Cisco (News - Alert) calls it the Internet of things. Traditionalists are more likely to refer to it as machine-to-machine or M2M. Whatever you’d like to call it, the reality of inter-machine (or device, if you prefer) communication is here to stay. From the data center to your living room and into your car, the ways in which machines have begun to communicate with one another is exploding.
It’s not just smartphones and televisions and cars, either. Sensors and meters around the globe are used by farmers to track cows, biologists to plot environmental conditions against plant growth, and utility providers to track water and electricity usage. And traffic conditions are delivered in real-time from a network of road-side sensors.
While many organizations are not involved in the sensory explosion, they will nevertheless be impacted by the growth of traffic across the Internet. Once the last mile problem was mostly (though admittedly not entirely) solved by increased consumer bandwidth availability and wireless caught up with demand on the client side, it was inevitable that broader use of M2M communication would evolve. Predictions for traffic growth in general are astounding; the numbers boggle the mind. What that means for organizations and providers isn’t that they necessarily need to rush out and bulk up their core pipes. For those intending on leveraging these new endpoints, that may be the case, but there’s also a need to use the pipes available more efficiently and intelligently. That means understanding what type of traffic is coursing through the data center veins and from where it originates.
Only when the traffic – the data – flowing through the data center can be identified (or classified, if you prefer old-school terminology) can you effectively manage it. Whether that’s using traditional network-based QoS techniques or more advanced traffic and message steering capabilities included in modern delivery infrastructure, the ability to actively manage traffic will go a long way toward ensuring that the Internet of things does not overwhelm the Internet of people, and vice-versa. This is particularly true when considering that almost all future traffic predictions are really focused on inbound traffic, not outbound.
Depending on the business model, that may be problematic. After all, if your revenue model is based on how many bytes of video you deliver to subscribers, outbound quality is far more important than inbound. But if you’re dependent on sensory data that may need to traverse the Internet, well, it’s the inbound side you need to worry most about. That’s an important distinction because in the past we leveraged traffic management without nearly so much attention on the direction – or the business case. With so many machines and people exchanging and consuming data, the business must put priorities on each of them so that IT can translate that into policies that reflect the business’ needs.
Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt and of the technologies in the data center we are most familiar with the network, because they have always been there. But the network and its infrastructure still provide significant value to the business by being able to translate business requirements – priorities – into actionable policies that manage business-specific data in a way that better aligns with business goals.
Lori MacVittie is senior technical marketing manager at F5 Networks (News - Alert) (www.f5.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi