The Convergence of IT and OT
Let's take a look at he convergence of IT and OT as well as the impact of it.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
The Information Technology and Operational Technology were considered very different until recently. As IT is concerned with data-centric computing and OT is concerned with control of physical devices, they were used in isolation, each with its own purpose and designated use. However, with the passage of time, the line between the two branches has blurred, and a hybrid of IT/OT is taking over the industry.
At one point, IT was somewhat networked as data could flow from one point of communication to another and there was more computerized control of information. On the other hand, OT was not a networked technology. The devices and hardware used for monitory and control purposes were programmed to work in their own environment, functioning on the basis of pre-programmed services. However, with the combination of IT and OT, the OT devices are becoming networked and computerized. This enables communication, networking, and automation of physical devices in an industrial environment making the flow of data and decision-making possible simultaneously. The combination of IT and OT has made data analysis much more accessible and flexible, allowing complex systems to be controlled by automated devices that are intelligent enough to react in a suitable manner.
The traditional IT practices give way to cloud computing. However, this accumulation of data is of no benefit if it does not lead to any developments. When OT is combined with IT, it gives rise to fog computing. The fog nodes can compare and contrast between time-sensitive and least significant data being collected in real-time. The time-sensitive and essential information are forwarded for further action while the rest of the data is stored in a cloud for future reference. This enables automated systems as well as human experts to take timely action.
The combination of the two technologies has transformed digital manufacturing in a note-worthy manner:
- As the devices communicate with each other and take inputs from the environment they are installed in; real-time decision making is now possible through fog computing. Calculations can be carried out there and then to make required adjustments in an automated system.
- Networked devices can be secured using this combination. Intelligent and automated security systems could mean earlier and efficient detection and elimination of the threat.
- The maintenance of such a system is predictable. This allows for well-scheduled maintenance periods and lesser chances of system failures. As the profit margins between competing businesses are slim in today’s world, it is unacceptable to allow maintenance to hinder progress.
- IoT (Internet of Things) is based on the idea of allowing devices to gather data, analyze it, and take the appropriate action. This principle is also followed when IT and OT are used together in a system. Intelligence and decision-making capabilities are embedded into devices which have played a vital role in eliminating the boundary between IT and OT.
Impact of Convergence of IT and OT
When IT systems are integrated to include OT systems, cybersecurity may be compromised. There may exist loopholes in the contingency plans, authorization policies, and access controls of a business, making an IT/OT system vulnerable to cyber-attacks. However, if proper measures are taken, and enough security enhancements are introduced along with the integration, the convergence would only make the system more protected and secure.
The amalgamation of IT/OT allows for increased efficiency in operations. This is the result of automated and responsive systems which are sensitive to even the slightest changes and make amends without delay. Instead of the involvement of manual labor, the interaction between devices makes procedures faster and more reliable. The reliability and a little-to-no chance of error results in lower costs of production and an overall decrease in expenditures as the least possible amount goes in making amends.
If principles, approach, and plans are defined beforehand, and all the members of the team are briefed about the project, fewer hurdles are faced during the development phase. The elimination of maximum internal errors that may occur otherwise ensures reduced risks of failure and bears better results of performance when using a hybrid of IT and OT.
Once improvement in production is achieved through an IT/OT convergence, it leads to flexibility and agility. It is difficult to make rapid changes in a solely IT or OT based environment. However, attaining improved timelines and making changes in the approach of accomplishing tasks becomes easier when IT and OT are converged. There is room for innovation, and new ideas are tried and tested skillfully.
The business and the technology used to carry out the operations of the business cannot be kept separate anymore. With the use of OT along with IT used to keep track and record of businesses, enables a broader view of how the use of improved, hybrid technology is much more beneficial than physical efforts.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.