Integrating controls: It is critical to understand differing operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) priorities to achieve collaboration and integration. Without this, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and control projects will fail.With the rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and edge computing, the phrase “IT/OT convergence” has become much more prevalent. This is because the use of information technology (IT) at the operational level is becoming more common and is blurring the line that has traditionally separated IT and operational technology (OT). To integrate these two different areas for successful IIoT initiatives and control projects, a new species of technologists with a unique combination of skills is emerging—the “hybrid OT” professional.
Differing IT and OT priorities
At the core, IT and OT have similar concerns and different ways of prioritizing them. Priorities for IT:
1. Security: The first priority is security (and cybersecurity). They want to constantly monitor and scan machines to make sure everything is secure, which can sometimes interrupt processes.
2. Data integrity: Next is data integrity and making sure only those who need data can access it.
3. Downtime is also something they want to avoid, but if IT systems like email are down, while irritating, they will not bring operations or production to a halt.
Priorities for OT: For OT, the first and last priorities are swapped.
1. Downtime is enemy number one for operations. Downtime can cost a large amount of money and potentially create dangerous situations for employees or impact company reputation.
2. Maintaining data integrity and ensuring those who need the data can access it.
3. While security ranks high on OT’s list of concerns, it comes in third compared to avoiding downtime and maintaining data integrity.
It is critical to understand the differing priorities to achieve collaboration and integration between these two teams. Without this, IIoT and control projects will fail.
Hybrid OT benefits
John Fryer is the senior director, industry solutions, Stratus Technologies. Courtesy: Stratus TechnologiesOrganizations able to take elements of what OT requires and blend them with the skills of IT are the ones that will see the most success. These hybrid OT professionals understand the priorities that drive technology decisions at the network edge on the production floor as well as how edge data can drive strategic business decisions in the C-suite. Having the skills to make these connections is what makes hybrid OT professionals so valuable.
As edge computing is being performed at more remote locations, IT skills become less available. Luckily for hybrid OT professionals who may have some of the necessary IT knowledge, there are easy ways to address potential challenges they aren’t always equipped to handle. By leveraging solutions and systems that are self-protecting, self-diagnosing, always available, and easily maintained, they can handle whatever is thrown at them without needing IT support.
Hybrid OT professionals are entering the workforce with education and training in electrical engineering or computer science, and in some cases, even digital science and analytics, making them well equipped to handle the needs of modern industrial organizations.
As the industrial edge continues to become more digitized, connected, and intelligent, the hybrid OT professional will be a critical part of most companies’ IIoT and control project successes.