Welcome back to the second blog in the series relating to a recent Twitter poll we launched to gauge industry audience insights and sentiments in specific Industrial Automation (IA) sectors. These IA vertical markets include Oil & Gas, Food & Beverage, and Water & Wastewater. As a reminder, we had just over 32,000 individuals engage with us on their understanding of their industry’s organizational strategies and plans.
This week, we will be covering some thought provoking results involving the Water & Wastewater sector. The question we asked via Twitter was “How much unplanned system downtime per incident is acceptable when it comes to water treatment?”. Almost half of respondents (45%) simply did not know. This blog will discuss the importance of continuous uptime in water treatment and will educate readers about the implications of downtime in wastewater facilities.
Can you recall a high-profile incident where a water crisis made national headlines? Just looking within North America, how about the poor water sourcing choices that led to the poisoned water of Flint, Michigan? Or the drought in California? Or the wastewater sewage pollution that occurred on the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy? Although not all these issues may not have been a result of downtime – they certainly stress the criticality of water treatment safety. High profile cases like these really make people think about the quality and management of their drinking water.
Let’s talk about how unplanned downtime occurs in the Water sector.
According to the 2016 AWWA SOTWI Report, here are the top issues facing the Water industry:
- Renewal & replacement (R&R) of aging water and wastewater infrastructures
- Financing for capital improvements
- Public understanding of the value of water systems & services
- Long-term water supply availability
- Public understanding of the value of water resources
While these are all relevant issues, all with their own domino effect of consequences, I am going to focus on the top two. R&R of aging infrastructures, as well as the struggle of financing capital improvements and subsequent delays can both materially contribute to the increased probability of unplanned downtime of SCADA systems that govern the operation of water facilities.
Obviously, the increasing challenges related of raising the financing for capital improvements can further delay the start to refresh aging infrastructures, consequently deepening financial risk exposure. It’s a dangerous and costly cycle that is a strong contributor to unplanned system downtime – forcing the water facility to perform what would normally be an automated task, manually. This further increases costs while opening the possibility for human error when dealing with, for example, disinfection/chemical additives or filtration systems/UV operation.
Now that we know how downtime can occur, here are some effects of unplanned SCADA downtime for water facilities:
- “Blindness” from the plant level to the entire district that an outage has occurred
- Inability to control remote locations
- Loss in integration with reliability systems
- Loss of data/report generation
- Could affect compliance
- Loss of analytics
So, now that we know what could go wrong with even momentary unplanned downtime, let’s talk about how much it could cost. Now, this metric certainly depends on the company size, industry, production volume, etc., but according to the Aberdeen Group, the cost of unplanned downtime went up $260,000 per hour on average between 2014 and 2016. However, this metric is only monetary. We must remember that unplanned outages in IA industries, like water and wastewater, can result in damage to the environment, people’s health – and even death. Unfortunately, as practitioners in this field know, it can require a very critical outage to create the momentum needed to provide capital and accelerate decision making to update an infrastructure.
So – let’s ask the question again:
How much unplanned system downtime per incident is acceptable when it comes to water treatment? And what if you were not sure of the answer, how could you better inform yourself – and your stakeholders?
Here are some options for you to get started
Another great way to explore the challenges associated with automation and instrumentation in the water and wastewater sectors would be to attend WEFTEC – the water quality event, September 30 – October 4, 2017 in Chicago, IL. Stratus will be there. We are proud to join this event because this is an Industry that we are at the forefront of, and so are many of our customers. If you are attending, please visit us at booth #7847.
Follow us on Twitter @StratusAlwaysOn to watch out for the next in the series!
In the ever-evolving industry of Industrial Automation, trends and best practices are constantly changing with the goal of helping companies become better, smarter, and faster. Understanding that we need to be at the forefront of these conversations, Stratus launched a questionnaire poll on Twitter to gauge industry understanding of some leading-edge ideas and tactics. These Twitter polls were launched in the IA vertical markets of Oil & Gas, Food & Beverage, and Water & Wastewater.
Four weeks and two polls later, we had just over 32,000 folks engage with us on their understanding of their industry’s organizational strategies leading into the future. The information we collected is revealing, and the volume in itself illustrates the relevance and challenges related to this topic. We look forward to sharing these viewpoints in a collection of blog posts, and we will take a deep dive into poll findings, exploring the value of the information captured.
