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Improving R&D Through Remote Visualization

Authors: Randal Kenworthy and Doug Wycoff

Innovation in manufacturing comes from many sources.   One of the core and traditional sources is the research and development (R&D) function within a manufacturing organization.   However, the requirements and traditional processes within those functions are changing.

Manufacturers are beginning to see an increase in the amount of collaborative R&D efforts.   That collaboration takes place across geographic boundaries.   Increasingly, it also extends outside the traditional walls of the organization to include other companies, suppliers, partners and universities.

Most organizations have a strong desire to enhance collaboration, but there’s also a need to make sure sensitive data is not exposed, data silos are removed and that the manufacturer’s employees are able to visualize diverse data sets independent of location. These abilities help close information gaps between domains to improve the security, speed, and accuracy of product design and research. .

Challenges Facing Manufacturing and Energy

The Manufacturing and Energy (MNE) industry is facing a unique set of IT challenges when it comes to mobile workforces being able to access and visualize data. Many organizational infrastructures are not designed to take on the visualization capabilities necessary for today’s manufacturing and energy workers. A few challenges impacting the industry are:

Computer processing intensive 3D Design applications -- From a research and development standpoint, we’re seeing engineers and designers working in applications that require heavy graphic usage – 3D graphics specifically. For example, there are engineers doing visualization of the topography of the landscape, trying to find where there’s oil in the ground and engineers designing the next generation jet engine. These 3D applications are very intensive from a Central Processing Unit (CPU) and Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) standpoint.

More collaborative R&D efforts -- Many current organizational infrastructures are not equipped to securely and collaboratively share graphics, drawings and renderings among partners and even fellow offices. Often times today, we’re seeing a 3rd party design company helping with some of the engineering aspects. This requires the ability to share 3D graphic files across multiple parties, globally, both internally and externally within an organization. This means manufacturers now have to deal with engineers outside of their organizations that might be on the other side of the country, or even in another continent.

Security -- as Internet of Things (IoT) continues to propagate, the number of vulnerabilities and exposure points for cyber-theft and attacks are increasing.

In order to address these challenges, the industry is leveraging various emerging technologies and innovations. One capability is remote visualization – remote collaboration on 3D graphics and visualization, through a unified infrastructure. Cisco is now helping create an optimized solution that accelerates the GPU capabilities of a VDI solution.

Benefits of a VDI-Enabled Unified Infrastructure

Recently, an oil and gas exploration company incorporated a unified infrastructure solution called FlexPod Datacenter with NVIDIA and Citrix. FlexPod enables you to centralize important datasets in one or a few locations and make the results of visualization available wherever they are needed. Centralizing data simplifies data integration between systems and accelerates workflows across functions (geophysics, geology, reservoir and simulation). Your geoscientists, engineers, and business decision makers can see important results in real-time, without the bottlenecks that result from transferring huge data sets over network connections or by mail. A few additional benefits include:

  • Eliminate the infrastructure challenges created by ever-growing datasets.
  • Improve collaboration within your organization.
  • Make visualization available where and when it’s needed, including on mobile devices—without local data copies.
  • Allow you to share the results of visualization across organizational boundaries while keeping valuable datasets secure.

Similarly, imagine a defense manufacturer has a large 3D design file that has been shared within the organization and amongst partners. Let’s assume that it’s on 30 different PCs in different countries. The ability for this company to manage, track and protect those 30 designs is challenging because it’s so distributed and hard to know what security levels all partners have in place. Under the FlexPod solution, there is one version of that design/drawing and it’s in a centralized data center that you manage and protect. With this, organizations have better control over what cyber security protection they have around it and also have better control of the actual files. Data centers are not 100 percent threat proof, but they are more secure and much more manageable than if the data was distributed across multiple PCs across the network.

This ability to manage top-secret information is why one defense manufacturer worked with Cisco to build a VDI platform that met all Department of Defense (DOD) security requirements.

No matter how carefully you plan, there can be unforeseen needs and opportunities that result in a requirement for more compute infrastructure in a hurry. Whether it’s in an existing data center, or a remote location, the integrated and tested design of FlexPod Datacenter means that you can have new infrastructure up and running in less time with less effort, providing a distinct competitive advantage in situations where time is of the essence.

