Your steam vent -- which is heaven knows how many years old -- has suddenly become, in essence, a digital device that generates a stream of data. Now you need to determine who is in charge of getting that data from the vent into a software application that can store the data, manage the data, analyze the data, and recommend a solution that, in turn, must also be executed.
And once those sensors are up there and have proved their worth, you can bet there will be an explosion of ideas of where else to put sensors to monitor whatever else.
This is what dynamic infrastructures are all about.
Dynamic infrastructures' profound impact on IT
As you can guess, handling all the new data generated from these sensors is going to be challenging. Analyst Charles King, editor and principal of Pund-It, calls this new model "chaotically distributed computing."
From the street level, rather than from the view of a CFO excited about the costs savings, dynamic infrastructures "can create expanding management/maintenance chaos for IT and datacenter staff," King says.
"Embedding sensors in physical infrastructure assets offers some amazing benefits," he explains, "but extending already strained IT and human resources to support and manage those new data sources could be a nightmare."
IT not only has to manage and integrate all of this new data, but it must also become part of the dynamic infrastructure to drive more efficiency into its datacenter as well.
Pete McCaffrey, IBM's director of dynamic infrastructures, tells me that while the Internet is 5,000 days old, most datacenters are twice that age. McCaffrey says the connection of the physical infrastructure back into the IT infrastructure will help companies make smarter decisions and develop higher value services for their customers.
The current talk over smart utility metering in the home is just such an example. Whereas meters are typically read once a month, those that are linked digitally can be read every 15 minutes if you like. Imagine a utility with 15 million customers reading meters every 15 minutes. You can bet the utility companies are already hard at work creating new services that will be based on that new information.
Of course, unless there is a way to filter out insignificant data in whatever you are monitoring, the task of making sense of all this data and basing decisions on all of it would be insurmountable. But that is what IT is all about: recognizing the difficulties and overcoming them.