In this introduction to the blog series, we’d like to explore one of the main findings regarding Industrial Automation. We asked: “How do you think industrial companies can bridge the divide between IT and OT while ensuring all priorities are met?”. Before we get to the results, let’s talk about why we asked the question in the first place.
Traditionally, and rightly so regarding legacy systems, IT and OT have remained separate camps with separate priorities, functions, and culture. But since industrial companies are adopting new infrastructures enabled by IIoT and Big Data such as automated systems, smart buildings, virtualized machines, etc., the line between these camps have blurred. We are approaching, and in many cases, have already arrived at a new era of technology and operations. This recently charted territory will drastically change the way we have been doing things, and successful companies will remain open-minded when it comes to adopting new strategies.
One of these Strategies, although controversial, includes merging the departments, and possibly even the role, of IT and OT. So, we included this approach as an option when we asked the above question. As a result, 35% of respondents agree that IT and OT should merge for the best results when bridging the gap between IT and OT. Let’s discuss what is driving the popularity of this approach.
Craig Resnick from ARC Advisory Group delves more into this topic in this presentation. During the lecture, Craig addresses the fact that with manufacturers dealing with the combination of legacy systems and IIoT enabled automation technologies, we are seeing more and more IT functionality moving closer to the plant floor. Converging IT and OT is how manufacturers go from these new smart machines on the OT level, and start hooking them up to IT who are dealing with technologies like virtualization, and be able to run powerful analytics. In other words, the IT/OT convergence will enable the digital transformation of manufacturers. My colleague Jason Andersen participated in a similar discussion with a variety of industry peers at the ARC Forum this February, see here for more details.
But what would this convergence look like? Craig reviews a few options, including calling this new department the “Manufacturing IT Group”, embedding IT skills into Automation/Engineering or, giving Automation to IT services. Check out additional paths here, including the emergence of a new breed of “industrial technologists” with a combined IT/OT perspective.
Of course, there will be roadblocks when executing this convergence. Here are some common challenges when combining IT and OT:
- One challenge is combining the cultures of two organizations who do not necessarily trust each other, and literally have worked and organized at different levels – think ‘Purdue’ ISA-95. OT thinks IT is a commodity with an indistinct ROI. But IT is the foundation of Automation Systems. Breaking down the barriers and establishing trust between these two cultures is a necessity when merging functions, and paths to resolution are most productive when balanced with company cultures, organizational values and clear alignment to both strategic and operational aspirations driving the merger.
- Another challenge of merging IT and OT is that both areas have different functions and goals and downtime to systems can have very different levels of impact. For example, unlike a billing system that goes down, a SCADA failure can bring a company to its knees in seconds, or worse, result in loss of lives.
- The perspective of problem solving differs as well – IT tends to look at things top down, starting with the overall goals and cascades down from there, while OT tends to operate bottoms up; after all, it has many process specific (legacy) applications, protocols, and much of it outspans the average IT system by many years.
Combining OT and IT is a complex journey, but can have invaluable benefits – improving access to real time data and information as just one of many advantages. In future blog posts on this topic, we’ll share more of our perspectives on the many dimensions of OT/IT convergence, as well as those from our customers and partners.
Meanwhile – what examples have you seen of IT/OT merging, and what do you think was the defining factor to their success?
Follow us on Twitter @StratusAlwaysOn to watch out for the next in the series!
In today’s automated world, Industrial enterprises are being empowered to become dramatically more productive 24/7/365, with the objective of doing more with less. The key to success in this world is modernizing your infrastructure while reducing the complexity of your control systems. Watch this short video on how Stratus can help modernize your industrial enterprise by increasing the reliability, efficiency, and availability of your critical industrial control systems.
