With IoT a new normal networking paradigm is emerging

Interview with Santanu Ghose, Director Networking, HPE Aruba

Manufacturers across all areas —automotive, chemical, durable goods, electronics, etc. — have invested heavily on IoT devices, and they’re already reaping the benefits.  According to a new report, ‘The Internet of Things: Today and Tomorrow’ by Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company,  in association with technology visionary Kevin Ashton—who coined the term ‘Internet of Things’, it is estimated that by 2019, 92% of manufacturing organizations globally would have adopted IoT technology and 77% believe it will transform manufacturing.

Manufacturing has emerged as one of the high growth sectors in India as well . The Government of India has set an ambitious target of increasing the contribution of manufacturing output to 25 per cent of GDP by 2025, from 16 per cent currently – a target which can only be achieved by adoption of new technology to improve processes and increase output.

snip20170504_12Santanu Ghose

In an exclusive interview to DATAQUEST, Santanu Ghose, Director Networking, HPE Aruba talks about the multi-pronged impact of IoT and how Aruba is manifesting the opportunities with its offerings and solutions. Excerpts from the interview.

As you very well know, in the last few years, the  traditional networking topologies are giving way to programmable software defined networking. Given that,  is IoT empowering static and limited functionality networking and other  devices and making them more intelligent?  Is there a new normal networking pattern/paradigm  emerging?

Yes, that is right, with the incorporation of IoT devices into the network, we’re seeing a new model emerging. The basic connectivity is becoming wireless. There is a fundamental shift in how the network is deployed and managed. IoT devices are wireless devices and they need to follow the standards of the wireless protocols.

We are also seeing Wi-Fi getting deployed in cities. You will now have IoT networks doing many things in public life. However, this is turning into an expensive and inefficient affair.

There is a consolidation of the network happening around converged network. It includes voice, video, regular streaming, IoT connectivity and surveillance all in one network that is delivered over wireless. Having said that, it’s not going to happen overnight because there is a lot of legacy systems in use and this will have to gradually change. This is what we see from a network perspective.

What has been the adoption of IoT in India and what role does Aruba play?

India has been one of the early adopters of IoT. It was termed differently before and has undergone a lot of changes since then. The way Indian manufacturing industries and the utilities have been incorporating automation has changed over the years. We had sensors deployed across power, water lines, shop floors to control and manage the utilities on a real time basis. These helped in carrying out recourses and interventions to correct any problems that were encountered. The control and the detachment systems have been there in our utilities for a long time. In the automation side of the Indian manufacturing industries, the adoption has been very high.

Moreover a new generation of sensors are getting deployed. Devices that are deployed to measure inputs – light, temperature or any other measurement criteria are now becoming wireless devices. Often these devices are connected over direct Internet or Wi-Fi. Hence these new generation of sensors and new generation automation field devices are now being called IoT devices.

In India, IoT has been an evolution of what has been there in the past and now we are moving ahead in the industry. Most recently we published a global study that found India to have one of the highest adoption rates of IoT.

The new generation of wireless devices need to be connected to the infrastructure, 24×7. HPE Aruba plays a critical role by ensuring that these IoT devices are provided resilient and fault tolerant connectivity. That’s our first play when it comes to deployment of IoT devices.

These IoT devices are doing a lot more things than what they could do in the past. Initially they were restricted to manufacturing industry and utilities, but today they are proliferating within cities, managing facilities like – ambient light control, parking systems or traffic light management or building image management systems. We need to be aware of the kind of devices coming on board, understand their characteristics and develop an ability to recognise and track them. This becomes an important criteria in the adoption of IoT and this is exactly what HPE Aruba does. We have ClearPass Universal Profiler that incorporates newer devices introduced into the market. We recognise these devices for the customer and profile them. It also doubles as an asset tracker. This is critical because as the IoT devices proliferate, we will need a mechanism to know the various devices, their function and profile.

The third point is that the adoption of IoT is happening in real time. Associated with that is the risk coming in as this is part of IP network. How do we prevent that? How do we secure these IoT devices and ensure that there are no breaches. This is also addressed through HPE Aurba’s ClearPass. Apart from profiling them, we provide them role based access – this is what the device is supposed to do, and this is what the device is not supposed to do. If there is a change in the role, the device is disconnected on a real time basis to avoid any hazard to the network.

