Why we need to change our thinking on the Internet of Things

The IoT trend has galvanised thinking on tackling the increase in data and traffic but there's another area that requires desperate attention.

Devices don't connect to the internet to see what their friends are posting on Devicebook. They're exchanging data and performing tasks via a well-understood paradigm -- applications.

There's a lot of buzz these days about the -- forthcoming, already here, arriving between 2013 and 2017 -- Internet of Things (IoT). Along with that buzz come statistics -- particularly from networking expert Cisco, which predicts that billions of devices will connect to the Internet in the next few years.

No one disputes that because it's obvious. From wearables and internet-enabled televisions to smart pens and children's toys, the growth of the IoT seems like an inevitable conclusion.

What's not so obvious is how the IoT is going to impact businesses and datacentres. Much airtime is given to the increase in data and traffic, but very little focuses on exactly what all these 'things' are talking to -- and just as importantly, how they're communicating.

The answer, of course, is that IoT is about applications, on both the device and the back end -- applications on appliances, in the cloud and in the datacentre.  

Enabling 'smart' products involves more than just the applications that manage that device's data. It requires apps that track activation, perform licensing, manage billing and subscriptions, and more. These support applications are hidden; they are not visible manifestations of a product that interacts directly with consumers, but rather the support system that enables it.

You must start preparing the datacentre now for the inevitable explosion. If you focus on only the top layer of applications, you'll miss out on the supporting services required to transform and take advantage of the new app economy.

These supporting applications also require scale, security, and rapid deployment processes, and the datacentre in an application world must also be able to support those requirements. That means the entire value chain of network services in the datacentre must be agile, lean, and efficient.

It must churn out new services to keep up with businesses getting applications to market -- before the competition.

That's why emerging technologies focus heavily on programmability and standardisation through service templates. Such capabilities enable network services to be deployed at the speed of business.

A January 2014 InformationWeek Report, How to Tie Tech Innovation to Business Strategy, highlights business leaders' growing concern about IT's ability to keep up: "More than half, 53 per cent, say not being able to implement fast enough to meet business goals is somewhat or very concerning. Fifty per cent worry about IT budgets being insufficient, and 44 per cent say they may not have enough personnel.”

Whether it's the cloud, SDN, SDDC, NFV, or NSV, the datacentre infrastructure required for businesses to participate in an application world will need to be highly programmable. That's because programmability enables automation and orchestration, which addresses concerns about deployment speed as well as budgets and personnel.

Automation and orchestration enable IT to do more with less because tedious and repetitive tasks can be performed through scripts and management systems – and, in a perfect world, initiated by application and business owners.

As you plan the next three to five years, it's paramount to evaluate the datacentre infrastructure with an eye toward how it fits into an application world. Programmability and orchestration systems must focus on the network services that scale, secure, and deliver the applications that will drive business.

Kuna Nallappan, APAC director of product and business intelligence F5 Networks

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