It’s always an interesting experience to go to events in the field and have the opportunity to talk directly to customers and partners. Recently, I had the chance to participate in an “Automation Modernization” event organized by the Tulsa office of our partner, Rexel. With over 180 attendees, it was a great platform to hear the challenges that end customers face and what kinds of automation modernization projects are on the horizon. While the media, including Stratus, is focused on “what’s next” and how to implement new concepts and technologies— such as Industrie 4.0, IIoT and smart factories— events such as this one in Tulsa bring home the reality of what most automation engineers and operational technologists are faced with. In the technical education sessions, there were great presentations on a wide range of topics. One of our automation (OEM) partners, Rockwell, used the general sessions to show how analytics can improve operational equipment effectiveness (OEE) and streamline operations in general.
In the Stratus booth, we had a wide range of literature available, but as I talked to people and watched what collateral they picked up, I noticed something. It really struck me that while IIoT, machine learning and analytics might be great, it’s not where much of the industrial automation industry is focused today.
Our most popular piece of literature at this event was “Virtualization for Dummies”, a book in the “Dummies” series that was sponsored by Stratus. If you are interested, you can download a copy here. In some respects, I was quite surprised, as I have spent a lot of my time in that “forward looking” world.
On reflection, I think this continued interest in virtualization has positive and negative connotations. On the one hand, automation vendors would like everyone to be focused on moving to analytics platforms, but in reality, most of the industry is just not there yet. Virtualization of control systems is a key pre-requisite to making this happen. On the other hand, its good because there is a definite recognition that virtualization is a technology enabler for smoother operation of existing applications and a springboard to implement the next wave of applications that are coming along. The transition is accelerating and at Stratus we are enabling our customers to make that transition as smooth as possible while taking the complexity out of availability. Our standards-based platform that is simple to implement, easy to manage and requires no IT expertize to service is key to providing peace of mind when all your applications are running on a single machine.
And the cloud, how to use it, and moving control applications away from the plant; not a subject that even came up once. It’s just not what the engineers tasked with maintaining and upgrading automation systems who attended this event are currently looking for.
I look forward to attending more of these events. It’s a good way to come down to earth and understand the practicalities that face many in industrial automation. For me, it’s an opportunity to learn about a whole variety of industries and their challenges around automation, and to meet customers and partners. It also gives me the opportunity to help people understand how Stratus may be able to help them with a current or future project.
As we welcome spring, we at Stratus wanted to reflect on our five most popular blogs of the last few months of winter. It’s no coincidence that they all had a common theme: the industrial internet of things (IIoT)—a clear indication that the IIoT is gaining traction as the next stage in the evolution of industrial automation.
Here are some of the key highlights from all five blogs:
This blog laid out our suggestions to help manufacturers set their sights in the right direction to begin adoption of IIoT. Priority one is to understand where IIoT fits in your existing business framework. Then, when you start your journey, we recommend going for the low-hanging fruit—short-term projects that produce quick benefits. And by building your IIoT project on a continuously available, easy to manage solution, you can focus solely on the business value, not the underlying technology.
How do you introduce a major architectural shift like IIoT without disrupting your legacy systems? We propose doing it one layer at a time. For example, start by layering analytics onto your existing historian, which helps institute this kind of change technically and organizationally. The next step is for IT and operations to work together harmoniously and deploy a virtualized, continuously available solution.
Not surprisingly, many of our blog readers want to quickly realize business value from IIoT without a complete infrastructure overhaul. Our answer: take a step-by-step approach. First, no IIoT initiative will return value if your operational technology infrastructure is outdated. So, start by upgrading your supervisory control systems environment. Then gradually introduce IIoT to individual sensors, actuators, and control valves to take automation and predictive management to a whole new level.
Our reporting from the 21st annual ARC Industry Forum in February further revealed just how much we are an industry in transition. Old traditions of strict physical separation between layers of the business—as illustrated in the Perdue model—are breaking down as IIoT begins to take hold. Lines have blurred as IT solutions, like analytics, find their way deep into the operations and process control world. Once again, we saw how convergence of IT and operational technology—or at least cooperation—is fundamental to IIoT success.
One of the biggest benefits of IIoT is reducing unplanned downtime. We offer four IIoT best practices to turn downtime into uptime. First, know the cost of downtime for your company and determine how much is tolerable. Next, look to prevent outages wherever possible rather than just recover after the damage has been done. Lastly, simplify your life by consolidating IT and operational technology using virtualization—but be sure to do this on a continuously available system. And finally, always build on industry standards to make future changes easier.
