COMMUNI CATIONS & NE
NETWORK NG ORKIING
INDUI NDUSTRY FOCU S NO NETWORK IS AN ISLAND I
n a nugget of wisdom that has survived for centuries, English poet John Donne famously noted that ‘no man is an
island.’ His point was that no one is self- sufficient and everyone relies on others in a functioning society.
Engineers and plant managers have traditionally operated industrial networks as islands, physically segregated and protected from other areas of their plan t or systems for security and reasons. However, as comp take advantage of the Indu
strial Internet anies begin to resilience
of Things (IIoT) to create harmonious automated systems by connecting the operational technology (OT) domain to the information technology (IT) world, Donne’s prophetic quote has become true of industrial networks. Here, Robin Whitehead, strategic proj
ojects director of
systems integrator, Boulti ng Technology , discusses the challenges plant managers face when integrating legacy systems into new industrial networks.
It is no secret that the IT and OT worlds are converging in industrial environments. The prevalence of connected sensors in the industrial world has ultimately led to increased value associated with additional smart data fromreal-timemonitoring, analysis and optimisation. The benefits of IIoT have forced plantmanagers to
reconsider traditional indus trial network s. Particularly, the idea that these networks should be segregated.
Although connecting industrial
networks together and to the outside worldmakes perfect sense, it does entail a whole raft of challenges froma systems integration point of view, especially when dealing with legacy system s .
A MEE NG OF WORLDS MEETIING OF WORLDS ts of a plant
integrating themin an industrial plant, you are effectively working with two different departments, each with its own priorities and performance criteria. IT will always focus on network
security, performance, server space and data transfer speeds. Conversely, the OT side is primarily manufacturing focussed, where systems need to be reliable and resilient; uptime is key an d everythin g else is secondary.
Different languages, interfaces, media, hardware and software create a few challenges when bringing the two worlds together. However, by using an
experienced systems integrator, capable of working within both IT and OT
environments, as well as across different systemvendors to produce a compatible solution, plant and IT managers can achieve seamless integration, without impacting production, integrity or performance. This way, the systems integrator can fulfil the needs of both IT and OT without sacrifices, first time, every time, because the ability to apply the correct level of technical excellence, proj
oject delivery capability and process knowledge is key.
A MAZE OF NETWORKS MAZE OF NETWORKS
One problemwe often see in industrial plants is undocumented and unlabelled legacy systems and networks. These have grown in a piecemeal fashion over many years, using several technologies and vendor components. As industrialised networks and OT systems tend to be extremely robust, re-investment can be sporadic, specifically in some of the utilities sectors. In these environments, it is common to work on new network components alongside elements that are decades old.
One of the first things Boulting
Technology does when undertaking an industrial network upgrade is to work with its customers to understand any concerns, constraints and aspirations relating to their IT/OT infrastructur e. Listening is always the most effective ing point. Once it
understands what and efficient start
systems exist, where
they are and how they interconnect, or not, as the case often is, the approach is to performa physical and logical systems health check.
Despite the OT and IT aspece converging, the two are still very different from each other. When
By approaching a system, site or campus with a clean sheet of paper, it can confirmsystemconnectivity, status and health in order to understand dat a flows, performance, redundancy, autonomy and security .
LOST ININ TRANSLA ANSLATION ATION
The focus when working on a live system is ensuring that everything remains operational while migrating fromthe old setup to the new. This is critical when working in process industries, such as water treatment, where continuous production is necessary.
One issue to highlight with legacy systems is that they tend to work on closed, proprietary communication
protocols. Migrating fromclosed to open protocols, such as Ethernet, offers an interesting challenge, specifically when upgrading large and complex systems. The approach is very much dependent
/AUTOMA /AUTOMATION ATION SECURE SECURE THAT ZONEAT ZONE
Converging IT and OT networks to facilitate highly interconnected IIoT applications can leave companies more vulnerable if not implemented efficiently and consciously. Bringing the IT and OT community together at an early stage of design allows for collaborative planning, creating effective solutions and policies, while protecting information fromattack. Industry education is paramount to increase cooperation between plant manager, IT managers and their collective supply chains.
This brings us back to the dichotomy between IT and OT. As the IT world lead s in identifying new security breaches and implementing resultant patches and upgrades with lightning efficiency, the OT world requires validation and vendor approvals prior to implementation. This is primarily due to industry's cautious nature and differing OT priorities, remember, the focus is reliability and up-time.
With the acceleration of IIoT and the ever-growing convergence of these worlds we find plan t manager s increasing their reliance on their IT colleagues, systems integrators and vendors to plug this gap.
, T: 01785 245466
Boulting Technology T: 01785 245466
boultingtechnol gy. o.uk
AU AUTOMA MAT ATION | NOVE OVEMBER 201 2016 27 27
With over ten years’ experience of
With over ten years’ experience of
successfully delivering industrial network
successfully delivering industrial network proj
projects in both the OT Te hnology is increasingly
ojects in both the O and IT space, Boultand IT space, Boultinging Technology is increasingly finding itself acting in thefinding itself acting in the role of trusted advisorrole of trusted advisor
upon the level of acceptable process disruption and required levels of plant visibility, control and data acquisition needed during migration.
Systems integrators can introduce a simple migration tool, such as a protocol converter, to allow seamless
communications between old and new, until the migration is complete. Detailed planning at an early stage of the design phase is imperative f or this .
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