When it comes to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), there is a general feeling that operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) organizations are at odds. To a certain extent, that’s true.
In the data center, IT is largely concerned with reducing costs through consolidation and standardization. On the production line, OT also wants to decrease costs but strives to keep productivity as high as possible to drive revenue.
IT also is generally more comfortable with change. Servers and software are updated all the time. New, more cost-effective IT solutions seem to emerge daily. For OT, stability and reliability are most important. The “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” thinking often dominates. As a result, OT wants systems that chug for 10, 20, 30 years or more.
Examples of these differences in thinking are quite common. For instance, one practice in the gas delivery is to maintain proprietary networks to connect their pumping stations more securely. For OT, this is brilliant because it protects the network from hackers. But IT sees solutions like these as costly, and antiquated that should be replaced with less expensive, standards-based equipment secured with software. Both approaches achieve network security; they just come at it from different angles.
Now let’s look at IIoT. Here is an opportunity for OT and IT to overcome their differences and achieve common goals.
Things like predictive maintenance, enabled by IIoT, help OT run production lines more efficiently and with less unplanned downtime. This is certainly good for productivity and revenue. But predictive maintenance requires continuously monitoring and analyzing key system data. Enter IT.
IT staff are experts at installing software, servers, and networking needed to deliver predictive maintenance analytics. But they also must work with OT to understand parameters to be measured and key performance indicators that will drive operations and maintenance decisions.
For OT, the IIoT solution must be absolutely reliable and available 24×7. IT will want the solution to be efficient, secure, and cost-effective. What they both want is simply the right tool for the right job. The good news is there are solutions available today that accomplish the goals of both OT and IT.
For example, fault-tolerant servers provide stability and longevity required by OT, and they meet IT’s need for standardization, security, and ease of management. These perceived differences between OT and IT are simply alternative approaches to reaching a common goal, which is to streamline business operations through IIoT. And everybody wins. OT drives increased productivity and revenue while IT keeps costs in check.