Recently, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been a hot topic, and it’s easy to see why. Did you know that there are more smart devices and electronic gadgets on earth than people? According to the IDC, the digital universe will reach 44 trillion gigabytes of data from a variety of “things,” such as medical implants, wearable technology, and even vending machines, by 2020. Today, according to CloudTweaks, more than 2.5 billion gigabytes of data is generated every day.
If that doesn’t make you take notice, Cisco says that IoT will reach an economic value of $14.4 trillion by 2022. To take advantage of this growth, many companies will jump on the IoT bandwagon by creating software-defined IoT widgets and the supporting management applications, and make them available around the globe. The result of this IoT explosion causes a strain on data center capacity and accessibility for many companies, requiring data center service providers to be able to support increasing data demands.
To understand how the IoT paradigm will affect technologies, we first must have an appreciation for what IoT is. The fundamental concept behind IoT is a network of physical devices (or things) that are embedded with technology to give them the ability to sense or measure their environment — and then have the capability to store and or programmatically send data through network connectivity. Data from these devices can be sent, stored, or programmatic actions taken. Applications of IoT include smart homes, wearable technology, parking meters, equipment sensors, or refrigerators, to name a few. IoT taps into data that allows us to make smarter decisions, quicker.
IoT brings with it a significantly higher demand for storing and processing data, and requires smarter systems and data center infrastructure tailored to handle the increase. At the current rate of IoT growth, now is the time to plan for a scalable data future.
With the influx of data expected to happen in the coming years, IT and tech decision makers need to keep their data operations top of mind, and data centers need to prepare themselves for increased scale, density, and security. When talks of IoT take place, it won’t be just one aspect of the infrastructure that will need to be augmented to support IoT. It will impact the whole technology stack, including the networks, facilities, cabinets, technology platforms, and system administration. Companies and data centers are already starting to see the effects of IoT and must ensure they are capable of handling future data requirements.
According to Dr. Deepak Kumar, CTO at Adaptiva, “In the coming decade, the IoT will cause the bandwidth gap to balloon out of control. Enterprises will see enormous amounts of traffic coming from a massive number of sources. In addition to greater bandwidth, enterprises must plan for bandwidth optimization and enforce stricter traffic management policies. IT departments will need to ensure they have mechanisms that prioritize internet and intranet access to business-critical applications and devices first.”
In order to prepare for the influx of data, data centers must enhance their current capabilities as it pertains to infrastructure, scalability, services, storage, and security. IoT producers will be looking for data center-as-a-service providers that understand and are making plans to support IoT.
Data centers will have to be flexible to meet the growing and changing needs of IoT devices and demands with limited to no impact on the customer. Not only will we see an increase in products but we can also expect to see devices change, be updated, or even replaced similar to the way Apple comes out with newer models each year.
The impact on data center scalability is one reason why an outsourced model is a smart decision. It is nearly impossible to adequately plan for what the next several years hold without risk of under-building or over-building data centers — both of which can have huge costs and downside associated with them.
THINGS IN THE DATA CENTER TECHNOLOGY
IoT transformation isn’t just for new consumer devices. Data centers themselves are also embracing IoT to gain insights into their own infrastructure and operations. The following enhancements are helping to make data centers the most sophisticated and secure places for businesses to host their data.
Real-time asset management with RFID – Radio frequency identification tags (RFID) can be added to equipment or devices inside of a data center. RFID tags use an electromagnetic field to uniquely identify devices. These tags allow data centers to act more efficiently since they require less manpower. Without RFID, employees would have to manually check each piece of equipment to maintain inventories. With RFID the manual checks are automated.
Environmental sensors – Data centers are now being equipped with many sensors that are placed in the data center to monitor a wide variety of environmental factors. The data is captured and sent to a system that can then use the data to change the climate of the data center, which is important if the weather or compute demands fluctuate in a data center.
Infrastructure sensors – Infrared scanning is used to see what the visible eye cannot see. While current technologies require a human to scan and assess the circuitry, it wouldn’t be a stretch to envision data centers having smart infrared IoT scanners that can monitor cables and electrical circuits for anomalies in real time and either suggest corrective action or instantly resolve issues.
Biometric scanners – Biometric scanners allow data centers to ensure that only people who have clearance are able to enter. These devices also make it easy to automatically track every person who enters and exits the data center.
Network enhancements – IoT is heavily dependent on having reliable networks in place to support the data produced by IoT devices. Many companies are looking for direct connect solutions between data centers and also channeling their cloud traffic through dedicated secure services.
With the recent onslaught of data and the need for flexibility around scale and changing requirements, an increasing number of companies are looking to Data Center-as-a-Service (DCaaS) to meet their needs.
For those who are evaluating their options here are a couple of points to consider:
DCaaS is a good solution for companies who aren’t exactly sure what option is right for their business, or what data center size will be best five years from now.
DCaaS gives companies the ability to focus on their core business competency, saving cash for building their business.
Running a data center requires an investment not only in the facility, but also in the people, the process, and the equipment. By working with a data center colocation provider, you can add scale as needed and only pay for what you need at that moment.
Given today’s evolving technological advancements and data demands, it makes sense for more companies to start embracing the notion of DCaaS and protect against rapidly changing requirements related to scale, security, and infrastructure.
Assuming the predicted 44-zetabyte increase is correct, and if we agree that the current storage demand is about a tenth of that amount, it’s safe to say that there will need to be major storage advancements to support IoT. An influx of users simply means an influx of data that needs to be stored. As millions of IoT devices collect and transmit data every day, all of their information will need to pass through a data center at some point. Data center owners must ask themselves if their current infrastructure will be able to handle all of the data they will generate each day. With the proliferation of IoT devices, data centers will have to dramatically increase their storage options and capacity to meet demands.
Years ago, businesses would turn to data centers and typically their only expectation was a cold facility with network and power. But now, as IoT evolves and a growing number of IoT devices will enter the network, the focus is quickly shifting to increased security. The reason? The more endpoints that exist within a network, the greater the likelihood of the network’s security being compromised, and each IoT device is an endpoint.
In addition, data center security has been heavily emphasized as legislation surrounding personal information and credit card information continues to develop, especially on the global stage. Businesses with a U.S.-based website may also have customers in Europe or South America, so their data centers should provide a level of compliance and security that safeguards their assets and data in every country.
Look for an increase in data centers obtaining the ISO 27001 certification, which ensures greater protection of data. This certification tests the overall effectiveness of a data center’s information security management system (ISMS). The ISMS is a framework of policies and procedures that include all legal, physical, and technical controls involved in an organization’s information risk management processes. It’s a systematic approach to managing private and sensitive information so it remains secure.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
It’s easy to see why IoT brings both excitement and trepidation to those who take the time to think about its ramifications. This growing trend will affect organizations at all levels as they try to figure out the best way to benefit and adapt. For data centers, it’s important that they are flexible in order to prepare for the future and ensure their infrastructure is ready for the oncoming blitz of devices and data. n
This article appeared in the 2016 September/October issue of Mission Critical Magazine.
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