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What does IoT mean for your business?

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Ensuring the business network is ready for the Internet of Things means ensuring it is scalable, reliable and secure, says Martin Walshaw, senior engineer at F5 Networks.
You’ve heard of the Internet of Things (or Internet of Everything) by now, I’m sure. It’s things like your fridge telling you when you’ve run out of eggs; your shoes telling you how far you’ve travelled; your car keeping you up to date on local traffic so you know which routes to avoid; your house telling you how much water or heating is being used, that kind of thing.

For businesses, the focus is very much on data: Cisco reports that the IoT will cause IP traffic to reach 1.6 zettabytes by 2018, a 300% rise on 2013’s figures. That works out at around 132 exabytes per month by 2018.

Importantly, the report states that the majority of this traffic will not be generated by PCs; it will be generated by wireless devices such as smartphones and, of course, those sensors that will connect those devices to the internet – the Internet of Things.

So what does this mean for your business and your network? Well, ultimately, it means more traffic, and more traffic means more connections. That requires an infrastructure that is more reliable and scalable than ever.

One of the most important aspects of this, one that I believe can sometimes be overlooked, is domain name systems (DNS). That’s the starting point for IoT connections, and more devices means more connections, so service providers need to ensure their DNS infrastructure can handle the increase. If they don’t then the issue becomes one of latency, and slow connections will result in annoyed end-users.

Of course, more devices connecting to your network also means more threats. All these new devices connected to the internet offer a new route for cyber attackers to take – a new way of getting into your network and snaffling private, sensitive information. A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, for example, could be much more devastating considering the number of devices potentially affected.

The IoT is much more difficult to defend against, as the traditional perimeter in the data centre no longer exists. Data will travel from different devices along different networks to different data centres, and security must adapt to continue providing protection. An IoT security architecture will need to adopt a multi-layered approach to ensure true end-to-end protection, from application layer firewalls to access management to remote access security and everything in between.

So ensuring your network is ready for the Internet of Things means ensuring it is scalable, reliable and secure, and the key to that is software-defined application services (SDAS) – a centralised application service fabric that can operate across physical, virtual and cloud environments, meaning applications will always be available, secure and fast. Additionally, the ability to scale up and down as needed without affecting availability or latency is vital to cope with the traffic deluge that will come with the IoT.

Ultimately, the Internet of Things isn’t about the ‘things’ at all, it’s about the data, the applications and the services that the IoT enables. And, most importantly, it’s about the underlying network infrastructure that allows it all to happen, through scalability, flexibility, reliability and intelligence.