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The Internet of Things: The Only Winning Move Is to Play

The lure of free and convenience has finally won

How many of you actually fill out the registration cards that come with your kid's toys?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

That's what I thought. Me neither. Not as a parent and certainly not as an adult. After all, they were just going to use it for marketing, right?

Fast forward from our children to today, and the Internet of Things is rapidly changing everything. Right under our ... fingers.

Take, for example, Construct Bots. Not literally, because my six year old will scream with rage, but as an example. You buy the toy, which is cool enough in and of itself, but then you get the free app for your <insert mobile platform of choice>.

Now, when you buy the toy, you can scan a QR code (or enter a bunch of digits, your choice) in the app. That unlocks digital versions of pieces and parts and your six your old is happy as a clam.

And so is the company behind it. Because that's the modern version of a registration card. And it's part of what is contributing to the big data explosion, because that code has to be validated - most likely by an application sitting either in the cloud or at corporate head quarters. And that code is tied to an app that's tied to a device that's.. well, you get the picture. For the price of developing an app and printing some codes on paper, the business gets to mine a wealth of usage and purchasing data that it could never have gotten back in the days of postcards and stamps and pens.

wargamesThere are hundreds - thousands - of examples of digital-physical convergence and new "things" connecting to the Internet across every industry and every vertical. Everyone is going to get in the game called the Internet of Things because, unlike the famous conclusion in War Games, the only winning move in this game is to play.

What's That Mean for You in the Data Center?
Most of the focus of the Internet of Things has been on the impact of an explosive amount of data and the pressure that's going to put on storage and bandwidth requirements, particularly on service providers. But one of the interesting things about all these wearables and Internet-enabled devices is that for the most part, they're talking the lingua franca of the web. It may be transported via a mobile network or WiFi, but in the end the majority are talking HTTP. Which really means, they're talking to an application.

And if your success is relying in part or wholly on the delivery of an application, you're going to need to deliver it. Securely, reliability and with an attention to its performance requirements. The thing is, that each of these applications is going to have a different set of requirements, sometimes for the same back-end application. That's the beauty of a service-oriented and API-based approach to applications (which is rapidly becoming known as microservices but hey, today's not the day to quibble about that) - you can leverage the same service across multiple consumption models. Web, mobile, things. Doesn't matter, as long as they can speak HTTP they can communicate, share data, and engage consumers and employees.

For a great read on microservices I highly recommend Martin Fowler's Microservices series

But the application when used to collect critical health data from a wearable has different performance and reliability requirements than when it's used to generate a chart for the consumer. Yes, we always want it fast but there's a marked difference between fast in terms of user experience and fast in terms of, "this data could save his life, man, hurry it up". The same application will have different performance and availability requirements based on its purpose. Not its location or its form factor, not its operating system or application version. Its purpose. And purpose isn't something that's easily discernable from simple HTTP headers or an application ID, and it certainly isn't extractable from ports and IP addresses.

The L4-7 services responsible for ensuring the performance and reliability of and access to applications is going to need to be far more granular than it is today. It's going to have to match more than content type with an operating system to be able to determine how to route, optimize, enable access and secure the subsequent exchange of data.

Programmability is going to play a much bigger role in the data center able not just to support playing in this game but winning at it. Because it's only through the ability to not only to extract data but logically put 2 and 2 together and come up with the right policy to apply that we can possibly attain the level of granularity that's going to be necessary in the network to provide for these kinds of highly differentiated application policies.

This world is coming, faster than you think. Every day there's a new wearable, a new toy, a new app and a new idea. As the footprint of computing power continues to shrink, we're going to see more and more and more of these "things" connecting us to the Internet. And a significant portion of what's going to make them successful is whether or not the network can keep them fast, secure and available.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

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