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Good Intentions for the Internet of Things

Intent-based networking is a must-have for making IoT scalable and secure.


Businesses will use more than 4 billion Internet of Things devices this year, and will deploy another 3.4 billion by 2020, Gartner predicts. About the only things growing faster are the challenges of provisioning, protecting and managing all those connected devices.

Intent-based networking (IBN) is an ideal way to overcome those challenges. It uses a combination of software-defined networking, artificial intelligence and machine learning to create an environment where network administrators define policies that software then carries out.

Many enterprises already have at least some IBN hardware and software deployed — sometimes without even realizing it. Either way, here’s why and how to use it for IoT.

Three Reasons Why IoT Needs IBN

IBN is a fundamentally different management paradigm, and IoT is a fundamentally different device paradigm, so they’re a match made in heaven:

  • Scale. A typical enterprise could have thousands or tens of thousands of IoT devices coming online each year. It’s inefficient to manually provision and police each one. IBN automates those processes, freeing IT staff to focus on other tasks.
  • Support. When their work smartphones or PCs are acting up, employees call the help desk. IoT devices don’t have users, so they suffer in silence. But IBN can detect their problems and alert IT staff.
  • Security. IoT vendors know that inexpensive devices are key for mass deployments. That means just enough memory and processing power to support their core applications, with little or nothing left to support security tools such as an anti-malware. IBN makes it easier to segment networks for IoT traffic and use identity-based policy enforcement.

Is Your Network Already IoT Ready?

Cisco is one of the most widely deployed vendors, which is why there’s a good chance you already have at least some of the hardware and software necessary to implement IBN. For example, Catalyst 9000 switches or ISR 4000 integrated services routers support Digital Network Architecture, which is Cisco’s IBN platform. IoT is an opportunity to derive more value out of your existing investments.

CDW offers a four-step process to help enterprises determine their IBN readiness, develop a strategic plan to implement it, and then get it all up and running. This process includes identifying ways to use IBN for IoT and non-IoT applications alike.

For example, IBN makes it easier to ensure each application prioritizes, receives and secures the right network resources. That way, videoconferencing traffic is automatically prioritized over, say, data from the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system’s IoT sensors. Or, for example, a less secure IoT device, like a sensor, may be restricted to only communicate with a server, while an authorized network user is allowed to access email, files, printers and the internet. IBN allows the system to identify the devices and users and apply the prescribed policy.

Those kinds of quality of service policies traditionally require manual intervention. IBN eliminates that grunt work by applying QoS policies based on the type of application or device — welcome news for IT workers that have enough on their plates even without IoT.

Learn more about CDW’s Digital Transformation solutions and services.