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The White Walkers are coming. So is the Internet of Things (IoT). In both cases, the real danger is denial.

Walking the line

On Game of Thrones (GOT), as human factions battle for control of Westeros, the White Walkers slowly but inevitably approach, threatening to undo the victory of whoever wins. The White Walkers are like evil snowmen that resent warm weather and warm bodies. They are scary, but perhaps even scarier are the wights. Wights are essentially zombies, usually made from fallen soldiers, but some are horses, and some are giants. The scariest thing about them is that they function with one mind, controlled by the White Walkers as if they, the wights, were marionettes. In one signature, chilling scene, the Ice King, the leader of the White Walkers, stands in the aftermath of a battle and slowly lifts both his arms. Hundreds of newly minted wights obediently stand at attention.

The scariest thing about these zombies is that, among the vast and varied cast of major characters on the show, the wights are being almost completely ignored. Even Tyrion Lannister, arguably the most intelligent character, has a hard time wrapping his mind around the idea of preparing to engage with an army of creatures that all act in concordance with one another.

The old CPUs and the new

Then again, we should know to expect such a torpid adoption of new but important ideas from the people of Westeros. After all, they have been living in a medieval world for thousands of years, and they haven’t even developed the steam engine.

So what’s our excuse?

The army of networked automatons that approaches our world, sure to change it, seemingly impossible to ignore, is the IoT—that is, the collection of networked smart devices, from refrigerators to cars to street lights, that will soon be infusing every aspect of our lives.

Data moving upstream 

Don’t get me wrong. The IoT is a good thing. A great thing. But then, the White Walkers were originally created by the mystical and generally sympathetic Children of the Forest, with all the best intentions. Now, the Children of the Forest are worried about their own creation, which is a bit like the way some datacenter operators feel about the IoT.

You see, the IoT is going to transmit and receive data in a way that the internet wasn’t really built to handle. Traditionally, the internet was mostly made of people, acting more or less independently, loading web pages in browsers. The data was mostly traveling downstream (from a web server to a client), and user behavior was, in aggregate, fairly predictable. But the IoT is going to send a lot of data upstream. Devices are going to be doing a lot of talking to each other, machine to machine (M2M). They’re going to be doing a lot of real-time analysis in time-sensitive contexts, such as emergency systems in vehicles and hospitals. Traffic patterns will be much harder to predict. The end users, the companies that make them, the enterprises that use them, and everyone in between will require a network infrastructure that is made for this brave new world.

Gateways to progress

Fans of GOT have been agonizing over Westeros’ lack of preparation for the White Walkers for what seems like forever. But the show has only been going on for seven years. We’ve known about the approach of the IoT for a lot longer. Are you ready?

Preparation for world-changing events often involves special tools. John Snow has the obsidian buried under Dragonstone. You have the Ericsson servers running on the new Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor. Using that processor, we tested our virtual Evolved Packet Gateway (vEPG) at 40Gbps, which is fast enough to move the story of your datacenter rapidly forward in time. Far enough that you'll be ready, and so will your customers.

Download our special report about how we did it.

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Michael Bennett Cohn
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Michael Bennett Cohn

Michael Bennett Cohn is a digital content expert with a wide range of experience in online publishing and advertising. He was head of digital product and revenue operations at Condé Nast, and he oversaw the digital ad campaign that launched the first Amazon Kindle. His journalism has been published by Newsweek, Mashable, and The Forward. He lives in Brooklyn.