Future-proofing networks: untangling IoT

IoT devices need solutions that can transform chaotic, time-intensive, and vulnerable networks into stable, automated, and reliable systems.

May 13th, 2020

IT evolution led to the emergence of the Internet-of-Things (IoT): a swarm of networked devices designed and deployed for a specific task.

In environments where the workload is spread across hundreds or thousands of IoT devices, coordination poses new challenges for organizations. In such a distributed environment, often the network layer is the most visible and critical component of the IT infrastructure. (“The network is the computer,” as coined by Sun Microsystems.)

IoT challenges

IoT devices are often specialized and lacking the resources to be managed traditionally. IoT-heavy environments require:

  • visibility across thousands of rapidly changing resources with sophisticated access controls
  • flexibility to pair static IT assets (such as DNS A records) to dynamically shifting hardware
  • automation to scale the infrastructure and reduce human resource cost
  • future-proof design and architecture to accommodate innovations

Understanding IoT and IIoT

IoT is both a natural byproduct and an evolutionary step forward for networked systems. Where networks used to consist of many general-purpose computers, specialized IoT devices make the network itself the computer by separating components and distributing them across the network.

IoT is widely understood as a consumer-focused phenomenon, often associated with connected fridges, doorbells, or even toasters. But organizations in industries like manufacturing, retail, or emergency services have been utilizing IoT to a high industrial degree. (Sometimes also labelled as Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0.) A variety of thousands of IoT devices are used for data collection, automation, communication, and more.

Organizations with a high reliance on IoT devices need solutions that can transform chaotic, time-intensive, and vulnerable network environments into stable, automated, and reliable systems.

IoT networks need new thinking

A significant challenge for IoT is the rapid scaling and shifting of devices. Dynamically adding IoT nodes to the network is often bottlenecked by traditional network management methodologies. In particular, IoT represents an exponential growth in maintenance for DHCP and DNS, and often the network connections are obscured the overview and control over assets.

In IoT, reliability is often not only a key business consideration, but essential to saving lives. In the case of emergency services, for one, IoT devices are vital to collect data that inform response strategies and optimal deployment of scarce resources. Many IoT devices are highly specialized, consisting of nothing more than the sensors and the network interface connected to a mobile network. Maintenance, including moving and replacing them, is an ongoing task.

IoT requires a solution that can establish the needed reliability and transparency, and relieve staff of the unnecessary (and highly prone to human error) workload through automation.

Visibility and automation for IoT

Many IoT devices are connected to not a controlled local area network (LAN) but to mobile operators, a system over which organizations have no control. Mobile operators use their own systems and processes, which can quickly obfuscate the overview of the network. One such example is stripping the MAC addresses of the devices from the connection data, and thus blocking DHCP assignments to be completed.

Because of possible 3rd party network components, and to take advantage of the benefits of IoT’s dynamic nature, managing DHCP assignments and DNS records for IoT devices manually is not an acceptable approach for IoT.

In one case Men&Mice has encountered, the mobile operator stripped the MAC identifier from the device information. Without this MAC address, the APN devices became identifiable only by the phone number assigned to their SIM card, but DHCP and DNS cannot understand that. With Men&Mice, it was possible to work around this problem by using the robust API to translate the phone numbers into IP addresses, that can be then utilized in their DNS, DHCP, and IPAM (IP Address Management) workflow.

Using the phone number the device was identified by its ID code, which was then fed into a script to set up static mappings for the DHCP server, using a template and changing the ID entry and the IP address. What used to take hours, and was highly prone to human error, now can be automated and accomplished in minutes.

Untangling IoT with the Men&Mice Suite

It’s been proven that organizations can gain significant benefits from the very beginning with Men&Mice. The overlay nature of the Men&Mice Suite helps to deploy it easily, and discovering all network assets is mostly automatic.

The Men&Mice Suite unobtrusively pulls data from critical components like switches and routers, making it especially suitable for complex network environments, all without risking data loss from misconfiguration.

In a world becoming progressively more defined by the network, organizations need to be prepared for the never-ending innovation in technology. The Men&Mice Suite’s virtually unlimited flexibility enable their networks to keep the pace. The advanced UI and sophisticated API offers endless options to coordinate network resources, and opens up scaling in both the number of devices and cloud adoption.

In looking at future growth, organizations can be confident to handle new resources while maintaining operational costs. Whatever the world throws at them, they can adapt quickly and without sacrificing previous investments in infrastructure, thus flattening the cost curve and maximizing ROI.

Try it yourself

Men&Mice prides itself on offering solutions that adapt to the existing environments of its customers, instead of requiring costly adaptation of the environments to suit the solution.

If your organization employs or planning to explore, IoT, or you simply want to see what benefits the Men&Mice Suite can bring to your network, we offer a fully functional 30-day trial for you. Head over to the signup page and get better insight into your networks in minutes.