The Internet of Things is a complex relationship between two established technologies, ready to be brought together to innovate.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is both something old and something new. It’s a marriage of sorts between Operational Technologies (OT) with its actuators, sensors, switches and things, and Information Technologies (IT) with its storing, analyzing, networking and computing. However, it’s also much more than that. These established technologies can drive innovation when brought together.
Distributed computing started to gain acceptance way back in the 1970s, putting compute power and decision making tools near the people and processes that needed it. Along with distributed computing came the private networks and public networks that enabled us to change the way we shared information, a development that continues to this day. In order to manage distributed information networks, a network administration model and framework was agreed on in the 1980s. That was FCAPS, an acronym for five functional areas of Network management (Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance and Security). Consideration of each standard is worthwhile for both an OT network and the IT network, but doubly so for an organization exploring innovation with IoT.
Fault: Capabilities to avoid, minimize, find & fix issues quickly (even automatically) is critical for reliability
Configuration: An inventory of every entity and managed object (with settings) in your IoT project, along with a change management system to keep it all current. This management area is foundational because all the other management functions (Fault, Accounting, Performance and Security) depend on the configuration function.
Accounting: Allocates financial costs & values, and gathers usage statistics for people & things. I.E: for users, departments, organizations and the devices/entities/objects/network branches in your IoT project.
Performance: Ensuring your IoT project operates at acceptable levels. Performance includes actively monitoring and proactively/dynamically optimizing the level of service, through planning and project investments
Security: Controlling identity and access to physical and logical components, including access to the devices, data and information at points throughout your IoT project. Includes authentication, non-repudiation, encryption, intrusion detection and all of the policies that address security, identity, access and privacy.
While they are not part of the FCAPS acronym, applications, network protocols and operating systems are sometimes included as a sixth functional area. They need to be included when planning, designing, implementing and managing/operating an IoT environment.
Each function needs to be considered individually, as well as how each function interacts with each other. That’s a complex process, especially when using general purpose devices. IoT decisions are often about finding a middle ground, balancing conflicting requirements and minimizing complexity.
Fortunately, there are purpose built devices such as Dell Edge Gateways to bridge OT and IT. A fan-less edge device designed to operate in harsh environments (-30°C to 70°C) where OT often resides. They provide compute power and analytic software tools close to your OT, where general purpose computers are often not suitable. They are equipped with a wide variety of wireless and physical Input/Output ports to handle both legacy industrial systems using wired serial connections, as well as the modern protocols used in OT connections while also enabled to communicate with your IT environment or the cloud.
IoT is not simply a marriage of old and new, but rather a complex relationship between two established technologies ready to be brought together to innovate.