Preparing for the Internet of Things

Preparing for the Internet of Things

Summary: How you, as an IT pro, prepare for the coming Internet of Things says a lot about you and your company's future in that space. Policy changes aside, there's a list of things you can do to prepare.


What are you doing to prepare for the Internet of Things in your company? How are you going to handle connectivity of the new internet-enabled "things"? How will you handle the new bandwidth requirements from network-hungry devices? Are you prepared for the amount of storage required to maintain those devices? What about security concerns for new devices? And, how will you handle the significant amount of device and user management that's coming your way?

You might not know the answers to any of these questions, but fortunately, you have colleagues who at least have taken their best guesses at it. In a recent survey of 440 IT professionals in North America and EMEA, Spiceworks has compiled some surprising results.

Key Findings

Spoiler alert! Why wait until the very end of the story for the punch line? This isn't a novel, after all, it's a tech article. Here's what Spiceworks found from the survey data:

  1. Most IT pros agree that IoT will impact consumers in addition to the workplace. In fact, the vast majority believes the trend will pose significant security and privacy issues.

  2. Even so, more than half say they aren’t doing anything specific to brace their infrastructure for the coming impact of IoT.

  3. Despite the divide between belief and targeted action, it turns out the future is now. Our survey found that many IT pros are already doing things that’ll help support IoT – even if they aren’t thinking of them in that context. But chances are…they should be doing more.

But of course I'm going to show you the numbers. That's part of the fun of a survey is that you get to see all the numbers and how your answers compare with others in your field.

"While 71 percent of IT pros acknowledge that IoT will affect both consumers and the workplace, their actions seem to speak louder than their words… more than half (59 percent) state they aren’t doing anything to prepare for impact."

The Connectivity Question

For handling connectivity of the new internet-enabled "things", 43 percent of those surveyed said that they will assign a separate network for the new devices. That's actually a good plan. A VLAN isolates network traffic very well and network engineers can decide which protocols, ports, and services to allow in and out of the "things" VLAN. In total, 23 percent stated that they'll just put them on the corporate network. The production corporate network is a fine place if proper security measures via a management suite are employed.

Eight percent said that they wouldn't allow the devices onto their networks. I find that answer to be premature and not realistic, but only time will tell. I don't believe that you can prevent all devices from connecting to your networks.

Executives and IT people are the worst offenders of any corporate policies restricting devices, so good luck with that.

Just over one-fourth (26 percent) of respondents admitted that they "don't know" how they plan to handle the new devices. To that I say, "Awesome". Prepare to have your data stolen and a huge malware problem.

IT Preparation Methods for IoT

The Need for a Bigger Pipe

Most IT pros realize that over time, things or no things, they'll need more network bandwidth to handle higher demand. But those surveyed believe that multiple factors, not just more things, will drive the need for a bigger pipe.

  • More data usage — 78 percent
  • Increased content demands (e.g., video) — 68 percent
  • More users — 59 percent
  • New devices joining the network — 55 percent
  • Different devices joining network — 30 percent

The one result in that list that should surprise you is the last one. Fewer than one-third said that they feel that different devices joining the network will drive the need for more bandwidth. I assume the respondents know more than the guesstimaters at Gartner who predict that by 2020 there will be 26 billion devices and at Cisco who predict 50 billion "things" by 2050.

In my previous article on this topic, I called such attitudes as having the "Head-in-the-Sand" syndrome. Perhaps I was a bit hasty in the location where I assumed those heads would be firmly placed. You can only hide from the growing number of things if you don't plan to be in IT.

Think about it for a moment. Twenty-six billion devices by 2020. 2020 is a mere five-and-a-half years away, folks. If you think that number is off, you might be correct. I think it could be low and conservative.

If one billion people each have one device, that's one billion devices, right now. How many have more than one? Now add in security cameras, automatic locks, monitoring sensors of all kinds, medical devices, industrial controls, internet-connected cars, and so on. As big of a number as 26 billion is, I think it's very low.

The Storage Conversation

The conversation always turns to big data, doesn't it? All those devices. All those user accounts. All those service accounts. All those ones and zeros. It all has to go somewhere. Unless you don't care about the data, that is. And not caring about the data is certainly an option. I'm not being facetious here. It is an option. And it's a reasonable one. The fact is that you don't have to keep every bit of data that's sent across a wire.

For example, you don't have to save the data for device "state" necessarily. If a sensor sends a signal to open a switch, you don't have to save that data. The data that's important to save is the result of that open switch—a higher temperature, a lower flow of water, or stopping the loading of crates.

But, it's certainly true that if you keep a lot of new data, you're going to need a place to store it, a method to retrieve it, and a process to archive it. So, it's probably time to have that conversation, no matter how much you dread it.

Everyone's Favorite Topic: Security

Security concerns have respondents annoyed to the point that only 23 percent are going to allow devices on the corporate network. Remember that 43 percent earlier who were going to allow the devices but on a separate network? That's a valid security solution. And the 8 percent who will handle security by not allowing the devices on their networks at all.

If you're going to allow new devices on your network of the consumer, corporate, or industrial types, my best advice is to buy a good management suite. If for no other reason, you need to track the number and types of devices that connect to, or attempt to, your network.

