Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What does Internet of Things mean for service providers?

The Rhizotron, Kew Gardens, London.

Industry experts, vendors and conference organisers around the world are hyping about Internet of Things (IoT) and even more specific things such as Industrial Internet, but what does it all mean for network service providers, operators and enterprises?

To find answers to that question we must first select our viewpoint. In this blog post, we look IoT from the perspective of network service provider, for example, operator, enterprise or industrial IT department.  Let us start by looking first at the graph drafted accordingly to Gartner, IDC, Strategy Analytics, Machina Research, company filings and Business Insider Intelligence estimates.
According to business analysts and market research companies there will soon be a growing numbers of IoT devices entering into networks along the existing ones. The difference is that even when there has already been variation in tablets, smartphones and personal computers, variation will be far greater among the IoT devices. 

the home automation system designed by loren amelang himself

We may have sensor devices sending data only once in a day in our networks, and also devices sending high definition camera feed over the same network. If we take this a step further, in the old networks, all or most of the devices and sensors have been provided and maintained by a single vendor or service provider. In the future, in the same networks, there will a growing number of IoT devices that are controlled and maintained by different service providers and vendors. 

This means that IoT brings also new and escalated challenges for network service providers in addition to normal capacity challenges:
  • managing and provisioning configurations to the ever growing variety of devices
  • defining, creating and configuring subscriptions and subscription parameters to the ever growing variety of customers and devices
  • handling security configurations in multi-service provider environment, separating service providers and networks from each other
  • federating identity management instead of providing a single source identity management
  • scaling the authentication, authorisation and accounting (AAA) infrastructure from single identity provider model to multiple identity providers model
  • coping with multi-access (WiFi, LTE, 3G, 2G), multi-homing devices and their AAA
  • connecting services and AAA with various IoT service providers
There are three key approaches to be considered in solving these issues:
  • utilising and favouring open standard APIs, protocols and interfaces
  • measuring and monitoring everything
  • automating everything (for example, service/subscription provisioning, configuration provisioning, security, identity federation) 
Requiring and selecting products and solutions with open standard APIs, protocols and interfaces ensures that the components can be connected together regardless of the supplier. It also means that both the old and new components can be combined into common infrastructure without having to upgrade all other components at the same time. 

Data Heap

Decisions cannot be made without data. Measuring and monitoring the infrastructure, network, devices, sensors and nodes makes it possible to gather data about current situation. Measured data is used for historical or future trend analysis. Based on the data and/or analysis, automated decisions can be made and provisioned to the infrastructure components utilising standard interfaces and protocols. 

As the number of nodes, for example, devices, sensors, network equipment, in a network grows, automation becomes the only feasible way to cope with the amount of effort needed for provisioning, configuring, authenticating and authorising of the devices. Per customer and node, configuration must be created automatically based on the service provider databases. Access decisions and connection parameters for nodes need to be formed automatically based on the operator customer and network monitoring data. Customer service and customer configuration must be made so easy that the customers self-serve themselves without needing operator support resources.

Zooming Factory

By combining these three approaches, the objective for service providers is to do for the Internet service production the same that has already been done by automation in the factories -- automate as much of the actual production as possible, monitor and measure to gather data and make informed, even automated decisions based on the data.

Open, measured and automated service infrastructure is the best way to prepare for the challenges of Internet of Things and Industrial Internet. It provides cost savings and efficiency improvements even with the current customers. Together with our partners, we here at Arch Red are willing to help you to start migrating and improving your service infrastructure toward this goal. The technologies and components for this are already available and the work can be started by automating selected parts of the infrastructure without the need for big infrastructure changes.