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Cisco: First-gen internet is 'not fit for purpose' for IoT

Connecting things and machines will require a 're-engineering' of the architecture of the internet to transform it into its second generation, Cisco's CTO for ANZ has said, with edge computing a requirement for latency.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The internet as it currently stands is "not fit for purpose" to engage the connectivity of things and machines, according to Cisco ANZ CTO Kevin Bloch, as mobility requirements will be subverted by the Internet of Things (IoT) and a complete re-engineering will need to take place.

"As we move to more machines being connected than humans, the first generation of the internet is not fit for purpose for the second generation, which is going to be calibrated far more by the Internet of Things," Bloch told ZDNet.

Calling 4G, 4.5G, and 5G "the same damn thing", he said humans will still want the same kind of connectivity, albeit faster, cheaper, and with more data -- but on the other hand, IoT requires the exact opposite of current mobile technology connectivity in every way.

"When you're looking at the Internet of Things, you're actually doing the reverse of that: In many cases, you've got no power, you can't charge batteries for 10 years; in many cases, you're far away from the transmitter-receiver, like on a farm, so you need to think lower frequencies not higher frequencies," he said.

"So when we start talking about the internet gen-one being not fit for purpose, that's what we're talking about. There's a need to rethink the engineering end to end of the internet in order to support things."

Cisco is in a "really strong position" for this re-engineering project, Bloch said, with the latency requirements of IoT also requiring edge computing during the shift to second-generation internet -- which means cloud will also change.

"In terms of that re-engineering, it's not just the connectivity piece; it's also latency," he explained.

"You need to have actually intelligence distributed at the edge so that you're circumventing the latency problem. And this is why I'm saying it's the end of cloud as we know it, because you're going to be pushing intelligence to that edge, and that edge over time is going to look a lot more powerful. It's going to be looking like an edged cloud."

Cisco SVP of Enterprise Infrastructure and Solutions Jeff Reed also addressed the importance of edge computing for IoT during his Cisco Live Melbourne technology keynote on Thursday morning.

"The edge is so critical as part of this evolution. And what I'm seeing is that in the IoT world ... it's not just connectivity. It's not just networking. It's how I think about security at the edge. It's how I think about compute at the edge," Reed said.

"We make these applications for IoT that require processing close to the things due to latency, due to bandwidth requirements or lack thereof. So as you kind of embark upon this IoT world, the services and capabilities at the edge of your network are going to be more and more critical."

IoT will also require a fundamental shift in the basic mobile business model, with Bloch repeating his warning of the possibility that telcos may not make money through IoT.

"Be careful if you're a telco. We might be saying there's going to be 50 billion things connected ... but they're going to expect connectivity for free," Bloch told ZDNet, pointing towards the low cost of devices and connectivity that are required in such IoT products as the CSIRO's RFID bee backpacks project.

Bloch pointed towards the fact that Cisco has IoT partnerships in both unlicensed and licensed spectrum with NNN Co and Telstra, respectively, because vendors need to look at "the right application for the right use case".

However, he said the future may lie in unlicensed spectrum.

"We'll be using things like free spectrum, and again, telcos need to think about that, because at the end of the day, how you monetise the Internet of Things, it's not the same as if we look back in time how they monetised mobile phones," he said.

"That model's there for humans, but it's not going to cut it for the machine world."

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Cisco Live in Melbourne as a guest of Cisco

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