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August 17, 2018

IoT, Hybrid IT, and the Importance of Network Visibility Beyond the Firewall

IT professionals face a different set of challenges when the back end of a businesses’ IoT infrastructure is in the public cloud.

By CBR Staff Writer

IT professionals are facing increased complexity in the workplace as more organisations adopt hybrid IT.

Patrick Hubbard, Head Geek™ at SolarWinds

According to the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2017, 57 percent of IT professionals surveyed reported that the number one challenge brought about by hybrid IT is increased infrastructure complexity. Yet this is just one of the ways that hybrid IT is affecting IT departments.

The report also found that, weighted by rank, the primary challenge posed by hybrid IT is the lack of control and visibility into the performance of cloud-based applications and infrastructure, something that is exacerbated by Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

This is because IoT devices connect to cloud back ends or edge-distributed endpoints rather than traditional data centres.

Distributed workloads and IoT devices can create control and visibility issues. Any loss of visibility can lead to serious consequences, from network issues to downtime.

Lacking insight into firewall performance, for example, can hinder critical business services delivery, including site-to-site connectivity, which increases the risk of downtime.

All is not lost, however. IT professionals can manage complexity and gain visibility beyond the firewall by studying and learning from IoT use cases in hybrid IT organisations. Doing so will help IT professionals better identify solutions to managing IoT and hybrid IT convergence.

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So, what are the specific challenges that IT professionals should be aware of?

Trouble at Home

Industrial IoT occurs when there are multiple IoT devices, but production data is captured in an organisation’s data centre. This approach creates complexity for IT professionals because IoT devices create enormous amounts of data on-premises.

As a result, it has become necessary for IT pros to analyse multi-tiered big data applications when managing data. Massive processing and storage, as well as streaming analytics and transformation, are also required.

The security challenges of hybrid IT are well known, and reporting and regulatory requirements—which allow IoT devices to connect with the data delivery network—add yet another hurdle for IT professionals to overcome.

Dark Clouds

IT professionals face a different set of challenges when the back end of a businesses’ IoT infrastructure is in the public cloud.

In this scenario, there are potentially millions of distributed devices and multiple clustered workload systems all reporting data back to the cloud. As a result, cloud monitoring becomes fundamentally important.

When managing cloud-based IoT implementations, clear, end-to-end visibility is vital. Achieving this visibility can be tricky, though, because traffic is outside of the firewall. IT professionals need to see beyond hardware health and performance, and gain insight into the entire path of a network.

It is therefore necessary to use tools that monitor cloud infrastructures and cloud components of applications to enhance visibility beyond the firewall.

Managing IoT complexity and visibility

Now that we’ve discussed some of the challenges posed by cloud-based and on-premises IoT deployments, here are common practices that IT professionals can implement to improve visibility beyond the firewall and reduce complexity in their hybrid IT environment:

Achieve a Single-pane-of-glass View

Being able to troubleshoot across the boundaries of hybrid IT can help reduce the time it takes to identify and address issues that may be afflicting an organisation. But this isn’t always easy to achieve.

When critical network services rely on firewalls, continuous monitoring is required to ensure availability. That said, manually troubleshooting network devices limits productivity because it is time-consuming and error-prone.

So, if you are to successfully manage IoT in your hybrid organisation, you need a tool that automates monitoring and managing your infrastructure, removing the need for manual troubleshooting.

Adopt a tool that offers cross-environment visibility, with network insight leading all the way to end-user performance. Whether you’re viewing the status of VPN tunnels to help ensure connectivity between sites, or monitoring firewall availability, health, and readiness, a single-pane-of-glass-view is a necessity.

Take Joy from Data

We know all about data’s potential, so IT pros should really take the time to get to know, and experiment with, their operations and hybrid IT data. Unlocking your inner data scientist will help uncover new insights and make you better equipped to identify IoT-related issues.

Constantly Upskill

As we discuss hybrid IT and IoT, it’s important to note that times change rapidly for IT professionals. An IT professional who doesn’t have the time to learn and adapt to new skillsets and solutions just can’t deliver optimal benefits to an organisation.

With this in mind, businesses should allocate room in their budgets for education, personal development training, conference passes, and certifications for their IT pros. Complexity will be less of an issue if IT professionals are well-equipped to deal with it.

Hybrid IT is here to stay, and it will likely remain complex, but IT professionals shouldn’t be discouraged.

Regardless of their IoT approach, IT pros who improve their environments through a mix of education, monitoring, and data insight have nothing to fear. Instead, they can achieve visibility through the firewall and make the most of two of IT’s biggest trends.

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