Seeing is Believing  

A real-time clip of the VDI solution rendering a 3D Visualization application:

To learn more about visualizing data sets and incorporating a unified infrastructure for enhanced R&D collaboration, visit our solutions page. To see this solution firsthand, visit Cisco in booth 709 at SEG 2014. Together with partners NetApp, NVIDIA and Citrix, we’ll showcase how this solution enhances collaboration and enables faster decision making without exposing sensitive data.

As Industrial Networks Converge, Skill Sets Must Broaden

As we reflect on the Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF) last week in Chicago, workforce readiness – or workforce availability – was a big topic of conversation among attendees. It’s also an issue I addressed on behalf of Rockwell Automation at the event.

Those of us in the industrial sector are acutely familiar with the challenges of workforce readiness. Many of us have been working for years to find, attract and inspire the next generation of workers who will fill the place of many long-serving and soon-to-be-retiring skilled professionals.

But retirement isn’t the only issue affecting worker readiness. Major changes to how manufacturers and industrial organizations operate are proving to have equally major impacts on their workforces.

Specifically, the convergence of information technology (IT) and operation technology (OT) presents significant challenges to the professionals who are responsible for installing, maintaining, upgrading and troubleshooting those technologies.

IT and OT professionals historically have worked in silos, with IT delegated to the business side and OT to the industrial zone. The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing that. Today’s industrial organizations can connect, communicate and collaborate across the entire enterprise, from executive suites and corner offices to plant floors, supply chain partners and remote locations.

As a result, the lines that have traditionally divided IT and OT are blurring. These workers increasingly require skills beyond their core areas of expertise to be able to support IT, networking and control-system functions.

Cisco recently introduced the Cisco Industrial Networking Specialist certification to ensure IT and OT professionals are equipped with the broad skill sets they need to manage and administer industrial network systems. The certification exam tests both hands-on skills as well as knowledge of critical topics, such as the Open System Interconnection (OSI) model, network and industrial devices, safety protocols, and environmental and industrial standards.

Rockwell Automation and Cisco are launching a hands-on, lab-based course this month to prepare IT and OT professionals for the exam and give them the foundational skills they’ll need for the connected enterprises of tomorrow. The first-of-its-kind course, Managing Industrial Networks with Cisco Networking Technologies (IMINS), aims to help IT and control-system engineers install, maintain and troubleshoot industrial network systems, as well as help engineers achieve network availability, reliability and security.

The IoT presents opportunities that today are only limited to our imagination. Leading organizations already are taking advantage of smart devices and converged-network technologies, and most others will soon enough discover they need to embrace them if they want to remain competitive. New technologies are accelerating access to insightful possibilities but we should never forget that our greatest assets will always be our employees, and we must educate and empower those who can best make this great leap forward a successful one.

Looking forward to Automation Fair and continued discussions around how other industries are leveraging IoT to address the skills gap.


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Any Given Sunday and the Internet of Everything

On any given Sunday, or Saturday, in stadiums across the country powered by Cisco Connected Stadium Wi-Fi, an average of 2 terabytes of data are coming across the network and tens of thousands of unique connections are being made. This means anywhere from 20-50% of ticketed fans are using their mobile devices to engage. Extrapolate that out to stadiums around the world holding soccer/football, rugby, basketball and other sporting events, and on any given weekend hundreds of thousands of previously unconnected fans are connecting to elevate the live experience.

The stadium or arena, and the services the venue and surrounding areas consume, mirror that of a city – safety, security, transportation, entertainment, food, commerce, and more. This microcosm is a wonderful showcase for the Internet of Everything (IoE) and the new business opportunities made possible. As people (fans, athletes, entertainers), process (operations, fan engagement, transportation management), data (performance, fan-generated, operational), and things (balls, bats, pucks, merchandise, parking spots) become connected, the world of sport will be radically enhanced.

