The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to be an area of interest for IT media – with articles speaking of many things, from the technology itself, through security (and high-profile breaches), to how the IoT is linked to big data, and more recently, artificial intelligence (AI).
For corporate IT departments, such media coverage offers both warnings and compelling use cases of the technology to improve business operations, analytics and decision-making capabilities, and the customer experience. Plus, IT organizations can leverage high volumes of business and customer data through IoT to gain insight on enhancing existing products and services, or create brand new commercial offerings.
The Impact of IoT
So, what exactly is IoT (or “things”)? Gartner describes the IoT as:
“The network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.”
And these “things” impact how the corporate IT department needs to work in a number of ways, across a number of areas. For example, the IT department needs to:
- Create the IoT “infrastructure” – from the IoT devices and platforms used.
- Keep the enterprise secure – from the IoT devices themselves.
- Provide analytics and insights from IoT data – including big data and the use of AI.
- Deliver effective device management –including monitoring, updating and securing.
- Support business services now reliant on IoT devices and data –by focusing on what can be achieved by using these devices.
Understanding the IoT by Knowing What Is Where and Why
Now let’s focus on the last two bullets. The fourth bullet above hopefully made you think of traditional IT asset management (ITAM) – the understanding of which IT assets are in use, and in stock, where they are, and what their purpose is. In addition to the granular data it can provide related to costs, replacement cycles, etc., as per Wikipedia’s definition, IT Asset Management is:
“The set of business practices that join financial, contractual and inventory functions to support life cycle management and strategic decision making for the IT environment.”
The fifth bullet might have reminded you of ITIL configuration management (also known as service asset and configuration management) – the ITIL Glossary definition states:
“The process responsible for ensuring that the assets required to deliver services are properly controlled, and that accurate and reliable information about those assets is available when and where it is needed. This information includes details of how the assets have been configured and the relationships between assets.”
With the sheer volume of IoT devices, and their expected importance to both future business operations and revenue streams, both ITAM and ITIL configuration management have a big role to play.
Think about it – the scale of and business reliance on the IoT requires greater insight and control
Your average enterprise is going to become more and more reliant on tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands or even millions of IoT devices. In January 2017, Gartner stated that “[b]usinesses are on pace to employ 3.1 billion connected things in 2017.” And it’s rising to 7.5 billion in 2020.
The more IoT devices, the more IT departments will need to be able to apply ITAM and configuration management capabilities to their IoT device estate to ensure that:
1. Everything works and continues to work. IT departments need to monitor the real-time status and well-being of individual devices, and be able to identify device anomalies as well as failures. This not only requires remote monitoring capabilities but also the configuration management data to know the role, or roles, that each IoT device plays and the impact of a single, or multiple devices in the overall service context to help ensure that operations continue unaffected.
2. The replacement IoT devices are both quick and cost efficient. Not all IoT devices will be low-cost items but, for those that are, IT departments will most likely choose to replace rather than repair. Again, asset and configuration management data will help to facilitate the rapid swap out of like-for-like devices to minimize costs and service disruption.
3. Security needs are met. From understanding the risks with particular devices, based on locations and use cases, to the state of software versions and patching, asset and configuration management tools and techniques will need to be employed to manage these devices en masse. Failure to do so exposes the business to unnecessary security risks and the associated impact of breaches.
4. Proposed changes and change risks are fully understood. For instance, a low-cost sensor (or series of sensors) might be critical to a revenue-generating customer service and what might seem to be a high-volume, but low-cost, change might have severe consequences if not adequately assessed and
There are of course many other reasons why the IoT will drive the need for asset and configuration management, but hopefully these four are sufficient to make you consider your IT department’s current capabilities and plans for what needs to change in light of the scale and importance of growing IoT adoption.