Questions that manufacturers should ask in the trend "as a service"

  Questions That Manufacturers Should Ask When Addressing

By Jason Andersen, Vice President of Business Line Management, Stratus

Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) delivery models are today It is already widely used in enterprise data centers, but with the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the increasing networking of devices, the trend is also emerging in industrial manufacturing companies. However, even if the Any-as-a-Service (XaaS) model is gaining in popularity for operational computing, many manufacturers are reluctant to do so.

The future of industrial automation will be driven by those who are ready to take on new functions models like XaaS. Even for the most risk-averse organizations, there are opportunities to complement existing technologies while building the necessary infrastructure and skills to succeed in the long run. Given the potential value that XaaS offers to gain action-relevant insights, it would be advisable to prioritize Operational Technology (OT) personnel in preparing their organization for these assignments, so they can take advantage of them before their competitors beat them ,

There will be some challenges along the way. XaaS is probably useful for your organization – but only after you've developed the right plan. Companies considering XaaS must consider some important issues before proceeding:

Where can you start deploying XaaS today?

The place where we see most deployments is Analysis Solutions. And that makes sense, since until recently and today many of these manufacturing sites or other peripheral locations (such as farms or oil pipelines) were data islands. However, the extraction and evaluation of this data can be used to justify connectivity and security investments. Of course, there are other applications of XaaS that come into play, such as predictive maintenance, but most also start with data and analysis at the core.

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Are you ready for the ongoing investment that XaaS requires?

Fortunately, many of these XaaS solutions are easy to install. But without a very good holistic view of your endpoint, you may not get a good return. For example, to maximize the benefits of data collected at the farm edge and sent to the cloud for analysis, more specialized capabilities are required. In addition, XaaS solutions are services that you must pay for use during growth. This is very different from most automation technologies that have high pre-cost but extremely long life cycles. Lastly, you must consider the data performance (or latency) required to run the applications. Many XaaS manufacturing projects have failed because of this, and so there are new edge computing solutions coming on the market. The XaaS investment is likely a combination of improved OT infrastructure and XaaS services. To fully prepare, make sure you understand the full picture of what it means to invest in XaaS to improve your OT infrastructure and recruit the right professionals.

Is your OT infrastructure equipped for secure connectivity?

Take an inventory of your current OT infrastructure to set the path to XaaS deployments. You may not be ready. Data centers have evolved over the past decade to handle SaaS offerings with established connectivity and robust security. OT still has problems getting there. These organizations often need to upgrade their network infrastructure to ensure a secure and high-performance connection to XaaS services. And again, a cloud-based solution may not be enough for your local needs.

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How should you balance your XaaS deployment to minimize costs?

The best advice is to start pragmatically. Prioritize applications with lower support requirements while retaining applications with more complex on-premise requirements. In this way, you can test the solution and all its effects without interrupting critical processes. In addition, with this approach you can avoid surprises like the cost of data storage. This also opens the door for you to better understand your edge infrastructure requirements in terms of reliability, simplicity and security.

Imagine XaaS as another tool in your belt. Consider your options carefully and you may find it best to pursue a hybrid model with some computers in the cloud and some on the sidelines. This is not an "either / or" choice – go with a mix that best suits your organizational needs.

About the Author

Jason Andersen is Vice President of Business Line Management and responsible for creating product roadmaps and market strategies for Stratus products and services , Prior to joining Stratus in 2013, Jason was Director of Product Line Management at Red Hat. In this role, he was responsible for the go-to-market strategy, product launches and launches, and product marketing for JBoss application products. Jason previously held positions in product management at Red Hat and the IBM Software Group.

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