With the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices entering the market, IoT needs to be pushing towards a centralized model where devices revolve around closed cloud-hosted services. However, every company is going to be making every device connect to the internet without producing open source kits. Truly smart IoT devices need to operate on a data feed from devices in the home, devices outside of the home, and third party services. The only practical way for large numbers of IoT devices to integrate with deeper intelligence, is through the cloud.
Enter ZeroTier, a Irvine, California-based startup founded in 2012 which aims to give users control over their own networks. While their SDK for IoT devices is still in development, this startup provides a great promise as a future IoT solution. The company offers ZeroTier One, an endpoint service ad-hoc virtual private network that uses its own VXLAN-like encapsulation and includes encryption. It emulates an Ethernet switch over a P2P protocol, so that the user can create a virtual peer-to-peer VPN-network anywhere as a software defined networking (SDN) over WAN.. Their virtual networks available to desktops, laptops, servers/VMs, and mobile devices as VPN connections or virtual network (tun/tap) ports. ZeroTier One is able to replace VPN’s with P2P end-to-end encryption.
As a “plug and play LAN”, it streamlines the internet as a simple “wire” and lets users create an encrypted network topology on top. ZeroTier One is a great solution for IoT projects because it is extremely easy to setup with no need for VPN specialists and equipment to provide VPN connectivity, and it can create a secure virtual overlay network that makes microservices topography simplified. Creating a network takes only seconds, and adding devices is as simple as adding their ten digit “ZeroTier address.”
After installing the software, devices joining a network only requires entering its 16-digit “Network-ID” to connect to the secured virtual LAN. Every virtual network joined appears on as a new network port plugged into an imaginary LAN. Even multicast and broadcast works, meaning that other network drives and sources can be viewed just like an ordinary wired or WiFi network. From there, ZeroTier One operates like a regular LAN. It can be used to collaborate, share files and data, or remotely debug software. On the management console, devices can be authorized/deauthorized like a pure Ethernet switch by a single click.
In the cloud, developers can use ZeroTier One to create a provider-independent virtual private cloud backplane, even adding on-premise servers for an instant turn-key “hybrid cloud” deployment. All traffic is encrypted end-to-end using 256-bit encryption, and the keys are kept safely on the user’s system. Connectivity between peers on the network is direct peer-to-peer whenever possible, creating a large, geographically dispersed LAN virtual environment without the need for a physical location. Each client would get an IP address in the IP space specified (Private IPs, a la 192.168 or 172.16, et al) and each device in that network will be able to communicate with other devices that are connected and authorized.
ZeroTier One is very cost-effective way to connect multiple devices over the Internet, as the service is free for up to ten devices. Thereafter, at $4.00/month the network can be upgraded for “professional” unlimited member access.
Overlay networks like ZeroTier are an opportunity to circumvent the technical restrictions in the internet today and to explore new routing protocols. It also opens the doorway to a mode of operation that could be very promising for mobile and IoT applications.
- Started: 2012
- Raised: $427.5K in Funding
- Founder: Adam Ierymenko
- Product: SaaS
- Service: Virtual private network
- Zero administration
- High level of security
- P2P virtual LAN over Internet
- Gateway capability to route between networks