The Internet of Things (IoT) has been defined as one of the most disruptive technologies of today. Connected devices are everywhere, collecting information and providing insights that we increasingly use to make ever more crucial decisions. As a service provider delivering IoT-based solutions you face new challenges. What can you do to make your IoT infrastructure reliable in a connected world?
The number of net-connected devices and their impact is enormous. We have smartwatches on our wrists and have ‘Alexa’ or ‘Hey Google’ applications to make our daily lives easier. In business and public environments, too, IoT is everywhere. In simple applications, such as security cameras or sensors that measure when a waste container needs to be emptied. And more advanced: IoT to optimise production performance in manufacturing, smart metering in energy management, smart buildings, smart cities, smart healthcare, and the list continues.
All these IoT solutions bring new infrastructure challenges for service providers. IoT solutions need to be hyperscale, with millions of connected devices and events constantly recording and sending large amounts of data to servers.
Another challenge is the distribution of IoT devices: they are all over the world and in all kinds of environments. From devices in a state-of-the-art, hyper-secure company to a connected aggregate in the hot, dusty Sahara. By no means always is the power supply reliable, nor are the network connections. Moreover, you usually have no insight into the end-to-end data flows, let alone access to them.
For IoT workloads to be reliable, it's all about connectivity. To devices, between devices and to the server. The more reliable the connectivity, the more valuable your proposition as a service provider for your customers and the more lucrative an IoT service offering is for the business value of your own company. A good starting point is the guidance you will find in Microsoft’s Well-Architected Framework around reliability in IoT workloads. We pick out a few points of interest.
A reliable IoT solution hinges on high uptime and availability. But along the way, physical networks, protocols, hardware, application logic, and other cloud services can all cause problems. So, fast detection and repair is crucial. But how do you do that with hundreds, maybe thousands of devices connected to your infrastructure? Manual control is not an option, so you need intelligent monitoring. Azure Monitor and Azure Event Grid are monitoring services to troubleshoot connectivity issues in Azure IoT Hub.
End-point security is difficult to set up as more devices become connected. As a result, many IoT devices remain under the radar of existing network security tools. Hackers know this better than anyone. With monitoring and diagnostics tools like Azure Monitor, you make devices observable and know when a device needs an update, for instance because the application changes or for better security. A service that enables safe, secure, and reliable over-the-air IoT device updates is Device Update for IoT Hub.
Redundancy is important for reliable IoT solutions with an adequate high availability and disaster recovery strategy. This way, a device continues to function when critical functions falter or fail, for example due to power outages or cloud failures. Which strategy you follow depends on the impact of the interruption and the SLA you have agreed with your customers. Costs also play a role. At least pay attention to redundant hardware options for sensors, power, and storage, fallback capability and disconnection management, and buffering backup to mitigate cloud dependency for critical or safety functions.
More and more IoT devices in many places also means more and more data over the cloud gateway. Scalability is therefore a serious topic to consider for continuous data flow. But how do you know how to scale for sufficient capacity? A useful simulation tool is the IoT device telemetry simulator, which many developers also use. Furthermore, keep in mind that scalability is not infinite, but depends on the quotas and throttles for the units within your service tier. With continuous monitoring and alerting or auto-scaling, you keep usage within thresholds.
Ready to embark on your IoT journey? Insight can help, for example with Microsoft services and Azure IoT technology. We have been working with partners like you across Europe for many years. We help them to find ways to optimise efficiency, reduce costs, mitigate risks, and maximise revenue by providing valuable time, knowledge, and support in many (hybrid) cloud scenarios.
Contact one of our cloud specialists to find out how we can support you in securing your cloud ambitions in line with your business goals, whether you are designing your first workloads in the cloud or work entirely cloud-based.