Management Sweet Management

Management suites also have security features built into them, such as jailbreak device denial, perimeter security, operating system updates, app updates, security lockouts, and data wipe. Some suites are more heavy-handed than others, especially for BYOD scenarios. Corporate policy and changing business needs will drive how much security and how much management heaviness you require.

Read this

M2M and the Internet of Things: A guide

M2M and the Internet of Things: A guide

The Internet of Things will consist primarily of machines talking to one another, with computer-connected humans observing, analysing and acting upon the resulting 'big data' explosion. Here's how the next internet revolution is shaping up.

The greatest problem facing IT departments in preparing for the Internet of Things is that of constrained budgets. Yes, it's a problem that never goes away, but for your company to adequately deal with the coming changes to your network infrastructure, management, security, and storage, you're going to need for someone to write bigger checks.

What are your plans for preparing for the Internet of Things? Are you planning now or are you going to "wait and see". Talk back and let me know.

Related Stories:

Topics: Security, Hardware, Software


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Did you miss the need for more addresses?

    a billion more devices will need a billion more addresses, or you end up with NAT on top of NAT on top of NAT....
    • You're kidding, right?

      Ever heard of IPv6. 2 to the power of 128 addresses = approx. 3.4 times 10 to the power 38 or 340 billion billion billion billion. That enough for yer?
      • Plenty for me. But no mention in the article for IPv6

        Only of the use of VPNs.

        Without IPv6, the "internet of things" won't exist.
  • Will most businesses even end up using them?

    IoT seems like a pretty niche thing. I can't think of very many broad uses for it.

    Will most businesses even end up using them?
  • Usefulness of Internet of Things

    I'm with CobraA1. The Internet of Things sounds good. Think of all the revenue from billions of things to sell, but how useful are they?
    CG IT
    • All depends...

      One for the pacemaker, one for each drug injection, one to monitor for organ rejection, several for spinal supplement/replacement, hearing aids, artificial eyes...

      I can think of about 50 just for one person after an automobile accident.
      • I'm not saying they will be useless.

        Don't misunderstand; I'm not saying they will be useless. For those that need them, they will be very useful indeed.

        However - most uses I can think of tend to be niche uses. Yeah, it's probably very valuable in the medical field, but that's one field of many, and hopefully most people remain healthy?
        • AT&T commercial

          Have you not seen the AT&T commercial where the guy is at his cabin and uses his smart phone to connect to his house, lock his doors, turn of his lights, TV, and water faucet, adjust his thermostat, and check his security cameras (I may be making that last one up, but still already available technology)? If you think any or all of those to be niche markets then I think you truly underestimate the average American's predilection for gadgets. How many people truly need smart phones?

          Fortunately, ETSI's standards for machine to machine (M2M) are being adapted for IoT and that involves the same security standard as is being implemented for LTE-Advanced mobile technology. Most of this should come on a per unit basis and keep home and small business owner head aches to a minimum and IT professional's to a very dull roar at most.
          • Will have to work out pricing.

            Humm, some good points.

            Although I should note that home automation has been around for a while - remember X10?

            As much as X10 and similar products are cool, I never really did see them being used extensively in homes.

            So that does leave the question - why did old home automation technologies such as X10 never really take off, and how do IoT devices plan on overcoming those challenges?

            I think the biggest barrier will likely be prices. IoT devices have to come down in price - I dare say even below the prices of older home automation products such as X10. It will be a challenge.

            "Fortunately, ETSI's standards for machine to machine (M2M) are being adapted for IoT and that involves the same security standard as is being implemented for LTE-Advanced mobile technology."

            Humm, interesting, but actually I see Bluetooth becoming predominant. Fitbit, Withings, etc are using Bluetooth technologies rather than some sort of LTE style technologies.

            Some devices also seem to be using WiFi as well (Withings' bathroom scale, Phillips Hue).

            So - there does seem to be some competition as far as which technologies may be adopted. Haven't seen a lot of devices yet using LTE.
        • As far as I can tell, EVERY unit in an "internet of things"

          would be a niche product. The ones that controls the lock on a door wouldn't likely do anything else (maybe log the events, might even include a photo capture in the log).

          So far the first product I've read about was a $20 chip that ran linux, but is intended for any device a vendor wants to embed it in...

  • Cloud is the Answer for IoT

    IoT is generating new evolving data and desperately needs computational resources for creating revolutionary IoT applications. Cloud computing with its agility, high availability and performance promises an exponential leap in the emerging era of connected world.

    But before we go gaga over cloud and IoT bond, we would need some enhancements in the cloud computing platform to meet IoT application requirements especially from security point of view.

    Following up on this, I came across and registered for a webinar on Cloudification for Internet of Things - The Road Ahead
  • There is not Internet of Things

    there is only an Internet of Ecosystems until smart device and appliance (SDA) makers dictate an open and authoritative set of standards to be followed in order to connect to the "Internet of Things." Two or three desktop and/or smartphone makers should not be given that much power, especially when their own agendas are to lock users in. If SDA OEMs aren't dictating an open cross-platform environment for their products, there is little hope that a truly robust Internet of Things will emerge.