As devices proliferate in the market and become critical part of the infrastructure – whether public or private – we need to understand the behavioural pattern of these devices. Machine learning is very important for future adoption. HPE Aruba does it through a tool called Niara which is a user and end-point behaviour analytics platform that uses supervised and unsupervised machine learning techniques to detect anomalous behaviours and find attackers without upfront configuration.

For example, we have heard about instances of ATM cards being duplicated. One of the actions that banks take is a concept called velocity check. For instance, you have just swiped a card in Mumbai about two hours back and suspiciously in three hours’ time, somebody has tried to use the same card in Malaysia. From a velocity perspective, one cannot reach Malaysia in three hours from Mumbai. In such cases the transaction is halted immediately and the owner of the card is contacted.

Similar process needs to be followed when implementing IoT in our networks. We need to understand the behavioural patterns of the IoT devices and take action when there’s a suspicious change so that it doesn’t bring down the entire network. IoT adoption will become very critical to the infrastructure because a service denial activity can cause disastrous effect on the functioning of any infrastructure. For instance, a service denial activity for a city’s traffic management network could be disastrous as the city can come to a standstill for hours. The flipside of adopting IoT is the risk of failure of city-wide services and we need to take proper precautions.

So we have special bridge servers which have real time interactions with the IoT device. They’re deployed in hazardous environments and work on a wireless mode while communicating with the datacentre because you don’t want the sensors to directly communicate with the datacentre. They can connect over Wi-Fi or broadband to these servers and these servers in turn will tell you what action needs to be taken in those particular zones or deployment areas and then interaction data could be uploaded to the data centre.

We also have Universal IoT platform which helps identify the hidden networks coming in from different directions. They could be coming in a public network or a private network. Or it could be coming from a lower powered network specially designed for adopting IoT devices which can be put into this network. There’s a framework needed to categorise that data and interact with this platform; basically to manage devices. Ultimately when you’re deploying IoT devices, we can provide machine device management on a real time basis.

In short, when it comes to IoT devices, HPE Aruba functions on the following aspects:

  1. Connectivity- ensures IoT devices are connected all the time
  2. Profile the devices – Aruba’s ClearPass Universal Profiler provides granular visibility into all connected devices
  3. Secure – Monitors all wired or wireless devices on multi-vendor network
  4. Behavioural analytics of the devices to take preventive actions whenever needed.
  5. Aggregate device and host them on the server, which we call the IoT server

What is happening on the Industrial IoT side?

HPE Aruba has a strong play in industrial IoT. We have been there in core manufacturing and the public utilities sector for a long time now and have played a crucial role in the automation and connectivity from a network perspective and IT systems

As mentioned earlier, converged network is a new model that is emerging in the manufacturing/ industrial set-up. For example in a steel plant (it’s one of the largest set-ups you can see). You will have multiple networks running there – data, management, security, control systems etc. All these are converged into a common network. HPE Aruba is at the forefront of driving this network and ensuring there is continuous connectivity.

Low powered devices connected to the network are very important as they are self-powered and the transceivers are present in low-powered modes. Hence, the active front is that much more powerful to interact with low powered IoT devices, which are getting deployed in industrial environments. So these concepts of lower consumption is very important. And some of the industries are coming up with their own standards for Wi-Fi. HPE Aruba is actually driving some of Industry standards in these areas.

How do you help businesses to move on from their traditional legacy systems to new technology? What kind conversations do you have with the stakeholders?

For the IoT integration to happen the IT and the operations technology need to combine or work together. The discussions are done with the people handling operations technology.

One of the first questions they ask is – how our solutions will impact their work. They don’t want the assembly line to come to a halt. The discussion also includes conversations about how the transition to the new networks will take place, the duration of outage given etc. The questions also vary based on the industries our customers operate in.

The transition is based on the application they’re running. The application provider (or the providers of automation technology or software) has a big say in the kind of devices that eventually get adopted. They make decisions based on the functionality of the devices, the nature of the data being collected etc.

So it’s a joint discussion with the IT team, the operations team, application provider and the people who will help us to incorporate the devices.

You mentioned that analytics is key to capturing some of the insights and network behaviour. Interestingly, Aruba has  acquired Niara and  do you see it impact in the next few years?

We need to have visibility into the behavioural patterns of IoT devices. In an industrial environment, any denial of service is a cause of concern. In a steel plant if you have a service attack, millions of dollars can be lost. An attack at an oil processing plant may cause the processing of the oil to stop suddenly, causing a halt in the operations, thereby causing a loss of millions of dollars. In the olden days, the risk was much less as the devices that were deployed were connected by a single line and there was no external element coming in. The devices were part of a secured network, managed completely and self-contained. However today, the devices are deployed over an IP.

