QandA With SolarWinds Head Geek Patrick Hubbard: Assessing the Impact of the Internet of Things on IT

By Patrick Hubbard,
Head Geek and Sr. Technical Marketing Manager, SolarWinds.

Q: Where is the Internet of Things (IoT) at today?
A: The IoT hype-cycle is in afterburner with big vendors like Cisco strongly behind it. In fact, Gartner's earlier predictions of 13 billion devices by 2020 is being viewed as conservative in some circles. Other analysis are now predicting the addition of $1.5 trillion value to the global economy in 2019 from IoT.

Q: What does IoT mean for IT departments?
A: For IT departments, and especially the network engineers, IoT is a slowly rising tide that will eventually make BYOD accommodation strategies seem pretty quaint. People joke that one day break room coffeemakers will be on the network, but that might not be too far off. IoT is inevitable, and it is nothing short of a new universal entitlement: Everything you touch may access the Internet. Eventually, nontraditional network devices will outnumber today's networked devices. It won't just be a swarm of HVAC, lighting and security controls or intelligent shop-floor tools that will expect Internet access; delivery trucks, trailers, shipping containers, smart pallets with onboard GPS, inventory management routing, sort and delivery elements, scanners and sensors of every variety will become Internet "things" using network protocols and bandwidth in unexpected ways. And of course, it will be left up to IT departments to sort all of this out.

On top of that, because IoT will fundamentally change the way we humans interact with our environments, the ensuing complexities won't just be about device and bandwidth entitlement added to the fully burdened cost of each employee. Environments will respond to the presence of humans, and user context—person, authentication, location, traffic, application—will all need to flow seamlessly as people move across traditional IT security boundaries. So, as another consequence of IoT, IT departments will need to work closer than ever with the CIO, as well as legal, HR and other business departments.

Q: What tips would you give IT professionals to ensure they and their infrastructure are ready for IoT?
A: First and foremost, IT departments should make sure they're able to closely monitor traffic—and not just network traffic, but application traffic, too. Traditional approaches like NetFlow will still be valuable, but IoT traffic, and in particular IoT traffic security, will be more about application awareness than simple traffic monitoring and management. Quality of service monitoring should also be used, keeping in mind that IoT device responsiveness will be more important than traditional bandwidth-consuming things like video. Paradoxically, latency and reachability will be top priorities over limiting traffic. It will also be important to get IP address management under control and get gear ready for IPv6.

Q: How will ITOA and IT management solutions need to evolve to support IoT?
A: With IoT, there are more devices, endpoints and data that IT will need to manage and monitor to ensure uptime, application performance and business productivity. IT management and ITOA solutions will need to be more robust. Ideally, ITOA will need to become a component of network and systems management solutions as businesses will demand comprehensive solutions with mature analytics abilities truly tailored to the needs of IT. It won't be enough to simply be a data collection platform or even a metrics dashboard solution. IT management systems will need to analyze more data than ever before, and transform it into concise, useful information to help IT pros troubleshoot performance problems. Providing the IT with the breadth and depth of information needed to support devices, applications and networks in the era of IoT can only be done with a comprehensive management solution.

Q: One of the biggest barriers to IoT adoption is security. What are some steps IT pros can take to ensure their sensitive, mission-critical data is protected?
A: IoT depends on a complex ecosystem, including providers of connectivity, device, cloud, data and so much more. Securing the IoT ecosystem from the device hardware to the software and through all the network components is a tall order for any organization. Fortunately, security isn't a one-person job. Every department of an organization—from the finance and legal department's assessment and risk evaluation, along with the marketing department's market-optimization rules—has a role in ensuring mission-critical data is protected. However, managing all of the security measures and processes, which will only increase as IoT gains more traction, is still a lot of work for the IT department, so, here are a few specific steps IT can take to simplify security management, while also protecting their organizations sensitive data:

First, create a solution for the network to utilize automation. Automation will quickly correct issues as they arise and will provide immediate remediation to reduce response times, significantly reducing potential network downtime or damage from an attack.

Next, implement security information and event management, also known as SIEM. With IoT, it will be more important than ever to improve security measures, stay compliant and solve problems easily and efficiently. SIEM provides a 24/7 monitoring service for IT to detect security and operational events by logging real-time and forensic data at network speeds.

Finally, establish new privacy policies. From legal to administrative roles, it's critical to create and implement a new set of guidelines. It will be IT's responsibility to make sure the guidelines are upheld through the use of approved devices and technologies.

About Patrick Hubbard
Patrick Hubbard is the Head Geek and Sr. Technical Marketing Manager at SolarWinds.

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