Should You Take a Ubiquitous or Best-of-Breed Approach to Building an IoT Infrastructure?

Roland Feijoo, Executive Vice President of IOT solutions

Some people subscribe to the best-of-breed philosophy in buying technology products and services: “I’m going to buy a switch here, a router there, a firewall there,” because they believe they’re getting the best products and will therefore build the strongest infrastructure. I was no different until I began designing and deploying Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. I learned the hard way that’s the wrong approach, at least with IoT.

IoT is a different animal altogether, and you have to seriously consider which approach makes the most sense. IoT literally takes thousands of devices that IT has never managed or seen before lights, temperature sensors and so on and put them on the network. You already have an array of different products by different manufacturers at the edge of your network, requiring unique security mitigation and a complete understanding of the vulnerabilities those devices bring. Its not like you may or may not put them in, because you will and it becomes a matter of understanding and controlling them, and building automation systems to maximize their value.

Consider a Reference Architecture
The question is, do you really want a “mixed bag” carrying the traffic of your infrastructure? How complex would you like your environment to be? For the past few years, I’ve been strongly counseling clients to pick a partner who can cover the broadest and strongest range of infrastructure issues for them, even though they have different products and they’ll potentially have enough software bugs and issues in that fleet of services. In other words, strongly consider what is known as a reference architecture.

The key to a reference architecture is to simplify your infrastructure and your network, and to reduce the number of provider partners. Find a single partner or two who can do more. If you were to build a large IoT deployment say its a 30-story office complex for a large bank you’d need a dispatch partner unless you plan on swapping out sensors yourself, because you’re going to start relying on the data that’s being generated and on the results of the combined efforts of these IoT devices.

One Contact vs. Many
IoT sensors will quickly become a critical part of your operation and its important to have the ability to manage the environment with a unified, first line of defense. The whole process is easier and less expensive if the entire environment of components is made by one company. That means you have one call to make when an issue arises and one partner to contact and coordinate with, as opposed to having to call one vendor for one issue, another for a different problem, and so on which quickly becomes onerous if you have no idea where the actual issue lies.

Reducing Security Risk
When you add that much complexity, I would argue that you’re introducing more security risk, because different elements don’t necessarily talk to and work with each other as well. If one vendors product has 99 features and another’s has 94 but the original equipment manufacturer who has 94 features also has much of your infrastructure, then you likely don’t need the extra features in certain cases, you may want to pay for those additional five features, but most of the time, you’re not even using them because it all becomes too complex to manage.

There are consulting services out there designed to sell boxes and those that exist to sell solutions, and in the case of IoT, those solutions need to be carefully managed. Give some serious consideration to which approach you take the difference could make or break your IoT implementation.

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