How Data Centers Have Evolved to Support the Internet of Things

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Click to learn more about author Chris Schwarz.

The times, they’re a-changin’. We’re on the verge of a world where everything from our fridges to our coffee makers are connected. And for data centers, that means an evolution.

In 2014, Gartner predicted that the Internet of Things (IoT) – which is slated to reach approximately 8.4 billion devices this year – will thoroughly disrupt the data center. That shouldn’t really come as any surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. IoT devices generate torrents of data.

Even conservative estimates have the number at somewhere around 35 billion petabytes.

Crazy, right? And here’s the thing – all that data’s got to go somewhere. Real-time information from the vast array of sensors now entering the world is extremely valuable to a business, after all.

As a result, it’s in the best interest of enterprises everywhere to hook those sensors into their existing data centers. But doing so requires some serious bandwidth. We’re talking a massive upturn in the amount of available data, and a significant investment in data center networking hardware.

In addition to pushing development of more powerful networking hardware, IoT devices will also necessitate more efficient storage mediums. After all, that data needs somewhere to rest after it’s been generated. And current data center storage probably won’t cut it.

These hardware advances are only the tip of the iceberg, though. Security is another major challenge data center operators are facing as we set forth into the connected world. And it’s not a challenge with an easy answer, either.

“The biggest threat posed by [connected] objects is one we are only beginning to fully understand: security,” writes Mashable’s Karissa Bell. “Remember the exploit that took down some of the most trafficked sites on the Internet last fall? As we learned from security researchers, the source of the attack was a network of hacked DVRs and Wi-Fi connected cameras.”

“Attacks like these will only become more and more common as manufacturers flood the market with smart devices with crappy security,” she continues. “The vast majority of the companies making these connected products aren’t adding the ability for them to be managed remotely, which would allow them to remotely push security patches when vulnerabilities are discovered.”

If that revelation doesn’t scare you, it rightly should. Given that IoT manufacturers aren’t going to bother securing their hardware and software (at least, at the beginning), data center operators are going to need to pick up the slack. That will require better endpoint management solutions and adaptation to a completely different operating environment from the one we’re all used to.

In this new environment, containerization and Hybrid Clouds will be more important than ever, according to Red Hat’s Paul Cormier. We’ll need a way to wall off sensitive applications from potential data leaks, and we’ll need a means of rapidly spinning up immense amounts of processing power at a moment’s notice. Ideally, these two solutions will work in tandem with one another, and advances in hardware will help pick up any slack they can’t.

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