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Software-Defined Networking will be a critical enabler of the Internet of Things

Jeff Reed | June 9, 2015
SDN will support IoT by centralizing control, abstracting network devices, and providing flexible, dynamic, automated reconfiguration of the network

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Organizations are excited about the business value of the data that will be generated by the Internet of Things (IoT). But there's less discussion about how to manage the devices that will make up the network, secure the data they generate and analyze it quickly enough to deliver the insights businesses need.

Software defined networking (SDN) can help meet these needs. By virtualizing network components and services, they can rapidly and automatically reconfigure network devices, reroute traffic and apply authentication and access rules. All this can help speed and secure data delivery, and improve network management, for even the most remote devices.

SDN enables the radical simplification of network provisioning with predefined policies for plug-and-play set-up of IoT devices, automatic detection and remediation of security threats, and the provisioning of the edge computing and analytics environments that turn data into insights.

Consider these two IoT use cases:

* Data from sensors within blowout preventers can help oil well operators save millions of dollars a year in unplanned downtime. These massive data flows, ranging from pressure readings to valve positions, are now often sent from remote locations to central servers over satellite links. This not only increases the cost of data transmission but delays its receipt and analysis. This latency can be critical — or even deadly — when the data is used to control powerful equipment or sensitive industrial processes.

Both these problems will intensify as falling prices lead to the deployment of many more sensors, and technical advances allow each sensor to generate much more data. Processing more data at the edge (i.e. near the well) and determining which is worth sending to a central location (what some call Fog or Edge Computing) helps alleviate both these problems. So can the rapid provisioning of network components and services, while real-time application of security rules helps protect proprietary information.

* Data from retail environments, such as from a customer's smartphone monitoring their location and the products they take pictures of, or in-store sensors monitoring their browsing behavior, can be used to deliver customized offers to encourage an immediate sale. Again, the volume of data and the need for fast analysis and action calls for the rapid provisioning of services and edge data processing, along with rigorous security to ease privacy concerns.

Making such scenarios real requires overcoming unprecedented challenges.

One is the sheer number of devices, which is estimated to reach 50 billion by 2020, with each new device expanding the "attack surface" exposed to hackers. Another is the amount of data moving over this network, with IDC projecting IoT will account for 10% of all data on the planet by 2020.


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