A great example of this is AEG and what they have done with STAPLES Center and LA Live. They are delivering everything a fan wants at L.A. Live with hotel, food, dining and entertainment options in and around the venue. At STAPLES Center they have multiple teams, concerts and other events, making it home to more than 250 events and four million plus visitors annually. Add to that mix new experiences and business opportunities, and what results is a pulsating environment that runs and thrives on being connected. Step beyond the United States and AEG is doing the same thing with The O2 in London, and numerous other venues around the world such as Allphones Arena in Sydney, which recently announced the installation of Cisco StadiumVision.

More and more, I see an industry embracing the need to plan for an IoE based future. Last week Cisco announced its renewal as the Official Technology Partner of the NBA, and one of the key new additions to that agreement was a research and development initiative that will feature a committee of executives from both companies with a focus on employing principles of the Internet of Everything to enhance courtside connectivity within NBA venues. Click here for a front row seat at how Cisco and the NBA are already making IoE come to life. 

In addition, TD Garden in Boston is another great example of a facility leveraging Cisco solutions such as StadiumVision and Connected Stadium Wi-Fi as part of their overall facility renovation.

I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the opportunities that lie ahead for the Sports and Entertainment industry as part of IoE. We are going to be a leader in the changes taking place for the more than 250 venues in 30 plus countries around the world already working with Cisco, and those that will be as we collaborate to capture the opportunities that IoE will make possible.

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Seeds of Change

October 24, 2014 at 10:08 am PST

While change is a hallmark of the IT industry, the actual levers for change are BLOG-OPEN-COMPUTE-PROJECT-LOGO-FEB12have actually remained fairly stable. Vendors were the initial agents of change largely because they were the only ones with the critical mass of smart people, R&D, manufacturing and service delivery to seed and then maintain a fledgeling industry—barriers to entry were a bit higher 30 years ago than they are today because the innovation was happening at the physical layer—we were still fighting over layer 1 and layer 2. The best thing that happened to this industry was the rapid emergence of standards developing organizations (SDOs) as the next arbiter of change. The action moved up the stack and networking exploded because protocols like Ethernet, TCP/IP and BGP were standardized and created a stable, level playing field that benefited everyone alike. Over the last few years, the open source movement has emerged as the latest lever for change in the industry. By democratizing the whole process of innovation, open hardware and software is giving rise to an astounding rate of change.

Now, there is many a VC pitch that’s hinges on painting Cisco as the ossified incumbent (trust me, I have seen a few), but the inconvenient reality is we have been active contributors in the open networking initiatives that have emerged in the last few years including ONF, OpenStack, OpenDaylight, and OPNFV. To that list, I am pleased to announce that we recently joined the Open Compute Project as a Gold member. The motivation behind our membership is similar to our involvement in the aforementioned open networking projects: we see the OCP community as an excellent forum to work  with our customers to co-develop solutions to meet the challenges they face.

As you many know, OCP is structured into a number of projects (networking, server design, storage, etc). While there are a number of areas where we could (and will likely) engage, the first project will be Networking (shocking, I know), where we feel we can make some useful contributions to the existing work underway.

Beyond this, I do not have a whole lot more to share—to borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, the coin of the realm is code and specs and the work is just getting started for us, but expect to see some cool stuff in the near future.

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Cisco Partner Weekly Rewind – October 24, 2014

October 24, 2014 at 9:36 am PST

Partner-Weekly-Rewind-v2Each week, we’ll highlight the most important Cisco Partner Ecosystem news and stories, as well as point you to important, Cisco-related partner content you may have missed along the way. Here’s what you might have missed this week:

Off the Top

Great updates this week on the Cisco Partner Ecosystem. To kick off things off, Debbie Gililland talked about Partner Ecosystem marketing in general. Bruce Klein followed that up on Wednesday with his update on the Cisco Partner Ecosystem.

Bruce announced the Cisco Partner Ecosystem back in March at our annual Partner Summit event. In his blog post this week he brings you up-to-date on the growth of the Cisco Partner Ecosystem since it was announced. He also provides some insight on where Cisco will focus for the remainder of the fiscal year in order to make the Cisco Partner Ecosystem even more successful.

Check out both blog posts for some great information and learn about the Cisco Solution Partner Program as well! Let us know what you think.

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