New Benefits and Considerations Understanding IT and OT Convergence

By 2022, strategic partnerships will be formed between 40% of market-leading IT and OT vendors to deliver a holistic solution, reducing integration and deployment costs by 20%. To become a relevant part of a digital economy, IT and OT convergence must become a reality.

New Benefits and Considerations Understanding IT and OT Convergence

This article will demonstrate the latest benefits in IT and OT convergence and how these solutions impact modern organizations and the digital economy.

Content Summary

Executive Summary
Introduction
Blurring the Lines Between IT and OT
IT and OT Convergence: New Benefits and New Considerations
Final Thoughts and a Look to the Future
Bridging the IT/OT Technology Gap With a Converged Industrial IoT Hub

2020 was an eye-opening year for a lot of organizations and practically every single industry. Leaders in the technology and business space saw the clear benefits of working with modern technologies to stay relevant in an ever more connected and digital economy. Like manufacturing and industrial environments, some industries saw 2020 as a moment to step back and understand their limitations and what they could do to reinvent their business and their go-to-market strategies.

Much of that planning revolves around using new technologies to stay relevant in a digital market while still improving control systems, data acquisition, and other vital processes. These leaders are working to integrate, collect, aggregate, and synchronize mission-critical data. However, to become a truly integrated organization, businesses, and technology professionals must look at the crossroads between IT and OT.

A recent IDC study indicated that by 2022, strategic partnerships would be formed between 40% of market-leading IT and OT vendors to deliver a holistic solution, reducing integration and deployment costs by 20%. To become a more relevant part of a digital economy, IT and OT convergence must become a reality. And, unlike previous years, the benefits and new considerations around IT and OT convergence are fundamentally different today.

This article will demonstrate the latest benefits in IT and OT convergence and how these solutions impact modern organizations and the digital economy.

Executive Summary

2020 was an eye-opening year for a lot of organizations and practically every single industry. Leaders in the technology and business space saw the clear benefits of working with modern technologies to stay relevant in an ever more connected and digital economy. Like manufacturing and industrial environments, some industries saw 2020 as a moment to step back and understand their limitations and what they could do to reinvent their business and their go-to-market strategies. Much of that planning revolves around using new technologies to stay relevant in a digital market while still improving control systems, data acquisition, and other vital processes.

These leaders are working to integrate, collect, aggregate, and synchronize mission-critical data. However, to become a truly integrated organization, businesses, and technology professionals must look at the crossroads between IT and OT. A recent IDC study indicated that by 2022, strategic partnerships would be formed between 40% of market-leading IT and OT vendors to deliver a holistic solution, reducing integration and deployment costs by 20%.

To become a more relevant part of a digital economy, IT and OT convergence must become a reality. And, unlike previous years, the benefits and new considerations around IT and OT convergence are fundamentally different today.

This article will demonstrate the latest benefits in IT and OT convergence and how these solutions impact modern organizations and the digital economy

Introduction

IT and OT convergence has taken a central focal point in today’s approach to a digital economy. New IoT connected devices are fueling growth in both data and how these technologies impact a variety of industries. However, it’s not just about the ability to work more efficiently. Security around IT and OT components is a top priority. A recent report from Deloitte indicates that 90% of OT sector companies have reported at least one security compromise to their infrastructure in the previous two years resulting in the loss of confidential information or disruption to operations.

This means that the convergence between IT and OT isn’t only for operational and business benefits. It helps create an improved security posture as well.

So, what does this convergence resemble?

New considerations are forming between now and the very near future as it relates to further convergence between IT and OT. These drivers will shape the development of IT/OT convergence strategies. Further, it’ll be critical for organizations to look at new considerations to help them leverage connected devices alongside the power of IT and OT.

“For industrial enterprises of all sizes, the pandemic has been a moment of reckoning when it comes to digital maturity and transformation. Leaders have seized the opportunity to leverage new market share, and laggards have fast-tracked investments in technologies that support remote and resilient operations, or they have failed,” says Jonathan Lang, research manager, Worldwide IT/OT Convergence Strategies research program at IDC. “The systemic shortcomings of cultural change resistance, of pilot purgatory, and the digital skills gap in operations have been laid bare by COVID-19. 2021 and beyond is the time for industrial enterprises to get back to the basics and establish the digital foundation necessary to build back better.”

