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The Agile Enterprise Needs Present & Connected Employees

Recently, I have been reading about organizational evolution. There are some great articles and insights out there, but the common theme running through all of them is that we face an unpredictable future and we need to be agile.

The pace of change is accelerating, and the modern agile organization will need answers for three key questions:

  • What type of technology is going to be required?
  • How will IT be delivered, and by whom?
  • Where do we fit in? Us, people.

New Technology

The Internet of Everything will enable the next great wave of growth. The technology within this wave will connect people, process, data and things. So much value will be realized and this transition will rely on key underlying technology development around cloud, security, mobility and networking. Of course, there will be great products and services, but Read More »

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Industrial Operations Kit shown off at San Diego Conference

You may already have seen the announcement of the Cisco Industrial Operations kit (if not you can read about it here: New Cisco Offerings Help Unlock the Industrial Value of the Internet of Things).

As organizations such as utilities, oil, gas and energy companies, and municipalities, look to leverage new IoT applications, demand is growing for a quick and simple way to deploy Field Area Network (FAN) pilots, as well as reduce the cost of deploying a secure network infrastructure for medium and small size deployments

Gaurav Agarwal, Technical Marketing Engineer, Vertical Solutions, Cisco, provides a short introduction to the Cisco Industrial Operations Kit and how it virtualizes deployment to reduce setup time to days for Field Area Networks and Industrial Networks.

It’s all about Cisco helping customers start to deploy multi-service FAN solutions quickly and more cost-effectively. By actually virtualizing secure network services on a single Cisco Unified Computing Server, the Industrial Operations Kit can now be deployed in a matter of days, instead of weeks (or, in some cases, saving months!).

It’s based on the Connected Grid Network Management System and plays a critical role in creating efficient, secure and affordable industrial architectures for small to midsize organizations and large field area network pilots.

Here’s what Kip Compton,  vice president of IoT Systems and Software, Cisco, had to say at the launch “The IE 4000 and Industrial Operations Kit demonstrate how Cisco is taking the lead in bringing IoT capabilities to customers of all sizes. The market is demanding new infrastructure capabilities, and Cisco’s leadership in Gigabit switching technologies and comprehensive, end-to-end field network deployment offerings puts us in a unique position to help organizations build out long term strategies that address the challenges of an IoT environment. We have developed these offerings to give customers the ability to accelerate their IoT innovations.”

For the technical amongst you, The kit includes a single headend router, bundled with Cisco PRIME Access Registrar software for authentication, authorization and accounting, and the Connected Grid Network Management System with Cisco Embedded Services Routers for zero-touch deployment, managing up to 300 industrial routers and 250,000 RF Mesh endpoints with a single server.

Jeff Carkhuff, vice president of global solutions marketing for electricity, Itron was quoted as saying: “…With the Cisco Industrial Operations Kit, we are able to offer our customers more choices to match their specific needs, giving them an easy path to more IoT-friendly environments.” Read More »

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Internet of Everything and Machine Intelligence

Let’s start on a light note. For a brief period of time, the Internet of Things became associated with the fridge that orders milk by itself. This retro-futurist icon is a great example of a common tendency for extremely disruptive technological waves to first enter the public realm in the form of low impact nice-to-have use cases (personal computers and robotics suffered the same fate at first). Besides being amusing, these are also instructive. The small-mindedness of a fridge that has a direct line to the supermarket is a great way to make a really important point: the value of the Internet of Everything (IoE), ultimately, is about the network, not the individual connections. Read More »

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Visit Cisco at Hannover Messe 2015

Springtime in Germany brings us Hannover Messe, one of the largest industrial conferences and exhibitions in the world. This year, Cisco will feature our validated and proven Manufacturing and Power Transmission & Control solutions. Our portfolio of market-leading industrial products and solutions offered with our complete lifecycle management services that address the key challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.

At our booth located in Hall 8, A25, learn how Cisco’s Connected Factory, Connected Oil & Gas and Connected Utilities validated architectures and industrial product portfolio delivers:hanovver 2015

  • Best-in-class industrial cyber and physical security protection
  • Scalable IP based architectures and technologies that seamlessly integrate Profinet, and Ethernet/IP standards
  • A faster path to Internet of Everything (IoE) value
  • Optimized workflows and operation with secure remote access to global experts and real-time plant floor data analytics

Some of the key new capabilities we are highlighting include:

  • Enhanced solution and product support for Profinet-based connected factories
  • Updated industrial security by introducing identity management and services into Industrial networks to increase access security

Cisco technologies and products will be showcased and integrated into a multi-vendor and highly flexible production plant. In the SmartFactory KL booth located Hall 8, D20 we will be displaying a modularized automation and control structure that can be flexibly combine machines and automation modules in the production process. The demonstration will showcase the advantages of interoperability including quick setup and modifications to multi-vendor plant assets, product changes in real-time, and a versatile platform for production automation.

