For the last five years, technology pundits have been talking about how cloud computing, big data, and security will reinvent IT architecture and thinking. But companies move at different rates than pundits do, so while IT architecture has changed, change has often come about informally and incrementally—and not as part of any long-range strategic plan.
However, IoT—with its reliance on edge computing—is a different story, because edge computing takes you away from the central data centers and data repositories that characterize traditional IT architecture. Corporate security governance must also be extended in new ways to the edges of the enterprise and different types of clouds and on-premises systems must be able to seamlessly and securely exchange information.
SEE: IT leader's guide to edge computing (Tech Pro Research)
In this new world, strong middleware that can automate integration between systems, clouds, and on-premises systems is critical. So is awareness of all your company's IT assets and the ability to fail over systems if disaster recovery becomes necessary.
How can IT leaders ensure that they're covering all the bases when they implement IoT? Here are five best practices.
1. Manage your assets
As many as 65% of companies today do not have fully developed IT asset tracking and management systems. This comes at a time when shadow IT, where end users are purchasing and installing systems and devices without IT's knowledge, makes up 30% to 40% of enterprise IT spending, according to Gartner.
If no one is actively managing these assets, they become vulnerable to security penetration and breaches.
IT asset management software can detect new appliances and systems as they enter IT networks and can provide a way for logging and monitoring these assets. If your company lacks such a system, now is the time to consider acquiring one. Knowing every piece of technology that is in your enterprise, and the data it contains, is vital to developing a comprehensive and totally inclusive IT architecture.
SEE: Hardware inventory policy (Tech Pro Research)
2. Be prepared for oddball IoT
One of the implementation challenges of IoT is that every IoT vendor, whether it is providing an RFID reader, a robot, or a CNC machine, is primarily concerned with the immediate operating and data universe of the IoT solution itself. Consequently, there are many "oddball" IoT communications protocols that don't necessarily talk to other devices or systems. Fortunately, there is commercial middleware software that can automatically translate these oddball IoT protocols into more common protocols that will make communications with your other devices and systems possible. Your IT architecture should reserve a spot for an automated communications protocol translator.
SEE: Special report: Sensor'd enterprise: IoT, ML, and big data (free TechRepublic PDF)
3. Formalize a plan for edge and hybrid cloud computing
Internet bandwidth is too limited to enable real-time data payload transmissions from servers in plants and remote facilities to a headquarters data center. This is a challenge because you ultimately want to bring all this data together in a central repository, most likely on premise and at headquarters, so your managers and others with a business need to know can query and perform analytics.
For most sites, finding a way to move data that is locally collected at the edges of the enterprise to a central data repository requires a combination of cloud and on-premises computing, in concert with a scripted communications plan that schedules data payload shipments from the remote edges of the enterprise to cloud storage—and from cloud storage to your central data repository, which could be on premise.
Orchestrating this data storage and transport plan requires a reworking of your IT architecture.
4. Revise your disaster recovery and backup plan
If you're like most companies, which now use a combination of on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud computing—where do you back up and recover your data during a disaster?
Many organizations are opting to back up central data to the cloud on a nightly basis, with the cloud either being private or a single-tenant public cloud. This means reworking the DR plan so that it now includes both cloud and on-premises computing and so it's in concurrence with revisions to your IT architecture.
Revising the DR plan will be on companies' to-do list anyway, since 30% still have no disaster recovery plan in place.
SEE: Internet of Things (IoT): Cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
5. Enact "all points" security
One way to ensure security at the edges of your enterprise where end users are likely running the technology, is to implement a zero-trust network, which automatically verifies IP addresses and authenticates users from both inside and outside corporate walls. No one gains admission to the network until all security criteria have been met. With an enterprise-wide zero-trust network, IT doesn't need to confront end users about security when end users self-enable their technology.
What are the biggest changes your organization has made to accommodate IoT implementations? Share your experiences and advice in the discussion below.
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.