What to consider when choosing a partner to run an IoT environment

The widespread growth of Internet of Things technology is reshaping the way enterprises operate. Across industrial sectors, there’s a mounting push to strategically adopt IoT tech and use it to transform business processes. The enterprise IoT conversation is no longer about potential; it’s about concrete application.    

But there are other key dimensions to enterprise IoT adoption that businesses can’t overlook, including security, storage and architecture. For many enterprises, IoT tech will challenge their existing infrastructure, especially in these three areas. Therefore, as companies look to modernize their operations with IoT tech, they should aim to choose hosts that offer environments built around flexibility, security and rapid evolution.    

Evolving business use of IoT technology    

In 2015, there were 15.4 billion connected devices. By 2025, that number is projected to reach 75.4 billion. Pivotal to this rapid development is the increasing use of IoT technology across industries and business functions. While digital behemoths like Google and Amazon established the connected ecosystem, there are now many other players in the world of connected offerings. For businesses, this means a wealth of highly focused connected tools from which to choose.   

According to Forrester’s 2016 IoT Heat Map, IoT use cases are already relatively common in sectors like customer order/delivery tracking and supply chain management. As the report revealed, one-fifth of surveyed enterprises in both of these sectors said they’re either planning to adopt IoT solutions or have already done so. But it’s not just delivery services and supply chain managers that are deploying IoT; Forrester’s report pointed out that IoT use cases span industries. In local government, for example, cities like New York are using sensor-enabled platforms and smart screens to connect citizens with real-time services.    

Across sectors, IoT tools are fundamentally evolving business operations, allowing enterprises to bring an unprecedented level of optimization to the end-user experience. As we near a future of more than 75 billion connected devices, companies should plan to deploy IoT tech to remain competitive with industry peers. But in order to maximize their IoT investments, companies will have to surmount key hurdles that go hand-in-hand with adoption.    

Challenges posed by enterprise IoT adoption  

The enterprise push toward IoT adoption isn’t without its challenges. As companies look to integrate IoT deployments into their corporate strategy, they must prepare for three key issues it poses:    

Security and privacy: As the Internet of Things expands, so do threats to data security. Security is one of the greatest challenges facing organizations, and companies making inroads in IoT deployments can’t afford to overlook the mounting security risks they face – and the fallout that can happen if a breach occurs. Companies therefore need to be discerning when it comes to identifying IoT vendors that continue to prioritize security and testing even amid the pressure to release new technology ahead of competitors. Thoroughly vetting vendor and looking at security certifications, like FedRAMP, will help decision-makers mitigate security risks that can come with IoT integration and adoption.

Storage: As enterprises increasingly deploy IoT technology, they face a challenge of meeting increasing and evolving storage demands. The challenge is particularly significant for companies that are entirely reliant on a legacy storage infrastructure, which is a surprisingly high number of organizations across industries. These systems are not adapted to efficiently handle the vast amounts of unstructured data that needs to be collected and processed from a diverse set of locations. It is therefore important for companies to look for vendors that provide tailored services to companies with legacy setups.

Architecture: The rate at which advancements are happening in the IoT sector means that it’s vital to be able to quickly iterate and adapt. Therefore, as companies evaluate partners to run their IoT environment, they need to look for providers that offer a suitable architecture for growth – one that accommodates rapid evolution by providing a flexible architecture for expanding data processing.    

Proactive strategies to accommodate the corporate IoT push  

As companies harness more IoT devices, they need an infrastructure that’s up to the task. Here are three steps enterprises can take to evolve their infrastructure needs in order to meet the demands of the IoT:  

Take an application centric approach: With the mounting deployment of IoT devices, companies may feel pressure to completely overhaul their legacy infrastructure with a comprehensive cloud migration. But this approach often comes with high expense and disruption to the business. The lack of internal insight into the transition can leave companies with an unfocused approach and miss out on the efficiencies a cloud platform can bring.  Evaluating how existing or new applications will participate in the IoT initiative will allow the right balance of cloud and existing technology to deliver a solid solution.   

Prepare to de-centralize: While there is a time and place for centralized IT architectures, IoT is not one of them. To successfully deliver an IoT initiative, elements of the solution will need to be pushed further to the edge. The vast amounts of data transacting in an IoT framework require collection and processing to be as near to the source as practical. And of course, working with a de-centralized architecture requires new ways of thinking about security.

Consider provider’s IoT-specific programmatic capabilities: Because IoT devices are introducing new management challenges across the entirety of the IT spectrum, it’s important for enterprises to choose a provider that’s up to the task. As businesses evaluate infrastructure providers, they should identify those that offer a lineup of consulting capabilities, systems and tools that are very targeted to an IoT ecosystem. Many solutions offer one without the others – such as tools, but no management or consulting services, or the other way around. A provider that can offer each offers businesses a “partner” approach so they don’t have to rely on a number of vendors or take some tasks in-house.    

Without the proper infrastructure, businesses won’t be able to maximize an investment in IoT. But by following the steps outlined above, enterprises can evolve their infrastructure to keep pace with the push to deploy IoT tech.    

Tim Beerman,  Chief Technology Officer, Ensono

Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock