Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel at the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando. The topic du jour was OT and IT convergence and a common thread amongst the discussion was how an organization can move to IIoT. Are there new architectures? Is IIoT a rip and replace only option? How can OT partner better with IT to meet IIoT goals? Overall, it was an engaging and excellent discussion. I came away from the session considering the connection between existing IA technologies and IIoT.
And here are some thoughts.
- Layer in the first piece to minimize disruption to legacy equipment. What I mean by this is that any time you make a significant architectural change a good first step is to layer in something around the existing architectural foundation vs going through a major replacement. If you assume that SCADA and Historian applications are at the core in the IA world, then you can look to either devices or analytics as a starting point. For example, one of our customers was able to layer a cloud based analytics layer over their existing SCADA infrastructure to add a lot of value. Other companies are introducing more and more end point devices into the mix first. But overall, take a look at your goals, find a pragmatic starting point and start out by adding one non-invasive layer. Once you have worked out the first layer, move on to the next layer. Often this is when you may see that the architecture core needs a boost which brings me to step 2.
- Virtualize that core infrastructure. Time and again we see underpowered, unreliable and out of date (“read insecure”) infrastructure supporting a SCADA layer. That may be all well and good in the old way of thinking but now is the time to consider an upgrade. In the world of IIoT that’s business critical stuff and that type of software needs a rock solid place to run – such as on a Stratus ftServer system. Once you have virtualized on a solid foundation it will be easier to manage and expand to other applications in the future.
- Respect your institutional knowledge but also look to the future. OT skills and knowledge are incredibly valuable but the introduction of new technologies at the Edge can be daunting. IT can help with the technology provided that the OT folks ensure that business needs are fulfilled. Near the top of that list is simplicity. Adding a lot of new technology for the sake of entrenched data center standards is a recipe for failure. Look for solutions that can thrive and survive at the edge without requiring a lot of IT support.
All in all, success will be determined by a smart scope and understanding the unique user requirements. When you break things down that way the challenge will be reduced greatly.