Why is all of this ultimately important?

A recent prediction from IDC points out that industrial enterprises that fail to implement an enterprise data governance model enabling the foundation for resilient decision making by 2021 will underperform on profitability by 10%.

A recent prediction from IDC points out that industrial enterprises that fail to implement an enterprise data governance model enabling the foundation for resilient decision making by 2021 will underperform on profitability by 10%.

With this in mind, let’s examine some of the latest benefits around the convergence between IT and OT. Further, it’s essential to look at IoT and how these solutions will further impact a digital market.

Blurring the Lines Between IT and OT

In the past, operational technologies and information technologies were two completely isolated pieces of an organization. They would rarely interact and would often operate on their own. Today, that line is blurred to a point where many leading organizations integrate IT and OT into one intelligent platform governed by the security, process automation, greater intelligence, and improved data governance and security. For many, the following chart represents the ultimate goal in working with IT, OT, and third-party partners to support each process.

Before we go too much further, it’s essential to differentiate IT and OT solutions:

IT: Working with Information Technology includes all of your traditional tech components. So, think computers, servers, storage, networking equipment, physical infrastructure, and the data center. IT also includes the processes that create, store, process, secure, and share data.

OT: Operational Technologies are usually associated with industrial ecosystems as well as manufacturing. Examples here can include supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems for production control systems and industrial control systems (ICS).

One of the most significant differences is that OT, in the past, has never been a part of the larger network ecosystem within an organization. And, legacy OT essentially does not face the Internet. As you can imagine, with more connected systems and now IoT in manufacturing, this has all changed. It’s also a significant reason why, looking at the above timeline and chart, many leaders focus on converging IT and OT solutions. This is happening at a far more accelerated pace after 2020 and for very good reason.

One of the most significant differences is that OT, in the past, has never been a part of the larger network ecosystem within an organization.

IT and OT Convergence: New Benefits and New Considerations

Our systems are more connected than ever before. Even manufacturing and industrial solutions are all getting an IP address and generating data. For the first time, OT is a direct part of IT. IDC points out that by 2024, 70% of G2000 organizations will have invested in a common IoT platform layer that provides access to data collected through various point solutions.

Differentiation in a digital economy means leveraging data and more innovative tools to drive the business. This is why there are new benefits between IT and OT convergence that leaders need to understand. Here’s a shortlist of where this convergence is already impacting some leading organizations:

Advanced process convergence. For the first time, IT and OT departments can consolidate and converge their process workflows. By leveraging data, IT can support OT by ensuring resiliency, greater levels of automation, and improved process visibility to the overall business. New visibility into connected systems allows leaders to plan more accordingly and improve their process workflow.

Integration and convergence between software and data generation. With new systems generating more data in the industrial and manufacturing space, IT solutions can see deeper insights into OT operations. This means getting data to the front office faster and delivering better insights to business leaders. As a technical convergence, leaders can see faults in the system more quickly and improve OT proactively by leveraging data and connected systems.

Physical convergence and modernization. Legacy pieces of industrial and manufacturing hardware are now coming online. Some are retrofitted, while other physical devices now come equipped with LAN capabilities. We’re seeing operational convergence where industrial and manufacturing components are being updated with IT capabilities. This is a considerable benefit as it allows OT to support a new manufacturing and industrial leadership level. It also allows IT to support a greater level of resiliency around OT functions.

Digital transformation and convergence. With industrial and manufacturing solutions now being integrated with IT, you’ll see even more data being generated. Digital convergence means the capability to apply next-generation data-driven solutions to machines and processes that never had this level of visibility. Functions using artificial intelligence and machine learning are now operating in manufacturing and industrial environments. The data and patterns that leaders can leverage to make new decisions are unlike ever before. AI in OT is capable of spotting patterns in production that could never be seen by people alone.

