Monitoring will be critical in the IoT age
Monitoring the billions of connected ‘things’ will be critical in the IoT age.
We’ve all seen the numbers — experts predict that by 2020, the IoT will reach 26 billion units and hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. While it’s safe to say the IoT will be transformative for businesses, all of the possibilities opened up by these new connected devices will also bring new challenges to overcome. For the network administrator of the future, the rising complexity brought on by more than 200 billion connected ‘things’ creates a whole new set of challenges. Forget about BYOD and start thinking about BYOT — Bring Your Own Thing — where the ‘thing’ could be anything from a coffee machine, to wearables, to cars.
Monitoring these devices will be critical in order to guarantee a constant flow of reliable data. For instance, wearable technology in healthcare. Devices can monitor a patient’s pulse or heart rate and, if there’s a sudden drop, an ambulance could automatically be dispatched to find the patient via GPS. But if the software crashes, the device gets disconnected or is simply turned off, the patient might die.
All of these connected devices need sensors, networks, back-end infrastructure and analytics software to make them useful. So the question is, who monitors the monitor?
One of the biggest challenges will be integrating a heterogeneous group of devices into an extant network structure, particularly in industries where there is a huge scope of possible ‘things’. Data that gets picked up has to be added to the central IT system in order to enable further processing, useful display and a basis for action. Monitoring things isn’t so different from monitoring network devices — what matters is getting relevant data that can be analysed and put to a purpose.
When network monitoring was first introduced, the technology was mostly used to monitor physical IT devices like routers or switches (Monitoring 1.0). Then, as virtualisation became more prevalent, new concepts and functionalities had to be found in order to gather and process new kinds of relevant data (Monitoring 2.0). The next logical step was to run applications in the cloud. To give users of SaaS solutions and other cloud applications continuous access to their productive environment, the connection to the cloud has to be closely monitored (Monitoring 3.0).
The IoT launches a new era in network monitoring — Monitoring 4.0. This is because with every new thing connected to the network, the amount of data that can and should be monitored is continually growing.
Due to the heterogeneous nature of the ‘things’ and applications, many of which we probably can’t even conceive of today, it will be difficult to have an out-of-the-box solution that covers every possible scenario. What is interesting is that we’re already seeing IT pros ride this evolution and adapt to the developments. By utilising customisable sensors, IT admins are currently monitoring everything from office buildings to swimming pools.
Although we might stand at the beginning of this revolution, it’s important to start planning for the future now. Sensible integration with the existing IT infrastructure should not be taken lightly. The goal is to create intelligent networks that can control each other autonomously along the entire value chain.
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