July 28, 2021
The shifting of where compute functionality occurs has varied over the past few decades from centralized (remember platforms like mainframes and thin clients?) to distributed. Of late, there has been a lot about the rise of Edge Computing. Rather than an end state, this is just another milestone in the ongoing evolution of system of system architectures. In this article, I am going to make an argument for a shift, over time, back towards the Cloud.
When Industry 4.0 started, the primary concept was really about software-defined everything. The fourth industrial revolution was expected to deliver even more automation than the third revolution by bridging the physical and the digital worlds. Accomplishing this required a shift from centralized, fixed industrial controls to those that could adapt to changing market needs and/or feedback from the environment itself. What this meant was a shift toward software-defined systems. The PLCs that were imagined as a physical input with IOs, will now be a container workload on a large platform. On a much higher level, this inherently changes how the physical, digital and humans interact. The machines made up of dedicated controllers that are not updated or changed will now be driven by software defined industrial PCs that can both drive the machines and understand and adapt to their surroundings.
There is great innovation underway with cloud providers right now. One might say we are in the Cloud Wars. If I focus on North America and Europe for a moment (i.e. exclude the ecosystem in China with Ali Baba, Baidu and Tencent), the three leading cloud providers push forward with increasingly innovative and complete products. They have also recognized the concern from end customers of being tied into a single cloud provider. As an example, Google’s Anthos software platform, announced in 2019, offers a single, consistent way of managing Kubernetes workloads across on-prem and public cloud environments.
For the OT executive, connectivity to this type of functionality offers tantalizing prospects for system effectiveness through access to various services, including data lakes, streaming analytics, data storage, IoT security management, and monitoring. We are hearing from customers that the implementation of similar functionality on-prem can be two to three times more expensive. We believe that the cost gap will continue to grow.
IT organizations in almost every industry are transitioning or have transitioned to leveraging cloud services. OT operators have, however, been slow to adopt cloud-based techniques. Even though moving to the Cloud relieves the OT operator of maintenance tasks such as provisioning, installation, updates, and patches, they still want to keep control and limit the threat of cybersecurity vulnerabilities. In part, it is because this conversation clashes with the culture ingrained in OT leaders to stay away from the influence of IT organizations and remain as independent for procurement support and management of their technology infrastructure.
Some of the operators realize that in the face of increasing cost pressures, moving to Cloud could simplify their operations and allow them to be more flexible in scaling up and down. In the manufacturing industry, we have seen more in the public domain from Microsoft and its customer base that builds on a foundation of decades of business and supplier familiarity around Windows® technology. This has been initially focused on predictive maintenance and quality improvement use cases.
The cloud operators have offered various IoT strategies intended to address the concerns, but the OT operators still see a chasm between what is needed to meet their requirements and the available architectures. Fortunately, new architectures can allow the operators to have their cake and eat it too. The choice of the right system architecture will ensure that their current operations are not impacted and yet they stand to benefit from all the data based optimization, namely:
The challenge is to deliver these capabilities while maintaining the vitally essential attributes of the OT network, including system uptime, deterministic real-time functionality and immunity to cyberattacks.
The architecture that this type of system requires is what we refer to as “Mission Critical Edge” securely combining the scaling benefits of IT infrastructure with the reliability, deterministic real-time behavior of embedded platforms. Attributes include;
In conclusion, the mission-critical edge architecture can allow the OT operators to deploy Cloud-connected services and workloads on their factory floor without affecting their current operations. This is achieved by enabling the edge systems on the factory floor to run multiple airgapped workloads including real-time, AI/ML, security etc. In addition, of the airgapped workloads can be combined to run Kubernetes orchestrated container workloads.
Pavan Singh, VP Product Management, Lynx Software Technologies
The post July 2021 Guest Opinion: To Cloud or not to Cloud; A Crossroad for Executives Managing OT Networks appeared first on Internet of Business.
Source:: Internet of Business