Written by Billy Moran
Increasingly it’s becoming standard practice for operational technology (OT) to move over IT networks. While OT and IT aren’t quite an oil and water relationship, the two have very different histories in this shotgun wedding scenario. Both play a huge role in the not-just-marketing hype of Industry 4.0.
IT has been tasked with data moving between computers and humans while OT is about moving data between things. Think manufacturing scenarios where data is collected from sensors, actuators, smart machines and more to improve manufacturing and industrial processes. The driving factor of the convergence of the two is the interest in collecting data from the OT side to drive real-time analytics and business process on the IT side.
This fourth industrial revolution has been building for a while, but the stakes are growing. Dropping a device on an IP network that was designed for a SCADA network often breaks the air gap that was assumed in the design of the manufacturing network that separated it from the rest of the world.
Traditionally operational technology operations work on longer cycles, often up to 10-plus years between upgrades of operational gear, while IT groups are closer to three-plus years per technology cycle. When it comes to connecting the two, it’s the IT side that typically ends up with the task of securing the environment. With OT systems running very different protocols and operating systems, plus massive numbers of endpoints being the norm, it’s not just a matter of creating network segmentation through firewall rules, access control lists, VLANs or VPNs. The proprietary nature of some OT systems might have a single vendor controlling the entire ecosystem from engineering, installation and often management and monitoring.
Uplogix has been deployed in OT vs. IT situations due to its ability to communicate directly with devices over a console connection as well as sit off-network while still maintaining IT networking security practices. OT devices are frequently distributed across multiple sites or even large manufacturing facilities. By locally monitoring both SCADA devices like RTUs and traditional IP devices like routers and switches, and responding automatically to device issues, Uplogix customers save OPEX by reducing the number of support tickets and travel time.