Cloud, SDN, BYOD, zero-day threats and security flaws (did someone say “Heartbleed?”) are just some of the challenges CIOs and their networks will face in the next few years. But all these are dwarfed by the effect that the Internet of Things (IoT) will have on today’s networks, essentially changing the way networking is done. Both analysts and networking leaders, like John Chambers at Cisco, foresee increasingly more people and businesses adopting the IoT.
To make businesses smarter and more efficient, more and more elements will be added to organizations’ networks and to the Internet — creating what is now known as the Internet of Everything (IoE). These elements will vary from medical devices to parking lot sensors and accessories we actually wear (such as glasses or smart wrist devices). An estimated 50 billion new devices will join the Internet in the next 5 years, most of them communicating autonomously with each other and with centralized data centers. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications like these will generate an incredible amount of new data, placing a whole new order of stress on existing infrastructure.
While global CEOs, driven by data and visibility from all the resources in their organizations, will be pushing towards the vision of a fully automated business, their CIOs will try to push back, fearing the ripple effect that IoE will have on their networks. CIOs’ concerns, backed by leading analysts like Gartner) and by Cisco themselves, seem justified. This new approach of attaching everything to the network may be great for business efficiency but does not take into account the following considerations:
- Readiness of the current networking infrastracture
- Resources — the size of current networking teams and the ability to hire adequate professionals
- Legacy tools — which might not be ready for this explosion in network demand
- Compliance and regulation: More and more regulations are being put in place to ensure expansion does not cause more harm than good
- Security breaches.
All of the above may ultimately result in the exact opposite of what the CEOs initially hoped for:
- Communication failures
- Security incidents
- Poor performance
- Compliance failure
- Higher costs
But Wait, SDN Solves This. Doesn’t It?
Is SDN really being rolled out or is it just industry hype? How many organizations are actually investing in SDN technology and utilizing it well? How accurate are predictions that SDN adoption will “explode” in the next three to four years? Will it include partial implementation of SDN based technology within the entire network?
For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that SDN technology will be used in all networks, covering the entire network. The question remains: Are the required network management processes and tools that can keep up in a programmable world already in place?
The answer is clearly “No.”
Whether networks will eventually be programmed or configured (or a combination of the two), they are not resistant to fault. SDN introduces additional risks, including failure of the controllers themselves and the possibility of multiple controllers distributing contradictory instructions to forwarders.
In order to avoid all of the above, there’s a clear need for solutions that will support the world’s move to IoE. This will require a fundamental shift in the way things are being done today. In my next post, we’ll explore how CEOs (and their CIOs) can tackle the huge challenges waiting around the corner.