Three Guidelines to Ensure IoT Availability at Industrial Scale

The Internet of Things' potential to improve industrial processes is huge. But so is its potential to derail them—unless these important safeguards are put into place.
By John Fryer
Feb 01, 2016

Everyone is well aware of the hype around the Internet of Things in the consumer applications arena. But some of the most significant value that connected, intelligent machines will make possible comes from the industrial space. No longer is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) just hype, either. With today's highly developed sensors and big data analytics capabilities, manufacturers, oil and gas companies, and many others are optimizing their operations and transforming the traditional industrial process.

However, before these enhancements can be realized, operators need to feel confident that their systems can handle the always-on requirements of mission-critical applications. The implications of "on" switching to "off" for even a brief interval can lead to catastrophic business disasters. I believe there are three key issues that business and technology leaders should consider as they navigate the transition to the IIoT-enabled manufacturing enterprise.

1. Understand the potential vulnerability of virtualization.

Virtualization has transformed the way in which enterprises deploy technology, delivering significant efficiency boosts and cost savings. By enabling multiple applications to run on the same platform, virtualization delivers dramatic reductions in hardware costs, energy consumption, rack space and maintenance.

For better or worse, virtualization concentrates the potential points of failure by consolidating multiple processing workloads onto a single machine. In effect, it puts all your processing eggs into a single basket. If a virtualized server goes down, it could take several applications down with it.

Enterprises taking advantage of virtualization must think very carefully about how to maintain the availability of their virtualized applications. Deploying virtual platforms designed specifically for the rigors of industrial workloads at the edge is a crucial—and often ignored—success factor for highly automated, IIoT environments. This is because IIoT platforms are primarily deployed in environments that require:

Always-on capability: Downtime can have severe business, financial and regulatory compliance implications. And because many of these platforms are deployed in remote locations, where an outage can be exceptionally costly, virtual platforms must be kept running until a repair is made.

Little or no IT expertise: Most operational technologists are not trained to deal with multiple servers, switches, storage arrays and associated cabling.

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