Now, understanding the behavioural patterns of the devices is important. The concept of UBA –User Behavioural Analytics, gives us an insights into the trends in the behaviour. If an anomaly emerges, we are alerted and we can take preventive action so that there is no denial of service attack.

Can you give some insights into how Niara will complement the existing ClearPass ecosystem?

When we implement an IoT device into a system, we will profile it using ClearPass. We create a database with information on the brand, OS etc. Then we monitor the device continuously to check if there are any changes in its behaviour, or if someone is misusing it and trying to create a rogue hotspot etc. Once an anomaly is identified, ClearPass helps to disconnect the device. ClearPass helps us be contextually aware.

The third thing that Clearpass does is build an ecosystem with our software such as device management software, firewalls etc. So if the IoT devices running an oil line or a power line, where connectivity of the IoT devices is over broadband, Clearpass helps to monitor the connection and if there a change in the connection (for example, the broadband connection is being supplied by someone not registered), ClearPass disconnects that. So these are the three broad things that ClearPass does.

ClearPass also brings an ecosystem of not only things, but also people. So it could be a ‘thing’ getting converged as well as everybody with a device. It helps to build one consolidated network, converged consisting of printers, scanners, barcode readers, industrial scanners etc. All these become part of the network, and they need to be understood, connected and secured.

ClearPass is the central piece, which works with other software like the Firewalls, different analytics software, and network analytics that studies the nature of data exchanged, how much bandwidth would be needed for different devices like a server linked camera etc. We have acquired a company called RASA, which helps us understand the network.

Today if you see, the feed from a camera is continuous; the feed should happen only if there is a movement, and an alert can go off. The network should be able to detect this movement on a camera and decide to give it better bandwidth, as it is recording movement, and it would get bandwidth based on activity. So optimizing the bandwidth efficiency would also become very important when we are adopting converged networks to integrate IoT.

If you look at India, are there successful use cases, given the backdrop of the government’s digital and the smart cities initiatives? How do you see the market and the activity that HPE Aruba will be doing as we move forward?

So we are very excited with what is happening in India with the adoption of smart cities, smart energy management, and industrial IoT. India has been at the forefront of Industrial automation. Under the Industry 4.0 principle and philosophy, IoT is emerging.   We see Industrial IoT gaining traction with a fair amount of deployments happening. Of course, these are application based and there has to be checks and balances; and the transition has to be gradual.

But the interesting part is that IoT will now be in the public domain – which is where IoT will be used for utility management like energy management in smart buildings, parking systems, traffic lights, ambient lighting systems. India has an energy problem, and a large necessity for water. The areas known, as ‘downtowns’ in cities are notorious for consuming large amounts of energy– almost 60% of the town’s energy. These spaces usually house office buildings. IoT will be key in helping distribute energy better in these places. Almost every building has an access card – which can tell us at any point of time how many people are in the building and how they are distributed among the floors of the building.

With the automation of electric meters and water meters, we can derive insights into the consumption patterns of the different zones and floors in the building, and regulate or provide electricity, water, air-conditioning systems, bandwidth etc. We can also derive instantaneous insights about the total energy consumed by the building against the total number of people in the building. From this point on, government policy can mandate a limit on the amount of energy consumed by a building as against the total number of people in the building. If this limit is exceeded, penalties can be imposed.

The real time nature of this setup – where people know the consumption levels as against the total populace – will help people ration themselves and their consumption patterns. This is the biggest benefit we see emerging at the public and the civic scale, where the energy management could be much more efficient with the advent of IoT devices. It is even likely that your access card will cease to be just an access card but will instead become an IoT device. It can help determine your location in the building and adjust light brightness or AC strength.

On a citywide scale, lights are switched on at 6 PM, even when sometimes there is sufficient natural light; or they go unnoticed in the mornings after sunrise. How can we ensure that the lights only come into effect in the absence of natural light? With the help of IoT, we can manage our resources better. With the installation of smart parking meters, we can track the availability of parking spaces and save fuel which would otherwise be spent looking for a spot. These are some of the examples that are possible today, and deployments of the same is where we see the smart cities project emerging. In India, the question is  how can we make the cities more energy efficient and liveable. And this is where IoT play a key role.


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