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Taming the IoT Wild Wild West with Enterprise Architecture

Just as was the case with the settling of the American West, today’s technology settlers are flocking ’West‘ to new territory in search of new fortunes and futures. This new territory, the Internet of Things (IoT), is in a period of rampant expansion, endless opportunity, and few rules. It is unquestionably the Wild Wild West of technology.

The Internet of Things refers to a broad category of smart and connected devices that includes a vast range of endpoints including industrial equipment sensors, smart appliances, smart cars, geo-beacons and just about everything else in between. The common denominator is that these smart devices exist at the enterprise’s edge collecting data and sharing it with core systems, often providing at-edge analytics, and sometimes performing automated actions — all without human interaction.

As enterprises have realized the potential business value and competitive benefits that smart devices can provide, they have rushed to deploy them and incorporate them into their commercial products — resulting in an explosion of enterprise use cases.

In most organizations, this rapid expansion of IoT deployments has happened with little strategic oversight as business leaders focused on seizing advantage. But this Wild Wild West approach now leaves enterprises in a precarious position as they begin to grapple with the security, data governance, and architectural complexities incumbent in this vast new technology territory.

Enterprise Architecture and Your IoT Strategy

As organizations continue their investment in IoT and begin to take a more strategic view of their deployments, they are coming to terms with the significant issues and risks that they bring.

The strategic challenges span security, governance, and operational concerns and include increased attack surfaces, data governance issues, and operational manageability. As great as IoT’s business value and competitive benefits may be, its deployment also increases business risk as organizations embed smart devices into critical business processes and essential elements of the customer experience.

The good news for most enterprise organizations is that they have faced many of these challenges before and have already embraced a discipline to help address them: enterprise architecture.

As organizations exit their Wild Wild West phase, they must adopt an IoT strategy within the context of their broader enterprise architecture (EA) rather than attempting to create it in an independent — and isolated — fashion.

Incorporating this strategy into their broader enterprise architecture will enable organizations to address its challenges in a holistic fashion, which will be essential as complexity increases.

For instance, enterprises must be able to address the flow and governance of device-generated data, device connectivity, the use of shared infrastructure (perhaps including the use of shared devices), and IoT specific infrastructure elements such as gateways and data collectors — all within the context of the organization’s entire technology stack.

Your Path to IoT Success

While EA will be essential to helping organizations tame their IoT deployments and thus realize the business and competitive value they seek, organizations must first focus on several important elements as they apply it to this still-developing domain.

Rather than spending resources on standards and establishing strict architectural guidelines at this stage of development, organizations should instead focus on creating architectural models that protect the integrity and fidelity of data consumed at the edge and as it flows throughout the enterprise.

Moreover, these architectural models should center on ensuring security and manageability throughout the architecture, but without imposing limitations that will inhibit the organization’s ability to experiment with new IoT use cases and applications.

The goal of applying EA in an IoT context is no different than in other parts of the architecture: to create a strategic, macro view of the technology stack within the context of the business and its priorities to ensure security, manageability, and interoperability without unnecessarily inhibiting the organization’s ability to innovate or operate.

When it comes to IoT and its rapidly evolving state, however, organizations must deftly apply EA principles to ensure that they are providing sufficient oversight and control, but no more.

Most importantly, as organizations apply EA to their IoT strategies, it will be critical that they remain laser-focused on the business context, the business value and competitive advantage they seek to create, and the impact of these strategies on the customer, partner, and employee experience.

The Intellyx Take

On the one hand, applying EA to IoT strategies makes perfect sense. EA’s original purpose was to address the very issues that IoT deployments are now facing — and to do so from a business perspective.

The challenge, of course, is not with EA principles, but with the overly dogmatic manner in which many enterprises have applied EA in practice. Early IoT advocates have steadfastly resisted the application of EA to IoT strategy because of a well-justified fear that doing so would stifle innovation.

The implications of IoT deployments and the risks that they are now introducing, however, make continuing down this path untenable. Organizations must overcome these fears and adapt their EA practices to account for the experimental and dynamic nature of IoT deployments.

An important element of this practice adaptation will be the adoption of tools, such as SAMU, that help organizations break through the dogmatic application of EA and strike this balance of flexibility and just enough control.

Adapting EA practices and striking this balance will now become a strategic advantage in and of itself, as those organizations that do so successfully will find that they alone can harness the competitive value and business benefits of IoT while mitigating the security risks and operational complexity that it brings.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Atoll is an Intellyx client. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper.

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More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is ranked #5 on Onalytica’s list of top Digital Transformation influencers for 2018 and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017, the only person to appear on both lists.

As founder and president of Agile Digital Transformation analyst firm Intellyx, he advises, writes, and speaks on a diverse set of topics, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, devops, big data/analytics, cybersecurity, blockchain/bitcoin/cryptocurrency, no-code/low-code platforms and tools, organizational transformation, internet of things, enterprise architecture, SD-WAN/SDX, mainframes, hybrid IT, and legacy transformation, among other topics.

Mr. Bloomberg’s articles in Forbes are often viewed by more than 100,000 readers. During his career, he has published over 1,200 articles (over 200 for Forbes alone), spoken at over 400 conferences and webinars, and he has been quoted in the press and blogosphere over 2,000 times.

Mr. Bloomberg is the author or coauthor of four books: The Agile Architecture Revolution (Wiley, 2013), Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (Wiley, 2006), XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996). His next book, Agile Digital Transformation, is due within the next year.

At SOA-focused industry analyst firm ZapThink from 2001 to 2013, Mr. Bloomberg created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011.

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting), and several software and web development positions.