Enterprises say they are prepared for the Internet of Things (IoT) and see it as a potential opportunity. However, as it stands today, there may not be enough network capacity to handle the demand that will accompany an anticipated explosion in the number of connected devices.
That’s according to the findings of a recent survey of 400 IT professionals in the United States and the United Kingdom. The survey was designed to gauge opportunities and challenges surrounding the IoT and assess whether enterprise networks are ready for a surge in IoT deployments.
The survey found significant awareness of the potential impact of the IoT, with 90% of respondents either planning or already implementing solutions to cope with the increased demands on networking caused by IoT projects.
According to the research firm Gartner, “The installed base of “things,’ excluding PCs, tablets and smartphones, will grow to 26 billion units in 2020, which is almost a 30-fold increase from 0.9 billion units in 2009.”
The resources to support these deployments already appear to be on hand, with 78% of respondents saying they have sufficient budget and 75% sufficient staff. Despite overall trends toward flat or very low-growth IT budgets, 89% believe they’re very or quite likely to receive more budget in the next year to respond to IoT demands, and 73% believe the same to be true for staffing.
However, while 86% of IT professionals say they understand what will be required of their networks for IoT deployments, and almost half (46%) expect these deployments to become part of their organization’s existing IT network, more than half (57%) reported their current network is already at full capacity. A similar number (54%) see network infrastructure management as a high priority for their organizations.
“It’s encouraging that the majority of IT professionals recognize the demands the Internet of Things will make on their networks,” said Cricket Liu, chief infrastructure officer at Infoblox. “Network administrators have struggled in recent years to stay on top of the “bring your own device’ (BYOD) trend, and the IoT will create an increase in end points that is an order of magnitude greater. At the same time, many networks teams will have to respond to the IoT without significant increases in budgets or head count. Network automation will become crucial as IT departments confront this massive growth in network complexity.”
The survey also revealed that almost two thirds of respondents (63%) believe the IoT to be a threat to network security, a concern shared by Liu: “With so many objects and IP addresses being added, it’s important for network teams to keep track of what’s on their network at any given point, and also to bear in mind all these objects and IP addresses are potential weak links in an organization’s IT infrastructure.”
However, a third of respondents (37%) believe concerns over IoT security to be nothing more than hype.
Staying in the loop
The Internet of Things could make it harder for IT leaders to stay in the loop when devices are added to enterprise networks, much as the BYOD trend has seen employees bringing personal devices to work without prior IT department approval.
Asked if it is difficult for IT managers to control for where IoT deployments are occurring across the business, 56% agreed. In addition, 45% agreed they do not get sufficient information from line-of-business teams to manage those deployments. Yet 74% said their organization has an integrated IoT deployment plan and IoT deployments can’t be authorized without involvement from IT.
“These results, while seemingly in conflict, align with what Infoblox customers are telling us anecdotally,” said Liu. “IT departments have a seat at the table when business units—such as operations, manufacturing, marketing, sales and customer service—want to move forward with IoT deployments. But these business units often get deep into the buying process before calling IT, sometimes forcing IT to scramble to provide support for devices that lack the full set of connectivity and security protocols found in established categories such as PCs, tablets and smart phones.”
Infoblox recommends several steps that network managers can take now to enhance their readiness for the Internet of Things, drawn from the survey results and talks with our customers:
- Work to get IT a seat at the table early in IoT deployment planning, before buying decisions are made.
- Set network access policies for “things” that prevent inefficient use of network resources and preserve network security.
- Assess control and automation systems, to make sure the network team isn’t overwhelmed by manual tasks as IoT devices come on line.
- Consider deployment of IPv6, or expansion of existing IPv6 deployments, to prevent the current global shortage of IPv4 addresses from delaying the introduction of IoT.