A consistent thread running through these blogs is that you can’t do IIoT all at once. Take a thoughtful, incremental approach. And keep it simple by choosing a virtualized, continuously available infrastructure for your IIoT projects—just what Stratus offers. We hope these ideas plant some healthy seeds for IIoT projects you can pursue the rest of this year.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is emerging as the next step in industrial automation for companies that are ready to modernize their infrastructures and gain improved efficiency and business intelligence. At Stratus, we’ve witnessed broad growth across the industrial automation space, especially in process industries like oil and gas, food and beverage, and water and wastewater. In fact, in the Americas alone, we’ve grown in these markets by 40% year over year. And we’re well positioned for the next wave of expansion in industrial automation globally as firms begin to adopt IIoT at their own pace.
What’s behind this success? We’ve been deeply embedded in industrial automation for over 35 years. That’s because companies that have embraced industrial automation simply can’t afford unplanned downtime and demand simplicity and serviceability across the entire infrastructure from the core to the edge where remote, unstaffed operations exist. They’ve put their trust in Stratus because we offer a simple, fail-proof way to achieve continuous availability of their critical production and industrial control systems, reduce complexity and risk of their manufacturing processes, and increase longevity of their system investments.
As IIoT adoption further progresses across manufacturing processes, the stakes are becoming higher. Once again, Stratus is helping companies mitigate the risks of change. Here’s how:
To deliver value, IIoT relies on continuous data flow along all points in the connected framework that previously weren’t connected—from sensors collecting component data to control systems monitoring that data and all the way to the business systems running predictive analytics against that data. This framework includes “no-touch” systems running at the edge in remote locations with little or no human intervention. The emerging interconnectedness that didn’t exist before creates a brand new set of requirements for systems and processes supporting the manufacturing floor and other industrial workflows that exist outside the traditional data center. At the edge, expensive oversight and management will need to be largely eliminated.
Even momentary unplanned downtime in this network can have large, rippling negative consequences. For example, a turbine failing at a natural gas compression station because the system monitoring goes down could result in a catastrophic, costly fire that shuts down production for weeks. Stratus helps prevent such disasters with continuous availability solutions that we monitor with our own proactive preventative maintenance analytics.
Today, we see the next wave of opportunity for industrial automation extending to the burgeoning market of critical infrastructure management systems for highways, bridges, tunnels, and electrical grids, as well as broader application across utilities, discrete manufacturing, and mining. With this expansion comes additional demand for these critical systems to be continuously available, and this is where Stratus’ strengths play perfectly.
As a testimony to this growing opportunity and differentiation of our solutions, we’ve entered into an extension of our 12 year strategic partnership with Chinese industrial control and IT leader, Shanghai Hi-tech Control System Co., Ltd. (HITE). I was honored to attend the contract signing ceremony at HITE’s headquarters in Shanghai on March 31st.
Under this agreement, HITE will deliver our continuous availability solutions to the booming Chinese industrial automation markets. The partnership opens new opportunities for HITE to meet demand for critical infrastructure protection and advanced highway systems. We’ll also tap into the emerging market for IIoT systems for deployment in the outer edges of companies’ networks. Stratus eliminates potential concerns about lack of IT resources at these remote, often unstaffed sites with our never-fail availability solutions that offer simple deployment and hands-off management.
Together, Stratus and HITE are in a strong position to grow our presence across the vast Chinese market. And this momentum is only the tip of the iceberg for Stratus as we extend our reach into other global markets with our straightforward, proven approach to taking the complexity out of downtime prevention in industrial automation.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can pay big benefits for organizations that do it right. It’s no surprise that a report by LNS Research and MESA International shows that more than 50% of manufacturers plan to pursue IIoT in the next 12 months. In fact, one of our gas pipeline customers has already saved over $9.8 million in maintenance downtime costs primarily because of IIoT.
Avoiding downtime is a huge motivator for companies embarking on IIoT. Outdated operational technology (OT), such as physical sensors, proprietary control-system software, SCADA, and historians, represent significant downtime risk. When they fail, costs are high. According to the Aberdeen Group, the cost of downtime went up to $260,000 per hour on average between 2014 and 2016.
