Is Your Network Ready for the Internet of Things?

October 14th, 2015

First of a two-part series

Have you begun thinking about your network in light of the fast-tracking Internet of Things? If not, now’s the time to start.

Research firm IDC has predicted that by decade’s end every industry will have rolled out IoT initiatives. Today, over 50% of IoT activity is centered in manufacturing, transportation, smart city, and consumer applications, it says. Sensors embedded in manufacturing equipment can transmit data about their condition so they can be serviced before a breakdown, for example, while cities can deploy smart streetlights that turn themselves off when no one is around.

But as efforts by these verticals’ progress and other sectors join in – with initiatives, for example, to remotely control a vast array of devices transmitting data over the Internet – more corporate networks increasingly will feel the effects.

By 2018, IDC expects that 40% of IoT-created data will be stored, processed, analyzed, and acted upon close to, or at the edge of, corporate networks. IoT devices constantly generate and transmit trickles of data, and processing and analyzing it at the edge avoids network chokepoint issues. The approach also saves on bandwidth consumption by not passing along unnecessary data — such as that merely reflecting a device’s stable status — to the data center.

In the next few years, 50% of IT networks will transition from having excess capacity to handle additional IoT devices to being network-constrained, with nearly 10% of sites being overwhelmed, according to IDC.

SDN Invaluable

Enterprises can begin preparing for these and other changes that may hit the network by looking to technologies such as Software Defined Networking (SDN), which centralizes control of the network through intelligent software. SDN can complement edge computing and analytics to further maximize performance and efficiency as device connections and data traffic increase and capacity are stretched thin.

Automation and coordinated policies help SDN take IoT situations in hand, making it possible to dynamically change network behavior in response to events such as alterations in data flows. SDN could be used to seamlessly provision new resources for peak-load demands, for example – both network and in conjunction with processing resources. Think of the usefulness of SDN-powered dynamic network management in scenarios like coping with network traffic spikes that may occur as vehicular data makes its way from connected cars to automakers’ cloud networks at high-congestion locations during rush hour.

Another consideration, particularly once you move beyond local machine-to-machine (M2M) IoT networks, is ensuring that your networks support Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). The premium value of IPv6 for IoT is its ability to overcome the limits of the IPv4 address space so that the Internet can extend to any device or service, which will be required with large-scale sensor device deployments.

On top of that, SDN also boasts strong features and solutions to support mobility of end-nodes, as well as mobility of the routing nodes of the network, and it lets nodes autonomously define their addresses to reduce configuration costs.

There’s some urgency for enterprise leaders to begin tackling these and other issues (such as security, which we’ll address in the second part of our series) that will impact corporate networks in the age of IoT. With some 4.9 billion connected things expected to be in use this year, by Gartner’s count, and 25 billion five years from now, the countdown to an everything-connected world is already well underway.

Learn more about Masergy’s Software Defined Network Platform to see how we are helping companies modernize their networks in response to emerging business innovations

Jody Gilliam

With 15+ years of experience developing content-focused marketing strategies for technology companies, Jody crafts thought leadership articles and develops research ideas to support Masergy’s marketing initiatives. Her background in journalism serves her well, as she works closely with industry analysts and Masergy’s top leaders to publish engaging content. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and communications from Southwestern University and her master’s degree in digital marketing from the University of Denver.