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Showing archives for category IIoT

Are edge computing and IIoT changing the way we think about data?

8.24.2017Edge, IIoTBy:  

As featured in ReadWrite

As we observe what’s happening in industrial enterprises, there’s an interesting evolution occurring—one that has important implications as companies make their first tentative steps toward the industrial Internet of things (IIoT).

Traditionally, operational technology (OT) teams have tended to think of their environment in terms of the automation equipment within their environment, both hardware and software. They might describe themselves as a “Rockwell shop” or a “Siemens shop.” They identified with the tools that made automation possible.

But that’s beginning to change. We’re now seeing an increasing number of organizations where engineers are focused less on the tools and more on the data that’s generated by their automation systems. This evolution reflects the increasing recognition that data and advanced analytics offer tremendous opportunities for unlocking business value. More and more, people are focused on data rather than applications. That’s a major shift in mindset.

What’s driving this shift? In part, it’s being driven by the explosive growth in data as a result of the increase in computing intelligence at the edge, closer to production processes.

What are the four “I’s”?

This is the first step in the progression to a true IIoT infrastructure—a progression I call “the four ‘I’s.” It starts with Insightful, using business analytics to drive insights and efficiencies. They can then progress to Intelligent, connecting elements across the infrastructure to enable real-time optimization. The ultimate state is Invisible, where decisions are made in real time based on artificial intleligence (AI) with no human intervention.

Most industrial enterprises are in the Informed stage, though forward-looking enterprises are thinking strategically about their roadmap to the more advanced phases. Some industries are progressing faster than others based on their perceived return on investment. For example, the food and beverage industries are actively embracing IIoT technologies. They recognize the value of using real-time data analytics to help ensure not only production efficiency but also the safety and quality of their products, which is critical to the value of their brands. Other highly regulated industries are seeing the value in production data to help ensure compliance.

Some “old school” industries, on the other hand, may be slow to recognize the value of data in terms of optimizing their efficiency or gaining a competitive advantage. As technology progresses, I predict these holdouts will begin to recognize real-time analytics as an essential component of a modern industrial enterprise—or find themselves playing catch-up.

For the enterprises that “get it,” this growth in data—and its increasing criticality to the business—is a catalyst to modernize their infrastructure. That infrastructure needs to be scalable to accommodate accelerating data growth and flexible to allow new ways to use real-time data analytics. As they become more reliant on data, they need to think about how to protect that valuable data. That means viewing data availability and integrity as a core requirement, not as an afterthought.

To continue learning about this topic, check out the recent webinar “Living on the Edge – New techniques for protecting data in the Era of IIoT”.

The emergence of a new IT species: The IT/OT hybrid professional

8.9.2017IIoTBy:  

As featured in ReadWrite

A key tenet of Darwin’s theory of evolution is the idea of adaptation, in which a species changes over time to better adapt to its environment. Based on discussions with industrial organizations getting involved in the industrial Internet of things (IIoT), I believe we’re witnessing a similar phenomenon among the ranks of industrial technologists.

Until recently, there was a clear division between IT, which controlled the data center, and OT, which was responsible for the care and feeding of operational automation systems. IT and OT were two distinct species with different backgrounds, skillsets, and priorities. Now, however, we’re beginning to see the emergence of a new breed of hybrid IT/OT professionals, who are bridging the gap that has traditionally separated these two worlds. IT and OT convergence is occurring at the level of the individual technologist.

Why is this happening?

An instructive analogy can be found in the rise of cloud computing. When developers found that IT was not responding to their needs, they did an end run around the barrier and used public cloud services instead. As developers took it upon themselves to secure the IT infrastructure they needed to run their applications, DevOps was created. This “Shadow IT” trend, well-established in business enterprises, is now gaining momentum in industrial organizations. As computing and data collection are moving closer to the edge — the domain of OT — a new combination of skills is needed, giving birth to the IT/OT hybrid.

There is also a generational shift occurring. Many OT professionals have been in the game a long time and are now approaching retirement. As they move on, a new generation is taking their place. Far from being intimidated by technology, these young digital natives were raised on it. They recognize the possibilities of the IIoT and will look to realize those possibilities as they increasingly push intelligence out to the edge and leverage data and analytics in new ways.