Here are four best practices about keeping your eyes on uptime as you embark on IIoT:
1. How much uptime is enough?
Downtime isn’t cheap. You already know the direct costs of delayed product deliveries, idle time and overtime pay, and repair expenditures. Your business may also need to factor in damage to reputation, environmental damage, litigation, and more. Stratus has a downtime calculator to get you started.
Once you know the hourly cost of an outage, determine your tolerance level. While 99% uptime may sound fantastic, that’s actually 88 hours of downtime in an average year—or potentially millions of dollars. Or would you prefer five minutes a year? That’s where fault-tolerant solutions pay dividends with 99.999% availability.
2. Protect before you recover
While a disaster recovery plan allows you to return to operation after a catastrophe, it’s not enough.
By the time disaster recovery kicks in, considerable damage is done—and often irretrievably. Data traveling in your production environment is primarily “inflight” data, occurring in milliseconds and requiring instantaneous response. That data is lost in an outage. Controllers, temperature monitors, and failure analytics can’t wait while systems resume operating.
You’ll want an availability solution that prevents outages from occurring, ensuring zero data loss.
3. Keep it simple
When merging IT and OT systems to achieve IIoT, simplicity is critical. Operational staff often doesn’t have the advanced IT skills needed to manage complex IT deployments. So choose an availability solution that is simple to deploy and easy to operate and manage. That way, you can focus on making sure your plants are performing well.
Virtualization is also essential to simplicity. Virtual machines are isolated from unexpected problems elsewhere, and servers can be smoothly migrated offline for orderly upgrades and updates. The challenge is that consolidating IT and OT systems on a single physical machine replaces multiple points of potential failure with a single point, increasing your risk exposure.
You can overcome this risk by deploying a hardware or software-based continuous availability system. Such solutions run on standard-type servers in virtualized environments, and requires no special expertise to maintain.
4. Solve today’s problems with an eye on the future
Most industrial automation organizations are not ready to perform a full-scale upgrade all at once. So phase your planning to solve real problems immediately. A couple of early wins will get your project off to a strong start.
Just leave ample room for future growth and modification. Build on industry standards and proven methodologies. An availability solution you can implement and forget about will pay itself back in future compatibility and productivity.
IIoT is no longer merely for the early adopter. When done right, IIoT can create enormous savings and competitive advantage. As you face this complex undertaking, remember to factor uptime into the equation. You’ll build a solid foundation for achieving genuine, measurable benefits.
Dr. Peter Martin of Schneider Electric is calling it a whiteboard moment. Time to get out the erasers and start over. And maybe he’s right – the models and metaphors that defined the industrial automation space for at least a generation are being challenged. The classic hierarchical Purdue reference model – level 1 for closed-loop control, 2 for human supervisory control, 3 for operations and MES, 4 for ERP, etc. – has served us well. But we may have taken its suggestions too literally – maybe we shouldn’t have insisted that its implied boundaries take physical form as independent, isolated networks, for example.
Now, though, the picture may be more like a fully interconnected mesh, or a horizontal service bus, or a cloud, or even a fog (does a Fog really have an Edge?). Advanced analytics tended to stay at the ‘upper’ layers of the Purdue model. Now they’re distributed up and down the mesh, cloud, fog or whatever. So maybe it really is time to redraw the boxes, reroute the lines, and think about a fully connected enterprise. At the 21st annual ARC Industry Forum in Orlando this year, the theme for the event was “Industry in Transition: Realizing the Digital Enterprise.” And this time over 800 thought leaders and visionaries, skeptical end users and eager suppliers gathered to talk about where the industrial automation space is heading and what it might look like when we get there.
Here are some of the concepts and things that were on their minds:
IIoT – the Industrial Internet of Things
Lots of promise, vendor enthusiasm and press activity, but then reality sets in when someone asks about  cybersecurity – attacks against the ‘things’ themselves, or those using swarms of hijacked ‘things’ to attack other connected targets,  interoperability and protocols – OPC? OPC UA? MQTT?, or  organizational implications – who owns and maintains which things? OT folks are waking up to what should happen at the ‘edge’ of that big mesh too, especially when it comes to connecting legacy systems, PLCs, DCSs, transmitters and applications. Seems there’s a real opportunity for a simple, reliable, continuous availability platform for the smart gateways that will be required. And Stratus does offer just such an always-on platform that can be maintained by non-IT people.
