Three Tips To Overcome IoT Scalability Issues
Here's why developers should start small, use simple architecture, and incorporate a decentralized application enablement platform.
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One of the most important aspects to consider in almost all technological projects is scalability and the Internet of Things is no different. In fact, if you already know your IoT solution is going to be consistently adding more devices and need to handle an increasing amount of data, the scalability of IoT should be at the front of your mind.
Scalability: the ability of a system to handle a growing amount of work by adding additional resources; this remains a sticking point for many developers thanks to challenges specific to IoT technology. Moreover, if not addressed early on, such challenges can grow into problems that risk increased maintenance times and latency issues. Let’s discuss three tips that work to overcome IoT’s trickiest scalability problems.
Why Are There Scalability Issues In IoT?
Before jumping into the solutions, let’s take a moment to consider why there are scalability issues specific to IoT. They include:
- Lack of a planning phase: When starting an IoT project, there’s a need for a strong Proof of Concept (POC) and planning phase. Given that IoT projects come with a variety of technical and organizational factors, a large number of aspects need to be considered at the planning stage. However, a lot of the time, these aspects are unknown or ignored because they seem inconsequential at first. That being said, they could have huge ramifications for the project’s growth capacity.
- Uncertainty of compatibility with future devices: As you probably know, there are plenty of new IoT devices entering the market. In fact, it’s estimated that the number of IoT connections will reach 83 billion by 2024. On top of that, all of these devices come with new or updated features, hardware, and/or software. What’s more, even the smallest devices can change the way they interact with IoT communication protocols. This means that the process for adding or replacing new devices five years from now may be completely different than today. This would require changing the architecture, the software, or the protocols themselves.
- Budgetary constraints: IoT developers can be averse to investing money now to avoid problems in the future. While we see their point, would you not invest in a car, home, or health insurance? Also, why take the risk? Invest in IoT at scale and put your mind at rest.
Tip #1) Start Small And Build Out
First, if you’re looking to scale responsibly, it is a good idea to limit your growth over time. If you start your project with a few manageable devices, periodically adding one or two over time, you won’t have to change your entire infrastructure and it won’t take much time to accommodate them.
With that being said, if you do take this tip on board, it’s worth knowing that the amount of time you spend accommodating a new device might end up consuming more time than the alternative. This is because when you implement a scalable system right away, you can add multiple devices at once.
Like most things, this all depends on your specific IoT project. If it’s relatively small, you can gradually build up. However, if you’re looking for longer-term growth and scalability, it’s worth thinking about the bigger picture.
Tip #2) Use Simple Architecture
Second, choosing the right architecture for your project from the beginning leads to fewer problems in the future. Moreover, it’s important to choose an option that has the future in mind, and MQTT vs REST is the decision you’ll have to make.
When it comes to communication between IoT devices, using the MQTT protocol’s one-to-many system might seem like a good idea with smaller projects. However, down the line, it might not be as effective. This is because of its programming complexity, latency and security issues, and need for constant maintenance. For the long term, you should use a more simple architecture.
Namely, a REST API brings several benefits to developers, including ease of use, better security, and improved scalability.
Tip #3) Incorporate A Decentralized AEP Platform
Third, effectively scale up your IoT project with a decentralized IoT Application Enablement Platform (AEP). To explain its merits, let’s look at the alternative. A ‘traditional’ AEP solution, such as lAWS IoT or Microsoft Azure, sends data between IoT devices via the cloud. So, for a client to interact with a device, data has to go to an external centralized database and be temporarily stored there.
This isn’t great for device security since even if data is encrypted from client to database and from database to device, the data stored in the database is still vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Further, due to the extra step of going through the cloud, a traditional AEP solution means more latency issues since all data traffic has to be running through the same central “relay” setup.
On the other hand, a decentralized AEP platform establishes a direct connection from the client to a device. Once a P2P (peer-to-peer) connection is established, the only limit of the connection is the computing power of the client and device and the internet throughput rate at the two destinations.
This ensures low latency between IoT devices, the scope for scalability, and eliminates the risk of data interception. In short, a decentralized AEP solution allows you to scale up easier by reducing security risks and having minimal effect on the speed of communication – no matter how big you get.
Lastly, Don’t Forget To Test!
Our parting advice is something that is often overlooked: testing. Whenever you’re attempting IoT at scale, make sure you’re continuously testing all aspects that might influence successful device scalability.
It’s of paramount importance to keep testing as your project scales up. Try to take records of latency levels, the devices connected, the amount of bandwidth being used, the messages being sent and received, and any other aspects that might influence how prepared your project is for growth.
While IoT projects come with unique scalability challenges, taking the necessary actions goes a long way in minimizing these problems. To summarize, it is important for IoT developers with an eye on scalability to recognize its challenges, have a strong planning phase, invest the necessary time and money from the beginning, and choose the architecture wisely.
Published at DZone with permission of Carsten Rhod Gregersen. See the original article here.
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