Home Networking Is your enterprise network IoT-ready?

The need to implement better, more secure network procedures and tools to safeguard IoT devices will only grow as more stories about breaches crop up in the future, according to a senior official at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.

"Just because a device is branded as smart it doesn’t necessarily mean it is secure," Amit Raj Bathla, vice-president and head of marketing, APAC & China, at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, told iTWire in an interview.

He said such devices could pose a serious threat to network security.

"We’ve seen a big number of high-profile security attacks in the past year alone – with the Dyn DDoS case in October last year being described by some experts as 'shaking the Internet'. The key takeaway from cases like these is that simply monitoring and controlling the flow of packets to and from IoT devices is not enough to guarantee security.

"This type of IoT may involve pulling data from thousands of roadway sensors and devices such as CCTV cameras, vehicle detectors, weather stations, traffic signals, and other devices multiple times a second in real time."

Alcatel Amit

Bathla came over from Nokia Networks to Alcatel-Lucent after the acquisition in May 2014. He has a BE in Computing Technology and an MBA in business, marketing and strategy.

There has obviously been a lot of talk around IoT, but it seems that organisations are just starting to realise where it might fit in for their operations. What are the key aspects they need to consider to ensure the success of a smart network?

M2M technology provides the vital framework to create the huge web of ‘smart’ devices. But a sprawling network of connected devices and sensors continually receiving and transferring data can make it hard for enterprises to find the right information to analyse and improve operations.

Due to the huge quantity of data in the network, there is plenty of opportunity for complications if not managed correctly. Without a suitable network infrastructure, information delivered by millions of dollars’ worth of sensors and smart devices can be bottlenecked and rendered useless by inadequate and ineffective routing and distribution.

The network switch is key to this. To address the issue of data overload, there are now ‘smart’ network switches – in other words, application-aware switches that carry and deliver data across Application Fluent Networks. These switches have the added value of being able to prioritize users, devices and applications depending on the situation – whether normal day-to-day or emergency.

An intelligent network needs to extend functionality right to the edge so data can be analysed and processed from device to device. Switches can manage the increased flow of IoT traffic on the edge of the network to provide enhanced security and integrated analytics. The switches can then deliver comprehensive management of the entire network and remove inefficiencies that could potentially impact performance.

You are saying that one of the big challenges for organisations who want to use IoT is their legacy infrastructure. How can network infrastructure keep pace?

It is virtually impossible for a network that has been installed and upgraded on an ad-hoc basis to make the most of smart devices. Many enterprise IT systems have separate solutions for voice and data, as well as wired and wireless devices, and lack the connectivity required to leverage the potential of IoT.

A single converged network is fundamental to an IoT environment and guarantees a greater level of interoperability and support for smart applications and devices.

Eliminating network silos allows for greater central control with a wider view of all devices and information. This creates an intelligent network management solution that can automatically prioritize data traffic to ensure real-time communications while enabling business critical applications to get the network service they need.

Not only does this create considerable cost savings, it also provides the foundation to build the IoT applications of the future, such as autonomous vehicles.

Big data is a central part of IoT, and much is made of its role in generating customer insights and operational efficiencies. With improved visibility into the traffic on the network, what value can it bring to the IT departments themselves?

The collection of big data is worthless unless advanced analytics are carried out. Predictive analysis and reporting functions create detailed network performance indicators and allow users to make more proactive and data-driven decisions, faster.

The benefits for businesses can be as simple as determining whether a new service or application being rolled out will exceed current network capacity, or that every Thursday afternoon the R&D department needs extra bandwidth to support its data-heavy processes.

By examining this data, enterprises can achieve greater return on investment in their applications, identifying redundant or unpopular features and allow developers to target their resources more effectively.

A big concern for many is the security of connected objects. How much of this is down to fear, uncertainty and doubt, and how much of it is valid? How can networks help protect organisations?

Just because a device is branded as smart it doesn’t necessarily mean it is secure. These can pose a serious threat to network security. We’ve seen a big number of high-profile security attacks in the past year alone – with the Dyn DDoS case in October last year being described by some experts as “shaking the Internet”. The key takeaway from cases like these is that simply monitoring and controlling the flow of packets to and from IoT devices is not enough to guarantee security.

The need to implement better, more secure network procedures and tools to safeguard IoT devices will only grow as more of these stories crop up in the future. Efficient network management systems are essential to this, regulating control over authorised and unauthorised access. Remote or centralised management systems can even enable administrators to efficiently manage devices and safeguard network integrity and data from outside of the office for instant reaction to security threats.

IoT security is not a simple task, but smarter networking is taking a big step in helping more businesses stay safe and connected.

IoT security

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

 

 

 

 

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