ARC are setting up a practice area and offering their influence and insight to help guide us through this new solution space.
No, you can’t talk about the IIoT without asking about cybersecurity. No less than 11 suppliers in the Innovation Showcase were leading with cybersecurity – either in the form of hardware, software, or some sort of consulting services offering:
For some years now, ISA has convened a standards effort on industrial control systems security, the ISA99 standards project. Its members and contributors were visible and vocal at ARC this time. And they’re still open to hearing from vendor and user viewpoints:
And a very interesting observation came from Marty Edwards of the Department of Homeland Security. Marty runs the Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Emergency Response Team. And while he’s advising and assessing and implementing security technology, he still insists you should  sit down and identify the crown jewels in your enterprise – that critical workflow or asset or production unit that could put you out of business – and  UNPLUG IT. Because the hackers are pinging you and looking for that same asset and will find a way to hit it remotely if they can.
And again, since that asset still needs to keep running on its own, there seems to be an opportunity there for some simple, reliable, continuous availability platform to keep that asset running inside its own little bubble. Think Stratus.
IT and OT convergence
There’s still quite a bit of jostling between the IT world and the plant floor OT folks. And this is most visibly happening at the edge of that IIoT/network/cloud/fog/etc. The real experts and veterans in the world of operations insist that if it involves process or personnel safety, it’s going to remain in the OT domain. We heard words to that effect from customer experiences with safety, security and availability in gas distribution systems, information integration in engineered products (rolled or forged metals), and in access tracking to critical tools and measuring equipment. One subject matter expert in MES and automation systems summed it up by saying that the closer you are to real-time, the further you should be from the cloud!
New startups and established suppliers are finding ways to put information from all those ‘things’ and the analytics and experts across their enterprise directly in your field of vision as you walk around a plant site. Look through a visor or down at a smart tablet view of a boiler, or a substation, or a warehouse, and see gauges and highlights and procedures imposed directly over the image. Interact with a remote expert whose video image or screen content is in the visor field there before your eyes, and who sees what you see as well. Augmented Reality may finally be delivering for industry what Google Glass tried to do for everybody else. Visit these sites to find out more: www.daqri.com, www.ptc.com/augmented-reality.
Some interesting work here grew out of customers trying to apply the recipes, process and equipment models from ISA88’s world of batch processes to the more continuous process environments of refineries, chemical plants and even nuclear facilities. Any time you do a major state change or product cutover – or deal with a big upset – in a continuous process environment, there’s still a procedure to follow. Most of those have been managed on paper or entrusted to the operators themselves. But those tend to make me nervous, especially when I think about running a nuclear facility in an ad hoc fashion. So ISA’s SP106 project has been busy on models and methods for Procedure Automation for Continuous Process Operations. We saw sessions on that standards effort, and even saw one vendor who’s developing a software product to handle mixed manual and automated procedures.
And it’s not enough that the IIoT and the Cloud are challenging that revered Purdue hierarchical model. True to Dr Martin’s whiteboard moment observation, ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin, and Saudi Aramco have convened some efforts through The Open Group to consider a whole new model for process automation that would be built around a broadly horizontal service bus architecture. Stay tuned as that develops (and be aware that they’re looking for volunteers to contribute to that new model structure).
Vendors: Innovation Showcase
In addition to the eleven vendors leading with cybersecurity offerings already mentioned above, a couple were bravely introducing  a new PLC / Process Controller hardware package, and  a new web-based SCADA offering with a pretty innovative licensing model. And both might also benefit from a simple, reliable, continuous availability, platform.
Key takeaways – observations from participants
ARC actually recorded a short video montage with snippets of key takeaways and impressions from people who were there. Check it out here.
“The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed” – William Gibson
Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel at the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando. The topic du jour was OT and IT convergence and a common thread amongst the discussion was how an organization can move to IIoT. Are there new architectures? Is IIoT a rip and replace only option? How can OT partner better with IT to meet IIoT goals? Overall, it was an engaging and excellent discussion. I came away from the session considering the connection between existing IA technologies and IIoT.
And here are some thoughts.