See one example of how we do it in this overview of our Industrial Ethernet (IE) 4000 switch series:

Read More »

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A Unified Platform Beyond only Cloud as Driver for IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been among us for a while, but in recent years we have seen a change in scale, in part due to cheaper sensors that are emerging. Cities are deploying sensors to improve the quality of life for their citizens, while factories are connecting more and more machines and collecting more data about the production processes. Supply chains are being revolutionized by tracking in real-time not only position but also movement (shaking, dropping), humidity, etc… In almost every industry you can see the impact of IoT.

Due to this change in scale new challenges are starting to emerge that are demanding a rethink of the Cloud only paradigm, and the silo approach to IoT.

Challenges

IoT typically means deploying application intelligence and analytics at the edge (the area between Cloud/data centers and end points such as sensors, factory robots, etc…), or pushing data directly to the Cloud for processing. Both approaches have their advantages as well as potential drawbacks.

IoT painpoints

IoT painpoints

The network between the edge and the Cloud can be relatively expensive (especially if you send all data to the Cloud) or has limited capacity (capacity is of course correlated with price). Latency to the Cloud can also be relatively high, and often lacks determinism. For example changing the color of traffic lights via the Cloud might not be optimal.

More and more solutions are being deployed at the edge to address the challenges Cloud faces. But these solutions have their drawbacks too. Many different solutions (hardware and software) make it more challenging to manage these edge services in a consistent and coherent manner.

IoT deployment is typically not confined to the traditional enterprise IT domain (au contraire). This means that traditional security solutions do not always apply, resulting in potential high risk security breaches: it is not only about stealing data, but also about controlling machines For example manufacturing robots, location of vehicles, …

One of the trends that we are seeing is that providers of edge services want to focus on their service (application) as this is where their expertise is. Today however many providers also need to provide the hardware (not always a good source of revenue), a certain level of security (not always their primary level of expertise), and a way to manage their services and devices (which can pose a challenge if a customer deploys multiple silos of IoT services).

 A Unified platform beyond Cloud only

To address the challenges described above, a rethink is needed. On one hand the Cloud only paradigm is not sufficient, yet such a new platform needs to support a Cloud like methodology for the edge.

Fog, a driver for IoT

Fog, a driver for IoT

The emphasis here is on “like”, as the edge differs from a Cloud/data center in several important aspects such as: limited resources, limited network capacity, security challenges, and resource distribution. However, such a platform will also have things in common with Clouds. Just like in a Cloud environment it needs to manage the (edge) service life cycle and orchestrate deployment.

With such a platform in place, edge service providers can focus on their core business as this new platform provides them with hooks to develop, deploy, scale, monitor, and manage their services in a secure and safe environment while seamlessly connecting to the Cloud.

Moving to Cloud and beyond

The vision of such a unified platform has been described by Bonomi et.al. and labeled  Fog Computing. We are now seeing this vision unfold in several distinct stages.

Unified (IP based) connectivity is typically the first stage. For example, cities offering free Wi-Fi in the city center, or factories that are consolidating their different networks.

Once unified connectivity is in place, it becomes easier to deploy services at the edge by connecting hardware to this IP network. This can lead to service silos, which are sometimes difficult to avoid due to legacy applications and hardware.

The next stage is the deployment of a unified platform (Fog platform) between Cloud and the endpoints to enhance service deployment beyond the Cloud but also to spur innovation by making it easier to share data between these services. This stage is where there is a true added value, as service management is unified and hardware platforms can become more consolidated.

This paradigm shift to think beyond Cloud towards a unified platform, will lead to new products, services and business models, but can also increases the risk of fragmentation due to lack of standards, architectural vision and abstraction. In order for this paradigm shift to truly succeed it is therefore important to have a continuous conversation between the IT and OT industry.

To ensure companies capture the value of IoT, it is important to start the thought process on a Fog and IoT vision early on: service deployments, connectivity capacity beyond Cloud, data filtering and analytics at the edge, device consolidation, real-time requirements, etc…

Such an IoT vision will enable companies to better prepare and understand the risks and opportunities in an increasingly connected world.

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