How to actively recruit for this

Forward-looking industrial enterprises are actively recruiting specialists with the skills required to manage both IT and OT technologies. They recognize the value of recruiting professionals as comfortable working with servers as they are with machine tools, packaging lines, or pumps and valves. Whatever their background, IT/OT hybrid specialists share a passion for the intersection of technology and industrial operations.

These professionals will likely have new expectations for the technology they use as well. Recognizing the value of data produced at the edge, they will likely place data protection at the top of their priority list. IT/OT specialists will also look for solutions that offer a better ownership experience, including working with vendors who assume responsibility for system availability. In short, they will demand solutions they don’t have to worry about.

How soon will we see this new species emerge? Unlike the natural world, this evolution will happen quickly — likely within the next two to three years.

Recently, Stratus launched a Twitter poll to gauge industry knowledge and trends, and some of the results we analyzed involved bridging the divide between IT and OT while ensuring all priorities are met. Check out what we found here.

Living on the Edge: Real-Time Intelligence at the Points of Production

6.22.2017IIoTBy:  

There’s a lot of excitement about how the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will reshape manufacturing, utilities, and other industrial operations. As companies reimagine their operations, many have questions about how to take advantage of edge computing in order to capture the high-value gains of IIoT.

During a recent webinar, Stratus, ARC Advisory Group, and Automation.com addressed some of those key questions. We laid out a framework for how valuable data can live safely and prosper on the edge of your industrial control environment. Here are a few highlights:

WHERE TO START?
First, let’s talk about the “things” in IIoT—pumps, motors, valves, conveyors, processing vessels, etc.—and the industrial control systems managing them. These systems are often decades old, highly customized, and isolated from the rest of the enterprise. They weren’t designed for open networking or the IIoT and can’t be replaced without great cost and disruption. So how can you leverage these industrial assets and derive new data sets to improve production efficiency and reduce costs?

Complementing your legacy systems with the addition of newer, open AND secure industrial networking standards like OPC UA, along with low cost, bolt-on IIoT sensors, all supported by a combination of edge and cloud-based computing applications that include real-time data analytics and artificial intelligence technologies “Living on the Edge” of existing automation equipment and systems is a good place to start generating new sources of data aimed to increasing efficiency.

WAIT – THERE’S MORE
You’ll also want to make sure that your edge systems collect, analyze, store, and forward data generated by devices being monitored at the points of production. For example, edge systems would use such data to dynamically optimize flows, temperatures and pressures or change robotic movement and speed parameters so that production and assembly activities consistently perform according to a product’s stringent quality assurance tolerances – without un-necessary giveaway. That makes this edge data extremely critical.

ADDRESSING OT AND IT REQUIREMENTS
At Stratus, we focus on today’s edge computing requirements in an industrial automation setting. That means addressing both IT and operational technology (OT) sides of the equation. For IT, key needs are standardization and virtualization to keep edge computing simple, flexible, and cost-effective. On the OT side, top priorities are long-term reliability and availability.

Another key requirement both IT and OT groups have is keeping edge systems as low-touch as possible. Operations teams rarely have the skills or time for hands-on care of computers. And edge systems are often in remote locations without any or limited IT staff onsite.

WHY WE LIKE THE EDGE
Stratus solutions accommodate both IT and OT needs at the edge of your industrial assets. Stratus continuous availability systems are built on industry standards and easily virtualized. They are remarkably easy to manage and service. In fact, we have built in remote monitoring and predictive self-service capabilities that eliminate almost all hands-on administration. Plus, Stratus architecture is fully redundant from top to bottom. Our solutions simply don’t fail and provide in-service lifecycles that extend a decade or more – creating even more value for industrial users.

GO CRAWL – WALK – RUN
Many of our industrial customers are adopting IIoT in stages. They usually start with deploying coordinated control strategies between related production units or lines, or adding basic analytics for their core systems to uncover trends and insights to make strategic business decisions. The next stage involves supplementing these applications with real-time data analytics and pushing that intelligence to the industrial assets themselves – at the edge for machine-based, real-time production decisions, along with feeding cloud based data analytics to compare and contrast the performance across industrial enterprises.

At Stratus, we have deep industrial expertise and continuously availability technology to help you realize the full value of IIoT across the entire edge-to-enterprise spectrum.