- Layer in the first piece to minimize disruption to legacy equipment. What I mean by this is that any time you make a significant architectural change a good first step is to layer in something around the existing architectural foundation vs going through a major replacement. If you assume that SCADA and Historian applications are at the core in the IA world, then you can look to either devices or analytics as a starting point. For example, one of our customers was able to layer a cloud based analytics layer over their existing SCADA infrastructure to add a lot of value. Other companies are introducing more and more end point devices into the mix first. But overall, take a look at your goals, find a pragmatic starting point and start out by adding one non-invasive layer. Once you have worked out the first layer, move on to the next layer. Often this is when you may see that the architecture core needs a boost which brings me to step 2.
- Virtualize that core infrastructure. Time and again we see underpowered, unreliable and out of date (“read insecure”) infrastructure supporting a SCADA layer. That may be all well and good in the old way of thinking but now is the time to consider an upgrade. In the world of IIoT that’s business critical stuff and that type of software needs a rock solid place to run – such as on a Stratus ftServer system. Once you have virtualized on a solid foundation it will be easier to manage and expand to other applications in the future.
- Respect your institutional knowledge but also look to the future. OT skills and knowledge are incredibly valuable but the introduction of new technologies at the Edge can be daunting. IT can help with the technology provided that the OT folks ensure that business needs are fulfilled. Near the top of that list is simplicity. Adding a lot of new technology for the sake of entrenched data center standards is a recipe for failure. Look for solutions that can thrive and survive at the edge without requiring a lot of IT support.
All in all, success will be determined by a smart scope and understanding the unique user requirements. When you break things down that way the challenge will be reduced greatly.
When it comes to utilities, we as consumers find interruptions to electricity, heat, water, and phone service as extremely disruptive and even dangerous. For utility providers, the impact of such outages also is severe when it comes to lost revenue, customer dissatisfaction, and liability risks. In the natural gas industry, downtime incidents can present even more dire consequences.
This became abundantly clear when a compressor station operated by a North America gas pipeline company suffered a catastrophic failure. The result was a fire that cost more than $550,000 in damages and lost natural gas. Because the station was in a rural location, fire and damage fortunately was contained to the compressor and there were no fatalities.
While the pipeline company highly valued safety and reliability, this frightening incident was a lightning rod to take continuous operations to the next level. The pipeline company engaged in a detailed analysis of 15,000 miles of pipeline and facilities across 16 states, which transports over one trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year to customers.
The resulting modernization report recommended significant system upgrades to comply with the Control Room Management (CRM) regulations issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). For example, the pipeline company implemented compressor stations with fully redundant systems, such as compressor pumps, turbines, valves, and safety and control systems.
A bigger challenge was creating a continuous availability computer solution to operate the company’s SCADA, historian, HMI, and related control system applications. The pipeline company also wanted the solution to support big data analytics that would proactively predict, detect, and resolve compressor station problems before unplanned outages occurred.
Initially, the pipeline firm planned to deploy six or eight servers to support the full range of applications but discovered this approach had several shortcomings. For example, there were significant space and power constraints and lack of IT support at the compressor stations. If a server failed, automation staff at the headquarters location would need to reconfigure the server’s operating environment, physically deliver it, and perform the install. The unacceptable outcome: two to three days of server downtime and data loss that would generate sub-par analytic results and decrease operational efficiency.
After considering various options, the pipeline company chose a Stratus ftServer, a virtualized continuous availability solution with integrated redundancy. This centralized, easy to manage solution reduced the number of servers and associated service burdens. Automation engineers now remotely run virtualized applications from the primary control centers without requiring trained IT staff at the compressor station to conduct maintenance. Uninterrupted access to real-time analytics also provides the firm with complete operational visibility, eliminating “blind moments” and further improving availability and efficiency.
In fact, since implementing the ftServer three years ago, the pipeline company has run operational systems without any downtime or data loss. According to a lead automation electrical engineer at the company Stratus provides an added benefit: “We can get a lot more flexibility by adding applications in the compressor stations without the need for IT expertise.”
Are you looking to improve the safety and reliability of your operations while reducing costs and increasing efficiency? Stratus offers a compelling solution with virtualization, continuous availability and integrated redundancy.