In theory, the Internet of Things (IoT) represents a trillion-dollar opportunity for IT services providers. The challenge will be determining exactly who inside any organization owns the IoT budget.
A new survey of IT and operational technology (OT) stakeholders published by 451 Research finds that only one-third of OT respondents (34 percent) said they “cooperate closely with IT” on IoT projects from conception to operations.
More than half (55 percent) of the OT survey respondents are currently responsible for deploying IoT within their organization, and 44 percent have successfully moved those projects from proof of concept to full-scale deployment. While a relatively small group of respondents said they were in “active conflict” with IT over IoT, the survey finds that OT professionals are four times more likely to characterize the relationship that way than the IT professionals surveyed.
IoT project complexity
The reality of the IoT situation is that it’s hard to deploy IoT applications at scale without some level of cooperation between IT and OT teams. Building an IoT application requires more than simply connecting something to the Internet. Most of the data generated by IoT devices needs to be analyzed locally. The cost of shipping every piece of data over a wide area network (WAN) to be processed in either a local data center or in a cloud service is prohibitive. Most organizations will only distribute the aggregate analytics processed at a local IoT gateway to the rest of the organization.
The challenge many organizations will face is that data will need to be processed in real time at the local gateway. The results will then have to be compared to previous analysis typically stored in a data center or a cloud service. Once that task is performed, some individual or automated process will then need to decide whether to take an action, such as shutting off a valve, based on the most recent results of the centrally located analytics application running in some modern equivalent of a data warehouse. In fact, IoT applications may rank among some of the most complicated distributed applications ever built.
Overcoming IoT challenges
The 451 Research report notes that like most projects every IoT initiative is will be challenged by issues such as budget, staffing, and return-on-investment (ROI) concerns. Infighting between IT and OT teams within the same organization is only going to increase the amount of time and effort required to complete an IoT project.
There’s never been much love lost between IT and OT professionals. Many OT professionals even resent the term IoT. OT professionals have been connecting various devices over networks for years. OT professionals tend to acquiesce to the use of the term if it means more budget dollars will be allocated their way, though.
MSPs hoping to build an IoT practice will undoubtedly encounter these territorial issues somewhere along the way. Rather than waiting for the inevitable conflict to arise, savvy MSPs should establish some sort of relationship with all the potential IoT project stakeholders as early as possible. There’s nothing worse than starting a project only to discover someone inside the organization has a vested interest in torpedoing it. The smarter play is to get as many stakeholders involved one way or another as soon as possible. After all, as the saying goes: While failure is a orphan, success has many fathers.