April 9, 2014
Move over Cloud. Step aside Big Data. Make way for the Internet of Things (IOT). That’s right kids, there’s a new, next big thing in town. Naturally, everybody is excited. Gartner estimates that the IOT will be a $300 billion industry by 2020. And you know what, I believe it. When you cut through all the hype, the IOT addresses the undeniable fact that we are a nation with a lot of stuff, and we don’t know where a lot of it is.
In an attempt to quantify the definition of “stuff”, Gartner says that by the beginning of the 21st century’s third decade, there will be 26 billion installed and interconnected devices not including things like my wife’s car keys. A recent article in eWeek noted the breadth of the future purview of the IOT when it quoted one enthusiast who said, “We’re not only talking about mobile phones, tablets, laptops and wearables, but specialized sensors on people, clothing, cars, animals, houses, weather stations, videocams, drone flying machines—you name it”. Okay, so that sounded a little Orwellian, but all in all I think that the pros outweigh the cons.
As I’ve stated before, I’d be happy if the IOT included some more commonly lost items like the TV clicker and socks, but I’m thinking that they are going to be pretty high up on the list. I’m a little confused about the inclusion of houses on the IOT list, since they seem to be pretty stationary, and therefore, fairly easy to track, but I’m sure there’s more to it than meets the eye. From a data center perspective, it’s interesting to note that enthusiasm seems to be tempered somewhat by the recognition that nirvana won’t be achieved without some further innovation and investment. Not that any of the folks preaching tentative optimism are in the buzzkill business, but I’m not sure I’d be inviting them to my next party either.
Certainly, the data center itself will be affected by the coming of IOT. Security will naturally be an issue since the location of things like one’s power tools are not something that you’d necessarily want to share. Even under the best of circumstances, those things just have a way of disappearing. For example, I loaned my neighbor my leaf blower last fall, and I haven’t seen it since. Enhancing the privacy of IOT data will also be of paramount importance since some businesses want to know just what they have, and where it is, but they don’t want anyone else knowing about it. It’s kind of like our current situation with Iran. They could actually tell us where all of their nuclear material production sites are, but what would be the fun in that?
The IOT is expected to support both consumer and corporate data and that is obviously information about a whole lot of stuff. Thus, storage vendors are just tickled pink about what this means for their bottom lines. Some feel that there may be challenges in delivering storage capability that can quickly and cost effectively scale. In a world where men went to the moon with a lot less computer processing power than you have on your iPhone, I don’t think anyone is really losing sleep over this one. Obviously, all this incoming data is going to increase current bandwidth requirements, so the network guys are probably going to feel some heat, but if all this means a future in which no one ever loses a golf ball, then I think bandwidth spigots in the near future will be stuck on “wide open”.
As a data center provider, I am thrilled about the coming of the IOT. More data means more servers and storage gear, and I think we all know where those things live. I don’t think that I am alone in my IOT enthusiasm, as its implications extend from everyone the schmuck who can’t find his left shoe to the business tracking its inventories in real time across the globe. New technologies may come and go, but the IOT is a next big thing that I can sink my teeth into.