Going over the Edge – And Doing it Right

5.16.2017Edge, IIoTBy:  

Not long ago, data centers were the primary bastions for data, servers, networking, applications, and other infrastructure. Residing in these locations, or at least nearby, often was a highly skilled IT staff focused on designing, testing, and supporting all of that infrastructure. But the paradigm for the data center is changing fast. Enterprises are pushing computing to the outer edges of the network near or right at production sites where true production is happening, whether they are producing electricity, or using intelligent sensors to monitor factory automation systems.

Our customers are increasingly investing to protect business critical apps on the Edge
We’re seeing this transformation up close in a big way as we observe our customers increasingly deploy business critical applications beyond and geographically away from their data centers. With our heritage of helping customers to protect their applications with continuous availability, we have led the industry with fault-tolerant hardware and software for nearly four decades. Building on our success and leadership with protecting the data center’s most critical applications—from ATMs to airline reservations to manufacturing execution systems—we are bringing our trademark of innovative availability to edge computing with solutions that are hands down the easiest to deploy and operate, with the longest life span on the market. In fact, for the first time, Stratus generated more revenue from the edge than data centers in our last fiscal year.

IIoT and Smart Manufacturing are fueling the rise of the Edge
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a big driver behind edge computing. IIoT is starting to take shape as the next phase in the rapid expansion of industrial automation, which also happens to be one of our largest, most robust markets. Companies that are ready to modernize their infrastructures are attracted to IIoT because it offers substantial improvements in efficiency, productivity, and business intelligence. We’re seeing IIoT adoption across food and beverage, oil and gas, specialty chemicals, and water and waste management, among other industries. As evidence of this adoption, IndustryARC pegs the IIoT market as reaching $123 billion by 2021.

The Edge poses unique functional requirements
Understandably, enterprises need to plan carefully when deploying systems at the edge given the requirements traditional data center solutions cannot meet. Edge systems are often in remote locations, such as a natural gas compression station or on a dairy production floor. At sites far away from corporate resources, the local, often tiny staff lacks IT skills, and yet they rely on multiple applications generating the most critical of data. On top of that, these systems are streaming this data to other core functions at various sites across the enterprise—on-premise and in a hybrid cloud. If these edge systems fail, they remove an IIoT link vital to the chain of enterprise data flow and slow or even halt production flow, create compliance issues, and impact customers.

Providing an Edge to our customers
That’s where Stratus comes in by protecting the integrity and availability of vital applications at the edge of your networks. With our concept of the Stratus Smart Connected Hub™, you get assurance of no unplanned downtime with fault tolerance and predictive system monitoring. We continue to offer the lowest TCO for critical edge applications because our systems offer hands-off operation, run on open, standard environments, and don’t require IT skills to operate.

Our strategy is to support more customers in their journey to the Edge
To stay ahead of the transformation underway with edge-centric computing, we will expand our focus on the growing number of use cases in this space. These include virtualization, analytics, predictive modeling, artificial intelligence, supply chain unification, and more. With our innovative, always-on systems designed for true IT simplicity, you will be able to “go over the edge” with confidence and capture valuable IIoT-driven gains in efficiency and productivity.

Curious findings at Automation Modernization

5.10.2017IA, IIoTBy:  

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.

Road to IIoT: Lessons for Manufacturers from Other Industries

5.4.2017IIoTBy:  

For most manufacturers, the road to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an evolutionary journey. And while it may be marked with twists and turns, it doesn’t have to be fraught with risk and uncertainty.

In a recent article I wrote for Manufacturing Business Technology, I explain how manufacturers can learn from other industries that have already headed down the path of IIoT. Here are some highlights from my article:

1. Go for Standards
Legacy automation infrastructures are often proprietary, and upgrades are typically controlled by a single vendor. That’s not only costly, but also limits options for introducing new, modern capabilities like IIoT. It’s similar to the challenge telecommunications faced until some forward-thinking carriers saw the promise of industry-standard solutions and operating systems. That opened the door for delivering enhanced services that gave them a competitive advantage over traditional providers of basic dial tone services. By adopting standards-based technology, manufacturers could open the door to a new wave of business-enhancing innovation.

