Skills deficit hampers IoT growth in 2017

IoT will affect nearly every role in IT, Forrester warns

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The allure of IoT is strong. Companies are eager to explore the potential for connected products and business processes. But technologies and use cases for the IoT vary wildly, and the vendor landscape is rapidly changing, warns research and advisory firm  Forrester. Adding to the hurdles IT teams face is the demand for IoT skills – including data analytics, security and wireless networking expertise – that are already in short supply in many organizations.

IoT technology uses new network protocols, hardware and specialized software, and successful deployments will require expertise in business transformation, data science, cybersecurity, and industrial automation.

“CIOs recognize that the IoT holds the promise to enhance customer relationships and help them drive business growth. However, it’s a complex undertaking that affects business strategy and nearly every role in the CIO’s organization,” Forrester writes in a new report.

Security is particularly complex given the two-pronged threat that IoT represents: The volume of IoT devices increases an enterprise’s attack surface, and, hackers can exploit IoT device vulnerabilities to launch other attacks. “Security as an afterthought for IoT devices isn’t an option,” Forrester writes in its report, “Predictions 2017: Security And Skills Will Temper Growth Of IoT.”

Networking know-how will also be a challenge, Forrester warns, as the array of wireless technologies and protocols required to support IoT field deployments multiplies beyond familiar Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular connections.

“Small bursty traffic, dense sets of connections, or long distances require new forms of wireless connections, such as LoRaWAN, Sigfox, or 3GPP’s narrowband (NB)-IoT,” Forrester says. “In 2017, teams will search through more than 20 wireless connectivity choices and protocols to support a company’s diverse set of IoT devices.”

On the architecture side, skills are required to link specialized IoT solutions to core business systems. It’s more complicated than having IoT devices send data directly to a cloud service, Forrester notes. Rather, real-world conditions will require IoT software to be distributed across edge devices, gateways, and cloud services.

“IoT solutions will be built on modern microservices and containers that work across this distributed architecture,” Forrester says. “To tease out business value, IoT data will couple with increasingly powerful AI and machine-learning cloud services capable of consuming this data.”

As enterprises grapple with skills development, vendors will begin focusing on certifications to help advance IoT growth, Forrester predicts.

“The scale and scope of the IoT is much larger and radically different from what CIOs have faced before. The diversity of technology components and the challenge of orchestrating them to work together to produce the desired business outcomes requires new roles and skill sets,” Forrester says.

In the coming year, vendors will try to make their mark in IoT certifications, Forrester predicts. As an example, the firm cites how a Cisco CNE or Microsoft MCSE certification can help validate that someone has the basic skills to manage Cisco networks or Microsoft infrastructure. “Building rich communities of professionals helped those vendors reassure their customers that they could easily acquire the talent they needed,” the firm says.

The same tactic could strengthen customers’ faith in IoT players. “In 2017, Forrester predicts that major vendors like Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, and others will invest heavily in low- or no-cost training and certifications while keeping the bar high to ensure that the certifications hold weight.”

Forrester also predicts that industry-specific certifications will take hold: “In 2017, Forrester expects that 10 industrial vendors will jointly certify their IoT-enabled products with enterprise vendors, as Rockwell Automation has done with Cisco.”

Enterprises should be ready to keep track of what their IoT vendors are doing in the area of certifications. Already some vendors have created training and certification programs for their products, Forrester notes, such as IBM’s Watson IoT Academy and PTC University’s ThingWorx Certification.

“When evaluating vendors, consider their training programs and press them on the number of certified technologists out there today,” the firm suggests.

Predictions 2017: Security And Skills Will Temper Growth Of IoT,” is written by Forrester analysts Frank E. Gillett, Michele Pelino, Merritt Maxim, Charlie Dai, Julie A. Ask, and Andre Kindness. It’s one of several new 2017 prediction guides from Forrester.

This story, "Skills deficit hampers IoT growth in 2017" was originally published by Network World.

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