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Meet the new development practices making the Internet of Things a reality

Christopher Siewald CEO, Perforce

You can see artifacts of the Internet of Things (IoT) everywhere. The oil and gas industry is innovating with everything from connected drills to intelligent gas pumps. The automotive industry is using smart infrastructure for high-traffic throughput and improved safety. Electronics manufacturers are creating home appliances with sophisticated sensors and smart response algorithms. No matter what industry you look at, one thing is clear: the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)—the enterprise version of the consumer-focused IoT—is quickly maturing from novelty to reality.

Companies that need to better integrate their hardware and software products across teams, vendors, geographies, and industries will now need to think and act like big web companies. They must re-architect their infrastructure, code, and product development practices to accommodate the unprecedented connectivity and rapid time to market consumers have come to expect.

Enter infrastructure as code

The only way to move at the speed and scale required for today's connected machines is to distill operations down to code or practice what is known as infrastructure as code (IaC). IaC empowers developers, operations, and other contributors across the organization to collaborate better and more efficiently with flexible new workflows that simultaneously protect the company's valuable intellectual property (IP).

At its core, IaC represents a true shift from manual processes to automation. Most importantly, it offers repeatability, which improves quality and infrastructure efficiencies. By operating in this new framework for building information and technology architectures, businesses can spin up new servers quickly, automate testing and deployment cycles, and respond to customer and partner feedback in real time, leading to faster time to market.

IaC does not offer a blueprint for every enterprise. It isn't a package of hardware and software that companies can implement. IaC is the destination that organizations reach at the end of the journey that brings development and operations teams together to streamline and automate different areas of their data centers and production pipelines. IaC results in co-designed infrastructure and practices that closely resemble application code development, which enable enterprise operations to be automated and programmable at every level.

Infrastructure as code is all about agility

By giving development and operations teams the power to manage their environments in the same way as their applications, they can achieve ultimate flexibility, scalability, and velocity. When you consider that all enterprises are moving in this direction, and that industries are increasingly connecting hardware and software to realize new value propositions, all enterprises must become hyper-agile if they are to compete.

However, in their quest for agility, enterprises have to keep security concerns top of mind. Internal and external contributors work in both central and distributed workflows, and enterprises need to track movements and changes to content at the most granular level. This helps keep IP safe and secure and aids the business in adhering to rigid industry regulations.

Businesses must also keep in mind that today's consumers are more demanding than ever, and their expectations of new products or product updates put additional pressure on businesses to move quickly. This translates to receiving feedback faster and more consistently in order to tweak development pipelines and integrations with partners accordingly.

With more agile infrastructures, companies can be in a position to update their products hundreds of times per day. This is in part because of flexible collaboration paradigms and heightened security checks, which allow developers to contribute from anywhere and at any time. As new code is written, it can be tested, committed, and put into production without having to slow down to spend time on manual collaboration and security processes.

Start from within the organization

Most enterprises believe that there are superstars waiting to be hired to transform their organizations. This is a common misconception that may cost these businesses time and resources, as their competitors increasingly architect their businesses for the IoT.

There's no one skill set or field expert who can bring IaC in house overnight; rather, businesses will best realize more collaborative and automated environments by building them internally through dedication, trial and error, and one-off projects led by in-house trial teams. What's important, though, is that these teams are supported by technologies that give developers what they need to succeed at new velocities and give enterprises the security these new projects require.

By leveraging these technologies, companies may utilize the vast wealth of talent they already have—the people who really understand their organization and culture—and have visibility across business needs and product lines to offer the best path forward.

Positioning your company to participate in the IIoT is a journey. The team designing the processes needs to be the same team that's in the trenches managing the operations. If not, those responsible for working on projects after the consultants disappear will be left scratching their heads over new practices and collaboration paradigms. It takes time and effort, but by taking the right steps, every company can revamp their internal processes to put themselves at the vanguard of the IoT.

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