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Internet of Things devices to create 'real-time enterprise on steroids'

Get ready, IT pros: Connected devices are about to deluge the enterprise and IT must take big steps to grapple with data, security and integration.

BOSTON – Internet of Things devices are about to hit the enterprise in a big way, and IT may be ill-prepared to handle the thousands of "things" soon to flood corporate networks.

IT pros can expect the number of connected devices to increase by seven to 10 times by 2020, which will in turn cause network traffic to grow by three to five times over current levels, said Jack Gold, analyst and principal at J. Gold Associates in Northborough, Mass., during a session here at the M-Enterprise conference.

"Few companies have what it takes to make [Internet of Things] work," Gold said. "It’s going to put a lot of strain on existing IT resources. IT’s going to have to grow dramatically because most IT organizations can’t handle [the new devices and traffic]."

IT’s going to have to grow dramatically because most IT organizations can’t handle this.
Jack GoldAnalyst, J. Gold Associates

Incoming devices IT should be concerned about extend beyond the obvious new iterations of personal computers, smartphones, tablets and wearable technology like Google Glass and smartwatches. It includes Internet-connected cars, remote sensors and monitors, pervasive access points and terminals and smart appliances, Gold said.

Companies may soon find employees even bringing their own servers into work, which will be small enough to sit on a desk and contain "lots of storage, lots of processing power and lots of connectivity," Gold said.

Because there will be so many more devices flooding corporate networks, it's going to be like "[enterprise mobility management] all over again except 100 times worse," said Philippe Winthrop, global mobility evangelist with CSC, an IT services provider based in Falls Church, Va.

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) came about because of the increase of mobility, in part due to the bring your own device trend. But because the Internet of Things (IoT) will bring in so many more different kinds of devices, there  are no comparable standards in place to handle that magnitude, Winthrop added.

"It’s going to fundamentally change nearly every corporate system that you have," Gold said. "If you think [enterprise resource planning] is complicated today, wait three to five years. It’s going to get really, really interesting because you’re going to have remote things everywhere that you’re going to have to deal with."

Not only will managing IoT devices be a challenge, but synthesizing the data collected by those devices into meaningful enterprise information is something companies also must learn, Gold said.

"You're going to have to migrate to a fully data-driven organization," he said. "That data is meaningful, it’s actionable … it’s the real-time enterprise on steroids."

Back-end systems need upgrade for IoT influx

Updating back-end infrastructure can help IT pros start to solve the IoT flood. As mobility becomes more central to processes between customers, partners and employees, the need for increased back-end integration with mobile becomes increasingly more important, said Kevin Benedict, senior analyst of digital transformation and mobility with Cognizant, an IT services firm based in Teaneck, N.J.

"If your back-end systems don’t support real-time, you’re stuck," Benedict said. "We’ve got systems that don’t support the realities of tomorrow, so what I hear is a lot of money is going to be spent here in the next few years."

The ubiquity of IoT devices among younger employees entering the workforce in the next few years may also help ease the burden for IT.

With more devices, users should  have a better understanding of the technology by the time they begin their careers.

"By design and by default, that is going to help us," Winthrop said.

Securing the new generation of devices still rests on the enterprise, however. Data will  move between more devices than ever and it will be especially challenging due to the high variation of operating systems amidst IoT devices.

"If you're a bank that gets breached, you are the one that loses customers and gets fined," Gold said.

EMM vendors must  step up support of the different devices to ease the management and security burdens for IT, the conference panel agreed.

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What will your organization do to prepare for the explosion of connected devices?
This is one of the first pieces I've read that talks about the issue of managing data transmission. I think it's going to be a big problem and nobody's really talking about it yet.