion by 2020.

India has a staggering population getting connected via the Internet – 140 million in 2012, and an estimated 27 million mobile Internet users. Also, India specific numbers also include 700 million handsets, 78 million smartphones and 18 million data connections. A report from networking major, Cisco, claims that about 3 billion smartphones and tablets will be in use by 2017.

According to a recent report from Gartner, Internet of Things (IoT) has a potential transformational effect on the data center market, its customers, technology providers, technologies, and sales and marketing models. The analyst firm estimates that the IoT will include 26 billion units installed by 2020, and by that time, IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion, mostly in services.

IoT deployments will generate tremendous quantities of data that need to be processed and analyzed in real time. And, this will increase as a proportion of workloads of data centers, leaving providers facing new security, capacity and analytics challenges.

In a report titled “The Impact of the Internet of Things on Data Center”, Joe Skorupa, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner says, "the enormous number of devices, coupled with the sheer volume, velocity and structure of IoT data, creates challenges, particularly in the areas of security, data, storage management, servers and the data center network, as real-time business processes are at stake."

CIOs and technology managers will have to deploy forward-looking capacity management in their data centers. Better still; find partners who have the capability to support such transformational change in their data center need.

Even here there are multiple things to consider. There is a certain level of readiness, both at a business front and technology front that is needed in order to lay the foundation for IoT. Network redundancy is a must, and this means choosing a partner that is carrier-neutral, ability to provide an infinitely burstable bandwidth pipeline and certified by various bodies.

“As-a-Service” is the preferred model of delivery for IoT to be ubiquitous. Third Party Data Center Provider or TPDCP with capabilities from simple colocation all the way to cloud in its advanced form is the right infrastructure layer that can enable Internet of Things.

The New and Connected World

The magnitude of network connections and data associated with the Internet of Things will force providers of data center and cloud solution to be more efficient. More so, there is the threat of a distributed model that will have to be managed by service provides. IoT will generate massive amounts of data that will be globally distributed, and consolidating the same to a central location for better processing and security will not be technically and economically feasible.

We are still at the nascent stages of figuring out various opportunities with Internet of Things right now. But as it starts growing bigger, there are myriad data center and cloud challenges that will require partnering with experts to manage.