2. Open the Door to Integration
Operations technology (OT) organizations like to keep their industrial control systems (ICS) walled off from the rest of the enterprise to avoid points of vulnerability. But enterprise-wide connectivity is essential to gain the intelligent automation capabilities of IIoT. Consider how the highly risk-averse financial services industry made the leap. Using the latest network security and continuous availability solutions, they allowed connectivity to business-critical transaction systems. This created a wealth of new business opportunities for financial firms in today’s mobile, digital consumer marketplace.

3. Tap into Distributed Intelligence
One of the hallmarks of IIoT is the gathering of data from a wide range of sensors and systems to gain valuable insights. This distributed intelligence is central to improving production efficiency, enabling predictive maintenance, and sparking innovation. Many industries have already seen this. Take oil and gas companies, for example. They use data collected from sensors at remote pipeline compression stations to run analytics that detect early signs of component failure. With advance warning, these companies can shrink maintenance windows and avoid costly unplanned downtime.

4. Protect the Avalanche of Data
One thing is certain: as manufacturers embrace IIoT, the volume—and value—of production data will increase substantially. So manufacturers must ensure availability of both the data and the automation systems generating it. The building automation and security industry, for example, needs to make sure they protect the fountains of data generated by their video monitoring solutions. To mitigate risk of losing valuable video evidence, these companies make end-to-end fault tolerance a priority. You can do the same to prevent data loss or downtime from the production floor to the historians that store ICS data to the analytics engines creating insights from that data.

The road to IIoT might seem lonely at first. But it’s easy to see that you have good company from firms in other industries that are making the journey. While each industry has its own challenges and priorities, they all stand to gain similar benefits by charting a course to next-generation IIoT automation. Unlocking valuable insights and strategies enabled by IIoT is helping all companies across the spectrum compete better and improve their efficiency and profitability in a meaningful way.

Spring Ahead with the Stratus “Top 5” Most Popular Blogs

4.12.2017IA, IIoTBy:  

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.

Celebrate IoT Day – Join the Conversation

4.7.2017IIoTBy:  

April 9, 2017 is the 7th annual IoT Day. While it seems like every day has become a national day of something, IoT Day holds a special place for Stratus and our customers as it reminds us to take a step back and think about the important issues surrounding the IoT, and specifically the industrial IoT.

This year’s event comes at a critical point as smart manufacturing is increasing drastically in the United States and Industrie 4.0 is seeing a similar rise in Europe. All of this requires investment and analysis of IIoT solutions that enable manufacturers and other industries like water and wastewater to succeed in a connected world.

Whether you are facing budget cuts, challenges with aging infrastructure or simply seeking process improvements, IIoT solutions can help you meet your goals. The key is to determine how to seize this opportunity. That is why it is vital to have frank and open discussion about the challenges of capturing immediate business value from IIoT, integrating legacy equipment into IIoT environments and the relationship between industrial automation and IIoT during this period of industrial revolution.

Earlier this year we predicted that 2017 was the year that companies will need to get educated about IIoT and that prediction remains true. However, becoming educated about IIoT requires access to manageable data and analytics. Once you have that information you need to understand how to put into action. That is where the industry conversations that happen on days like IoT Day come into play. Talk to your peers, listen to where they have seen success and where they encountered challenges.

If you haven’t started to deploy IIoT solutions, the time is now. I encourage you to use today to start assessing how the IIoT can help your business, and then find a way to start the transformation in small steps.

The first step is to begin modernizing your existing operational technology. This will deliver tremendous benefits in terms of reliability and manageability right now, and create a solid future-ready platform on which to build your organization’s IIoT strategy. You can start this process by setting-up a trial or pilot project to get a real-world look into how the IIoT will advance your business priorities. Or, if you’ve already started this transformation, then take some time today to evaluate how far you’ve come in the past year, and where you’d like to be at this time next year.

In an effort to help expand awareness around the IIoT, we urge you to join conversations today on #IoTDay and @StratusAlwaysOn. We will be sharing interesting stats about the IIoT throughout the day, and would love to hear how the IIoT has evolved in your workplace and what changes you’ll be making to your IIoT strategy over the coming year.

Momentum in Global Industrial Automation is on Our Side

4.5.2017IA, IIoTBy:  

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.

Snuff Out Downtime in Industrial Automation

3.22.2017IA, IIoTBy:  

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.

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