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Energy - Oil & Gas and Utilities

This is the first of a four part series on the convergence of IT and OT (Operational Technologies)

Part 2 will cover the impact of the transition to IP on Physical Security and the convergence of Physical and Cyber Security.

Part 3 will discuss the convergence of IT and OT -- Operational Technology of all types outside the traditional realm of Information Processing.

Part 4 will look at how to actually make the transition to a converged IT/OT infrastructure and tips on overcoming the challenges.

Those of us in the Energy Industry know that the utilities segment is in transition. The network architecture, in particular,  is undergoing change -- change that will bring challenges as well as opportunities for both Cisco and our customers.

Almost every communication application started as point to point serial — including computer communications.  But the simple geometry problem of how many lines are needed to connect every vertex (node) of a polygon to every other vertex [ n(n-3)/2 if you’re curious ] shows that as the number of nodes grows, connecting each one to every other one quickly becomes infeasible.

HAK22620 - for webThe need to interconnect more and more devices lead to multi-drop or bus topologies and challenges of how to deal with sorting out who gets to talk when and the solutions of token passing, polling and TDM.

Circuit switching was a big breakthrough developed out of necessity as the number of telephone handsets exploded. Interestingly enough, look at the hierarchical topology of trunking and local switching and you may recognize analog similarity to NAT.

Initial application of networking often occurs as the use of Ethernet to replace serial communication with flat, layer-2 networks, to interconnect multiple nodes with polling and TDM used exactly as they were in serial systems.  That’s where most SCADA systems still live today and why there are relatively few monitored points, limited by how quickly the polling loop can be traversed.  Imagine trying to run the internet that way?

Fast forward and almost every industry and industrial application that started off as serial or circuit switched has migrated or is migrating to packet switched as IP packet technology has made astonishing progress along the price/performance curve.

High performance IP is now able to offer latency performance that used to require dedicated connections.  Along with IP have come the tools to manage, diagnose, repair and secure the communication network.  Relative to the billions of dollars invested by companies around the world in tools, security, management, etc. for IP, the investments being made in securing and improving serial or TDM are almost nonexistent.

Globally, Service Providers who built their industry on circuit switched analog and TDM are terminating those services as they move to complete their transition to IP.

Cisco continues to play a key role in transitioning serial/TDM technology to IP, helping customers get full benefit of the robust performance and security capabilities and features IP offers.  Customers who have received End of Service notices for Framerelay are scrambling to find alternatives and at the same time achieve regulatory compliance.

As Operation Technology groups outside of IT increasingly use IT Information & Communication Technology (ICT), they need the same capabilities as IT.

What does this mean for Cisco and our customers?

Relationships with the business, including the operations side of the business are key.  Budget is increasingly in the hands of the business rather than IT. As a result, Cisco and our customers’  IT departments are increasingly collaborating with the operational side of the business -- especially the OT, or ‘Operational Technologies’ part of our customer’s organization.

Cisco has specialized industry sales support teams in a group called CVA (Cisco Value Acceleration) Group, which I’m a part of, as well as Cisco Advanced Services and other Cisco Business Units (especially the IOTG, or Internet of Things Group) along with groups such as the Cisco Global Industries Center of Expertise (GICE) to understand the trends, business imperatives and compelling events creating opportunity with customers.

If you’d like to know more about these groups, please contact me by commenting on this blog. Also, watch out for parts 2 and 3, where I get down to the security challenges and the convergence aspects that are making waves in the industry.

Reminder: This is the first of a four part series on the convergence of IT and OT (Operational Technologies)

Part 2 will cover the impact of the transition to IP on Physical Security and the convergence of Physical and Cyber Security.

Part 3 will discuss the convergence of IT and OT -- Operational Technology of all types outside the traditional realm of Information Processing.

Part 4 will look at how to actually make the transition to a converged IT/OT infrastructure and tips on overcoming the challenges.

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