Enterprises are unprepared for the impact of IoT on their networks

Written by on February 23, 2015 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments

Network loadTelesperience’s chief strategist Teresa Cottam recently spoke at a Level 3 Vision Day on The Connected World alongside Anthony Christie Global CMO of Level 3 and Amdocs’ Vincent Rousselet. Together they described the many and myriad possibilities that will be delivered by the Connected World – ranging from novel, compelling experiences, to new efficiency drivers for enterprises and emerging revenue-generating opportunities.

As someone that spends a lot of time thinking about network experiences in particular, it quickly became apparent that the impact on the network of these exciting new services and experiences is still overlooked by many enterprises and public sector organisations.

Now, you could be forgiven for cynically believing we have plenty of time to think about all of this. After all, the typical pattern in the telecoms market is to hype up an issue and then wait, and wait, and wait for something to happen. But this time the challenge is slightly more pressing because the Connected World is substantially being driven by players outside the telecoms market who perceive great benefit to themselves from delivering it.

This novel situation is both exciting and risky. It means that demand for connectivity will continue to rise, but CSPs are not in control of the timetable or what the network is being used for. The very real risk is disintermediation to utility provider status of connectivity, with poor business modelling driving most of the value elsewhere. At the same time CSPs will have to handle the challenge of IoT data to their networks, and possibly assist enterprises to manage both the risk and network challenges within the LAN.

It’s true that each smart object will generally produce only small amounts of data, but the problem comes from the fact that many of these will be ‘mobile’ in the sense that they will simply turn up with the user. Best guesses put the number of IoT objects likely to be seen by 2020 at a few hundred for every connected person, so it’s multiple devices connecting simultaneously in a locality that will present key new challenges to network managers on both the LAN and the WAN.

Many enterprises have maintained control in the past by ‘banning’ unauthorised devices from their networks. However, this will become harder to sustain as a policy because both staff and customers expect to be able to connect ad hoc to networks whatever ‘things’ they bring with them. Not only will many wearables be discrete and hard to spot, but they will opportunistically attempt to connect to networks. At the same time, most enterprises lack the capability to detect and prevent unauthorised device access. Allowing them to log onto guest networks – which are likely to become quickly overloaded – will not solve the problem either, because this will not provide access to internal enterprise systems or other IT resources, and it’s likely that these networks will also lack robust network management and authentication. Not the least of enterprises’ problems is that workers and customers will go elsewhere if you do not enable connectivity, or will bring their own network with them.

To demonstrate the unpreparedness of many enterprises for the network impact of wearables and other smart objects, consider the results from a recent Infoblox study of US and UK network professionals. This found that while the majority (78 percent) of businesses already have a fast-growing IoT infrastructure, which ranges from vending machines to cash registers to printers, only 27 percent have security ‘things’ such as surveillance systems. Worse still, 65 percent of businesses have no provision to support IoT such as dedicated networks or management systems, and 57 percent reported that their network was already at capacity.

Some verticals are undoubtedly more prepared than others; but expanding use of IoT and preparedness don’t necessarily match up. Neither do risk profile and preparedness.

Despite being early adopters of wearables, another study by Ipswitch found that 83 percent of NHS trusts said they have no strategy in place for managing their network and security impact; while only 38 percent can differentiate between wired and wireless devices attached to their network. UK universities fared no better, with 76 percent having no plan in place for the impact of wearables.

My key message to network managers and CSPs is to be aware that the IoT is already being deployed. They therefore need to act sooner rather than later to manage both the impact on their networks and the new risks being created.

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Tracy Monday

About the Author

About the Author: Tracy is an Analyst with UK-based analyst firm Telesperience. She has 20 years’ experience working with communications service providers, infrastructure providers and systems integrators. ( See www.telesperience.com for more details.) .

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