Digital infrastructure faces huge demand as the IoT lifts off

The Internet of Things (IoT), once a buzz word, now something that is starting to impact many areas of our lives. Today’s physical and digital infrastructure is no different, and will be tested to its limits by the surge of network traffic created by the IoT.

It’s not just households that are investing in smart lighting and home assistants, but the industrial and manufacturing industries putting resources into the same breed of technology. With the cost of IoT sensors and transmitters fast decreasing, demand and use is increasing with future predictions of exponential growth soon to be a reality. Expect a major shift in the way we interact with our built environment. This increased demand is not only coming from significant IoT growth, but from a massive uptake in cloud services. The technology giants, which own a substantial part of the data centre space in the world, are now in fierce competition with established data centre operators.

Is there an alternative to just building more data centres?

In some instances, the most appropriate response to the huge amounts of traffic on our networks will be to build more data centres. In others, and especially when looking deeper into the future, that’s not going to be the most cost or performance effective solution.

Inside data centre facilities, moves to technology such as in-memory processing will require incessant innovation. With new hardware comes new software and programming to harness it, meaning data centres already in use will require reconfiguration.

Unfortunately for the market, the innovations we’ve seen have not yet tackled the challenge of proximity. Despite the continued upgrades and expansions from co-location providers in established data centre markets and locations, strong performance for the IoT and IIoT (Industrial IoT) is still dependent on data centres being built close to the end user, as there is latency to consider.

Enter the buzz word in the data centre industry - “edge”: small data centres built closer to users and further away from the traditional hubs, resulting in faster connection speeds. We’re yet to see how sustainable the edge approach will be.

New data centre business models must emerge

As new IoT challenges arise, new business models for data centres will doubtlessly emerge at the same time. Opportunity knocks at the door of data centre owners in the form of new niches in the market, such as those focused on using AI techniques to efficiently manage traffic in and out of a data centre. With the huge volume of “real time” data the IoT will generate, it’s quite likely we will require AI to determine what data to process, and what data to simply discard. With capacity issues, we will no longer be able to just store every bit of data we generate.

The ever-increasing pressure on infrastructure

There are a number of things we simply can’t predict with IoT. But we can predict it will present challenges to current digital infrastructure and the time to address these challenges is now. Not next year, or the year after that, but today. The barriers of IoT are disappearing too quickly to ignore.

Reliable performance for digital services is currently king, with security quickly moving up the priority list. Smart players in the industry won’t let the IoT negatively impact these factors, taking it as an opportunity to beat their competition.

The IoT will change the landscape of digital services and, in doing so, so will the infrastructure we rely on so heavily to deliver them. In the future, the market will belong to those who understand the IoT and plan for what's to come.