In the first blog, we explored the reasons behind IT/OT convergence, the benefits it promises to deliver and the challenges that are typically encountered. In this post, we look at solutions to those challenges and the outlook for IT/OT convergence.

Considerations for successful IT/OT convergence

  1. Security
    • Use Software-Defined Networking (SDN) for network virtualization and smart security solutions:
      • Security for industrial automation and control systems ensures the availability and integrity against cyber threads
      • Common criteria to certify the security attributes and assure that the process of specification, implementation and evaluation has been conducted in a rigorous manner
      • Multiple dynamic VLAN support
      • Tri-authentication support based on IEEE 802.1x, MAC address and Web
  2. Reliability and Resilience
    • Build-in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) network resiliency with fast fault recovery (~50ms)
    • Extended operating temperature
  3. Overall cost reduction (CAPEX)
    • Build your IT/OT converged networks, eliminating unnecessarily redundant controls of network infrastructure such as conduit, cables, switches and UPSs that will then simplify interoperability and security compliance.
  4. Manageability, operational cost reduction (OPEX)
    • Operate a unified management platform for provisioning and monitoring
  5. Easy integration and standards compatibility
    • Use a standards-based network device for:
      • High-performing Layer 2 and Layer 3 switching
      • Routing capability, including the most prevalent on IPv4/IPv6 networks like BGP, ECMP, OSPF, PIM, RIP
      • Extended multicast group support
    • Industrial protocols for integration with existing factory management tools:
      • Modbus/Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)

Opportunities for IT/OT convergence

IoT creates new opportunities for convergence across all lines of business to transform existing business models and vertical industries and create new efficiencies and opportunities for disruptive technologies. Depending on the industry, convergence may be applicable to manufacturing plants, facilities management, department stores, airplanes or even hospital rooms and city services like waste collection. Many of these applications, such as water treatment, power generation and real-time video surveillance, require high quality of service (QoS) and high-data rates, which will require sophisticated network infrastructure to reliably transport the data being collected.

Security is critical to the success or failure of the IoT and IIoT markets. Recently the critical flaws identified at the heart of the Internet, such as the Heartbleed vulnerability, have highlighted engineering fallibility. The successful attacks in industrial machine-to-machine (M2M), such as Stuxnet, have highlighted aspects of cyber warfare that were hidden until now.

Conclusion

Industries developed and managed OT and IT as different areas with different authorities and responsibilities, maintaining separate technologies, standards, protocols, governance models and organizational units. Nevertheless, OT is progressively adopting IT-like technologies, due to the benefits of improved decision-making with access to real-time data, cost and risk reduction.

To achieve these benefits IT and OT strategies must be harmonized, security and data must be managed centrally, and resources must be reskilled to merge the requirements of both disciplines. Via a successful IT/OT convergence, companies can exploit hidden potential in their supply chain by streamlining processes and increasing data transparency.

Data sources will come from a wide variety of sources, including traditional internal business sources, IT and related systems, sensors, devices connected to the Internet, external social media sources, and other structured and unstructured data elements. Bringing these sources together for analysis will provide a basis for more comprehensive business monitoring, insight and control, while also increasing efficiency.

Enterprises do not have all the skills to address the challenges associated with IoT, so participation in alliances, business and technology partnerships is a necessity. Allied Telesis pursues these opportunities adding our IT core competence to ecosystems. We leverage our networking expertise to offer reliable communications and help to integrate diverse automation systems and connections to myriads of sensor-enabled devices.