The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) incursion saw waves of homogeneous, non-sanctioned devices invade the network. The emergence of Shadow IT resulted in the rapid adoption of non-sanctioned Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications to address business needs. Both BYOD and Shadow IT resulted in massive headaches for IT, which was left between a rock and a hard place. The new tools were helping employees get work done, but they weren’t properly secured. They were straining the IT infrastructure, and IT couldn’t adequately support the resources because they were out of scope.
Emerging now is IoT, with even more device diversity than BYOD, business groups acting on their own without IT, and the addition of new IoT applications delivering value to the business. That means that business outcomes are on the line, putting IT in the crosshairs as it struggles to cope with the operational headaches of new business initiatives that have begun without full consideration of the IT implications.
IoT is BYOD and Shadow IT on steroids.
Thus, it’s instructive to examine the similarities of IoT’s siege on IT with the former two sieges: BYOD and Shadow IT.
Consider BYOD. While BYOD eventually gave rise to tools that brought order to the chaos, the early days were a nightmare. Employees were showing up in the office with their shiny new iOS and Android devices, attaching them to the wireless network, and configuring them to access email. Besides the network performance problems that ensued, security risks skyrocketed. If users didn’t have password protection enabled and then left the device on a bus or a train, all bets were off.
While these new tablets and smart phones were not sanctioned by IT, they increased employees productivity. Workers were suddenly more accessible, and their newfound mobility — studies would later show — genuinely made them happier.
Shadow IT presented a similar scenario to BYOD. Employees were adopting computing resources that weren’t sanctioned by IT and were seeing increased productivity. In 2015, Cisco set out to put Shadow IT into perspective, examining actual usage data collected from customer networks that represented millions of users. “The results are both authentic and alarming,” Cisco reported. While CIOs estimated they used 51 cloud services on average, they were actually using 730.
It quickly became evident that, sanctioned or not, the headaches associated with BYOD and Shadow IT weren’t going away. Operations teams were left contending with employees complaining there was something wrong with WiFi when their Android OS upgrade failed. Or complaining about the performance of an application that was actually running fine, when it was actually the wireless network overrun by all the new devices. Or dealing with security and compatibility issues surfacing from rogue applications being used without IT approval.
The Third Siege
BYOD and Shadow IT added up to years of suffering for IT operations teams. IoT now presents two similar problems; one is device-centric and the other is application-centric — catching operations teams are in the crosshairs.
IoT’s arrival is going to force IT to reinvent operations yet again, at least in verticals where IoT will be paramount and strategic.
Consider the experience of a large healthcare institution in the Midwest. The clinical side of the organization contracted to bring in roll-about devices that feature cameras and screens and enable a doctor to “visit” patients without actually making the rounds.
The effort was viewed as a strategic component of the organization’s telehealth initiative and sanctioned, but never mentioned to IT. After all, it was easy enough to tie the demonstration unit to the wireless network, so what could go wrong if 10, 15, or 20 more of these robot-like things were clamped on?
Plenty, as it turns out.
The devices use different protocols. They behave on the network in unique ways. And when they misbehave, what does that look like? What does it disrupt? How do you tell if it is a problem with the device, with the network, with a DNS lookup, or with the backend application? How do you complete capacity planning?
The telehealth movement, for instance, was delayed after many war room sessions and after the initial investment of several millions of dollars. Adoption by doctors was low, and IT was blamed for not providing a reliable network.
And that’s just one example in one industry. The list goes on to include manufacturing, retail, and more.
The Way Forward: Full Stack Analytics
Fortunately, there is a way to contend with the influx of IoT devices and applications that doesn’t require an infrastructure overhaul or odious restrictions that make IT look like it is standing in the way of innovation. The answer to the IoT riddle is being able to look at the world from the device perspective without having to know everything there is to know about the device.
The right network analytics tools will enable IT to see all of the IoT devices, determine what they are doing and how they are performing, gauge the application demands, and foretell what scaling the initiatives will mean to network performance and the health of the rest of the network ecosystem.
Approaching the problem from the context of the device is a departure for IT operations teams that have traditionally relied on infrastructure monitoring to gauge the health of any given environment, an approach that has limitations.
With BYOD, for example, the infrastructure might be showing green lights, but you could still have users complaining. The same will be true with IoT. The infrastructure may look fine, but the factory production line may have slowed to a crawl.
Looking at the infrastructure isn’t enough because it doesn’t provide perspective over time. Things might be fine at the moment, but what happened 30 minutes ago? And for 30-minute increments over the last day? Even if you have time perspective from a connectivity standpoint, infrastructure monitoring tools won’t show what’s happening at the application layer.
IoT operations require full stack analytics from access to the application, over wired and wireless networks, so you can gauge the health of the IoT environment and understand how the Iot devices are performing.
For example, hospitals will now be able to automatically analyze, track, and measure the performance of vital IoT devices to ensure the highest performance over the network. This helps users become more proactive in how they find and fix problems. Instead of, “Hey you have a problem, go fix it,” it’s, “You have a problem. Here’s what it is. Here’s the root cause. Here’s how to fix it. And if you fix it, you’ll get this benefit.”
The arrival of IoT brings with it many of the pains of BYOD and Shadow IT, but the lessons learned from those movements should help IT operations teams hit the ground running with IoT — or at least plan ahead to have the appropriate tools in place to make it easier to cope with the arrival of this transformative new technology.