can your data center handle the Internet of Things?


Are data centers ready to cope with the expected flood of data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT)? With some predicted 26 billion units set to come online by 2020, that’s an awful lot of additional data that will need to be stored and processed.

Analyst Gartner warns that data center operators will face challenges in a number of areas including security, data, storage management, servers and the data center network. It urges data center managers take this into account when doing forward capacity planning.

“IoT deployments will generate large quantities of data that need to be processed and analyzed in real time,” said Fabrizio Biscotti, research director at Gartner. “Processing large quantities of IoT data in real time will increase as a proportion of workloads of data centers, leaving providers facing new security, capacity and analytics challenges.”

data protection requirements

The type of data that IoT generates, such as smart metering or telematics, will also fall under the remit of data protection. Consumers have a right to have their private automobile or power consumption data protected. If this is not properly secured, then there is a possibility of data leakage and a breach of data protection legislation.

George Crump an analyst with Storage Switzerland, also points out that IoT data can take two forms, which both have their own challenges. “First, there is large-file data, such as images and videos captured from smartphones and other devices. This data type is typically accessed sequentially,” explains Crump. “The second data type is very small, for example, log-file data captured from sensors. These sensors, while small in size, can create billions of files that must be accessed randomly.”

Data centers will have to prepare themselves to handle the storage and processing requirements of both types of data. In addition, much of IoT data is ephemeral, such as reading from soil moisture sensors, which can’t be easily recreated, and will require secure storage that can guarantee the data’s integrity.

“One consistent experience I have observed from IT managers who deal with the Internet of Things is how quickly data transforms from merely interesting to mission-critical and in need of analysis, retention, and protection,” says Crump.

distributed processing

Another feature of IoT is that the data is by its very nature widely distributed and transferring it to a central location for processing is no simple task. In fact it seems likely that organizations will have to aggregate IoT locally where it can be pre-processed before sending it off to a central location for additional processing and storage.

To help achieve this, networking vendor Cisco is planning to build processing capability into its IoT routers. The Iox architecture essentially gives edge devices such as routers limited processing capability. So, for example a local device can collect messages from the local sensors and only relay a message back to a central point for further attention if required.

Examples include local processing in a car that processes all of the “I’m OK” messages locally, and only sends faults back to the telematics center. Or local processing on a ship that monitors the position of containers and only relays a message when they have shifted. This both saves network bandwidth and helps prevent centralized data centers from being overwhelmed.

This approach essentially pushes the cloud out to the edge of the network and Cisco has coined the term “fog” to describe it. “The distinguishing characteristics of Fog are its proximity to end-users, its dense geographical distribution, and its support for mobility,” says Roberto De La Mora, Senior Director, Internet of Things Products and Solutions Marketing at Cisco. “Services are hosted where they’re used: at the network edge or even end devices such as set-top-boxes or access points.”

have you got any plans to use the Internet of Things in your business? And have you considered what impact it will have on your data center?


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Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.