IIoT and data-driven convergence. IIoT is one of the processes in creating an IT and OT convergence strategy. In some cases, you’ll use sensors or retrofitted components. In other cases, your industrial or manufacturing piece of equipment will already be equipped with LAN and Internet-ready capabilities. By leveraging IIoT alongside IT and OT convergence, you’ll be able to, for example, support improved maintenance cycles, be able to acquire better data points (like vibration, surface temperature, pressure, and other variables), and even improve security. You’ll also be able to create digital twins. By using data generated by OT, you’ll be able to simulate operations and even predict manufacturing processes and outcomes before you have to deploy any physical gear.

Security Convergence. A recent Forrester study reports that organizations using ICS are adding to their risks by allowing technology and other partners a high level of access into their systems. This happens when IT and OT are not properly converged. Giving OT the capability to be on the LAN and a new citizen in your digital infrastructure also means ensuring proper security positioning. The convergence of IT and OT also means placing strict IT security policies on OT components. Proper IT and OT convergence that includes security will have significant benefits in your capability to secure data and ensure that you’re not exposed. It’ll further improve your security posture and ensure that your connected manufacturing and industrial components that are now generating data stay secure.

Final Thoughts and a Look to the Future

Leaders in the industrial and technology space saw a massive acceleration in how the overall industry was adopting digital tools. To survive, manufacturing, industrial, and technology leaders needed to accelerate their journey into a new digital transformation era. Another IDC prediction states that by 2024, 60% of industrial organizations will integrate data from edge OT systems with cloud-based reporting and analytics, moving from single-asset views to sitewide operational awareness. This is a significant consideration. Where are you on this journey? Are your OT systems now connected to a more substantial part of your network? How are you ensuring that you don’t lose data and don’t create security issues? Most of all, how are you leveraging data, connectivity, and this new level of IT and OT convergence to create a more resilient business? Once legacy systems are being given digital life. The convergence between IT and OT will be the driver that impacts an organization’s capability to compete in a truly digital market.

By 2024, 70% of G2000 organizations will have invested in a common IoT platform layer that provides access to data collected through various point solutions.

Bridging the IT/OT Technology Gap With a Converged Industrial IoT Hub

IT/OT convergence is all about the data. OT teams have it. IT teams want it. Of the many challenges involved, one is the lack of shared infrastructure and technology. The easiest, and fastest, way to bridge the gap between IT and OT is to deploy an industrial IoT (IIoT) hub at the edge – whether it’s on the factory floor or within an oil platform. IIoT hubs continuously collect machine and sensor data using protocols such as OPC UA and make it available to applications and services, on-premises or in the cloud, using protocols such as MQTT. With an IIoT hub, OT teams have a no-code solution to providing IT teams with an easy way to access machine and sensor data.

However, IIoT hubs are generally limited to routing/bridging machine and sensor data, and without native persistence, they are constrained by the amount of memory available to them. While most of them support logging to an external database for persistence and reporting, it increases complexity by introducing an additional component. Further, some support external historians for long-term storage and analytics – and they’re not just another component, historians are another expensive component with proprietary interfaces.

The simpler and less expensive alternative is a converged IIoT hub – an IIoT hub built on top of a lightweight, high-performance database. There is no need for an external database, or a historian because machine and sensor data is automatically parsed, mapped, and persisted to tables.

As a result, OT teams get real-time monitoring, business intelligence, and analytics on-premises, at the edge and out of the box – and using any application or tool compatible with relational databases (i.e., standard SQL and JDBC/ODBC drivers). They not only get an easy way to make machine and sensor data available to IT teams, and optionally in the cloud (e.g., AWS IoT Core and Azure IoT Hub), OT teams get an edge-computing platform for use cases such as predictive maintenance and condition-based monitoring.

The primary benefits of a converged IIoT hub are simplicity and ease of use. It provides OT teams with an all-in-one solution for bridging the IT/OT technology gap with as little effort as possible (i.e., no custom development/integration) – and at a much lower cost.

FairCom EDGE is the world’s first converged IIoT hub. It is built on FairCom DB, a high-performance database optimized for mission-critical applications running in resource-constrained environments – and it is used by over 40 percent of the Fortune 100. With native persistence and support for protocols such as OPC UA, MQTT, and ThingWorx AlwaysOn, HTTP/REST, and SQL, FairCom EDGE helps businesses accelerate IT/OT convergence by streamlining and simplifying data integration – and eliminating the need for specialized and expensive legacy software.