Integrators address competing production priorities

Systems integrators meet information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) demands.

By Stephen Greene December 3, 2023
Courtesy: Brett Sayles

Edge computing insights

  • Edge computing addresses critical information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) needs by providing control over hardware, enabling efficient data processing and reducing operational costs, benefiting both domains.

  • Edge computing platforms offer autonomous operation, alleviating workforce constraints and ensuring reliability, ultimately maximizing the value of data in digital transformation efforts.

All organizations have their nuances — and the same goes for every digital transformation journey. The road to successful transformation is paved with plenty of challenges, not just pertaining to information technology (IT), but to operational technology (OT), as well. Many IT organizations have already largely turned their focus toward the cloud. In OT, the focus has been primarily on solutions that improve and foster success at the edge.

What do these competing priorities mean for systems integrators (SIs)? And how can SIs deliver solutions that effectively walk the tightrope between the needs of IT and OT? While the differences present an obstacle, there’s an opportunity to build solutions that address both worlds with edge computing technology. According to IDC, in 2023 alone, investments in edge computing are projected to reach over $200 billion — and for good reason. Edge computing has emerged as a powerful way for organizations to gather and analyze data at the source, quickly and effectively. For IT and OT, the ability to manage data is critical, and it’s a task edge computing solutions are well-positioned to solve.

What do IT and OT want?

IT leaders have many variables to consider when building a digital transformation initiative. An IT team’s needs evolve, but interoperability, easy manageability, cost efficiency and cybersecurity support all rank among the most important features — particularly as IT teams weigh their options with edge computing platforms. When building IT solutions, SIs need to ensure they deliver greater uptime and fault tolerance to give users transparency and eliminate modifications or extra scripting.

On the OT side, transformation hinges on how well a new technology or tool supports mission-critical applications and infrastructure at edge locations. Teams rely on OT devices to collect data from remote locations, on factory floors or in production facilities. OT devices bring in huge volumes of data generated from remote areas. The data is analyzed and used to understand the state of operations in real time.

To manage high volumes of data and many edge devices, OT leaders are investing in automation tools that rely heavily on edge computing platforms to run complex industry 4.0 software. OT teams want an edge computing platform that delivers continuous availability for critical applications, to ensure data integrity and better uptime.

Together at the edge

Given the differences between IT and OT, what makes edge computing the right approach to effectively meet both sets of needs?

Edge computing platforms can satisfy application needs across IT and OT. For SIs and their clients, these platforms should be simple, protected and autonomous. Edge computing gives organizations control over their hardware, important for organizations with infrastructure in remote or rugged locations. IT benefits from a hybrid edge-to-cloud approach, where edge and cloud computing work together to create efficiencies, optimize data flow and reduce operating costs. OT benefits from IT tools accessible at the edge that lead to more efficient, secure operations.

Despite IT and OT’s different needs, there are similarities — particularly when it comes to data. Both groups collect and are being flooded with data for analysis that must be protected, stored and secured. A platform equipped with tools helps SIs and their clients address pressing challenges pertaining to bandwidth, latency, and security at the edge, enabling Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, and data acquisition. With edge computing, organizations more effectively process and use data where it was generated, increasing its value.

Another thing IT and OT have in common is a resource-constrained workforce. Some platforms operate autonomously, meaning they do not burden IT or OT to monitor and keep systems online. As SIs develop solutions that align with IT and OT priorities, the right edge computing tools lighten the load by offloading routine tasks and decision-making to intelligent systems. SIs offering high-availability edge computing platforms deliver clients a reliable means to avoid downtime and stoppages. That can make the difference between wasting data or capitalizing on it.

Driving transformation at the edge

Edge computing is effective at solving IT and OT pain points and today’s platforms provide benefits including predictive fault tolerance, protection of mission-critical applications and data, manageability and serviceability and consolidation of workloads — all while still running complex software stacks behind advanced operations.

An edge computing solution can form a natural bridge between IT teams’ cloud-based services and OT teams’ need for on-premise highly available infrastructure to run critical operations — bringing the best of both worlds together. When SIs deliver edge computing solutions, everyone wins, and the full value of digital transformation can be realized from the cloud to the edge.

Author Bio: Stephen Greene, vice president of global marketing, Stratus Technologies