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How will wearables impact enterprise infrastructure?

How will wearables impact enterprise infrastructure?

First we had BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) – now hot on its heels is WYOD (Wear Your Own Devices).   If there is a lesson to be learnt for enterprises it is that the consumerisaton of technology has crept up on them and created some major challenges in terms of network management, security and best practice.

For decades businesses have been in charge of their technology and data has been safely locked down.  But with the rise of consumer devices such as tablets and smartphones, consumer-grade document storage and file systems such as Dropbox and Box and a host of downloadable apps, employees have opted to adopt their own solutions if enterprises can’t or won’t provide them with intuitive solutions to get the job done efficiently.

For many IT departments learning the lesson and establishing a best practice and BYOD policy has been a difficult one. It has required enterprise developers and IT teams to develop a whole new set of skills to cope with the influx of devices logging onto the network both inside the firewall and remotely.  Just as they have got their heads around BYOD, the next tsunami of consumerised technology is coming fast in the shape of wearables – together with a whole new set of daunting challenges.

Market research company ABI Research forecasts that wearable device technologies will become an integral part of enterprise mobile enablement strategies over the next five years, with the enterprise wearables market hitting US$18 billion by 2019.

ABI Research points out that enterprise connectivity is continuing at a rapid pace and that enterprises will only reap the benefits if end-to-end solutions, also embracing security and management solutions, support the wearable devices and connections.

Businesses should already have information and network-security policies in place for BYOD that will need to be tweaked to cover the concerns applicable to wearable technology, including privacy issues and legal liabilities that might arise.  But what they may not be ready for is the change in user behaviour and the added IT consumption wearables will bring.

IT departments will need to look carefully at the impact wearables will have on the networks and wireless data plans.  Remember wearables aren’t going to replace devices on the corporate network, they are going to add to them – creating more of a strain and a drain which could slow the infrastructure down dramatically and create huge bottle necks if not managed correctly.

Enterprises will have to future proof their networks for wearables and ensure they have the right network management in place to oversee mission critical areas and to troubleshoot any problems and bottlenecks.  At the same time they will have to ensure they have the bandwidth to cope with the additional devices hanging off the network.  The big question.  Is it time to upgrade the infrastructure? If yes, this will need to include leveraging current wireless standards and ensuring employees have reliable connectivity at all times.

If wearables are going to connect directly into the enterprise Wi-Fi network and access databases and other file sharing areas, security and encryption measures need to be put in place to stop data leakages. Remember wearables can, if they are in the wrong hands, become powerful surveillance devices!

Wearables will also add to the data mountain. The number of devices and the volume of data will not only create challenges as far as security and possible data leakage of sensitive information, but also in terms of data storage and management and the data center network as a whole.  Technology is now at the heart of business and real-time business processes are in jeopardy if the right strategy isn’t put in place from the onset. The pressure will be on data managers to deploy forward looking capacity and bandwidth strategies to meet an enterprise’s ongoing and growing needs.

With the sheer volume of data involved, coming from all corners of the globe, some data intensive enterprises may see the need to syphon data into mini data centers for initial processing decide what needs to be sent on to a central data center. This data sorting approach will, however, provide a greater load on data processing solutions.

Like BYOD, wearables are likely to generate bursts of activity on networks.  Data centers will need to be more mindful of capacity management. So called software-define networking (SDN) and server virtualisation will be key for network administrators to manage data loads. As more and more BYOD and wearable devices log on they also create a heavier load for the data center, driving up costs and posing a bigger threat to downtime.  Enterprises may have to look to a ‘dolly mixture’ approach of enterprise data center solutions and public cloud to fulfill their demands.

The impact wearables are going to have on networks and data centres as part of the so called Internet of Things is huge. Infrastructures will have to deal with vast amounts of traffic, security risks and ballooning storage needs.  With such innovation comes change. There is one big difference between the wearables revolution and smartphones that came before.  We have been warned and we can see it coming.  Sharp enterprises and their IT departments will have policies in place that will enable them to exploit the opportunities wearable technology brings in terms of productivity and cost savings. The ones that don’t will drown in the tide.

By Ennio Carboni, executive vice president, customer solutions, Ipswitch