As we see more and more convergence of OT and IT, we are also witnessing an increase in the challenges faced by today’s OT professionals.  We’ve seen an influx of OT professionals continuously being asked to support complex environments and infrastructures with dwindling resources.  Making them ideal candidates for a technological solution that brings simplicity and reliability to their day-to-day work.

These professionals’ expanding job descriptions result in added company pressure to produce more work at a higher standard. Furthermore, OT specialists typically support processes that are vital to economic health and community well-being, such as maintaining assembly lines that deliver clean water and overseeing pharmaceuticals’ quality. Essentially—high-stakes processes that cannot experience failure at any point.

OT professionals face numerous technology-related challenges that industrial automation companies can take action to solve. The good news? If OT professionals feel like these challenges are being met head-on, the barrier to entry for new OT solutions will shrink considerably.

The Challenges

Limited IT Resources: Most OT specialists are not IT specialists. And, unfortunately, most plants have limited to no IT resources on-site, meaning that the need for dual IT/OT roles is larger than ever. Not only do operational technology managers need to install and support industrial automation systems, they also are tasked with finding forward-thinking technology solutions, such as real-time analytics and IIoT, to keep their businesses current.

Complex Working Environments: Another challenge faced by OT specialists is the complexity surrounding the plant-automation environments in which they work. OT professionals must navigate different workstation classes for workers (spanning from engineers to machine operators); separate networks for process control and plant management; and standalone servers for production applications, among other unique responsibilities. Configurations are difficult—for example, single servers for each application result in many wasted processing resources—and the high-cost ownership of various application licenses culminates in a generally inefficient process.

Most alarmingly, when a server outage at one of these plants occurs, it can cause failure on numerous other linked technology platforms, resulting in a very costly and time-consuming recovery.

Virtualization Risks: Many industrial automation businesses are employing virtualization as a foundation technology, particularly to set their organizations up for success when it comes to IIoT readiness. This helps provide cost savings and efficiency by allowing businesses to run additional applications on a single platform.

However, while virtualization does improve scalability and cut costs on infrastructure, it comes with several risks as well. If multiple applications are running on one platform, that one platform’s reliability becomes critical. In the unfortunate event that one virtualized server goes down, so will the applications it supports. Therefore, it is imperative that virtualized servers are fault tolerant.

Despite the challenges, the environment for best-in-class OT solutions has never been better poised for success. Simplicity is at the top of industrial automation companies’ wish lists, and providers like Stratus are rolling out new systems designed to circumvent these challenges and keep clients up and running with as little cost and infrastructure as possible.

Next week, check back for an in-depth dive into the OT solutions that are addressing OT professionals’ needs head-on—with easy-to-install servers, self-service options, and maximum reliability, among others. We’ll also break down how industrial automation businesses should choose the right virtualization vendor and ensure that their personnel have the right level of support when it comes to maintaining multiple systems.

In the meantime, download our paper and grasp the challenges today’s OT professionals face in difficult Industrial Automation environments.