The Manufacturing Edge: The Nexus of IT and OT

Unifying IT and operational technology is the secret of success at the edge.
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Driving outcomes at the edge

For many organizations, edge computing is the key to leveraging new data sources that drive specific and differentiated business outcomes. Bringing more sophisticated capabilities to the edge enables you to generate exciting new opportunities. But success at the edge requires understanding of how the manufacturing edge is different from traditional clouds and data centers.

Defining operational technology

Successful edge computing requires connecting with, understanding and interpreting the operational technology (OT) space — that is, the technology that is used on the factory floor. This will spark new conversations that IT typically hasn’t had before. That’s because the focus in the past has traditionally been on IT infrastructure. Any OT products and solutions at the edge have historically been things like industrial PCs or internet of things (IoT) gateways. But now, the needs of the industrial edge are changing, providing an opportunity to unify the IT and OT landscape as never before.

Speaking to OT needs

A proliferation of sensors, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), robotics and automation are driving the need for newer technologies to manage, monitor and maintain these devices in a much different way than has been done in the past. In addition, the need for automation, analytics, predictive maintenance and operational efficiency on the factory floor is also driving demand for technologies that may have been considered to be owned by enterprise IT in the past. For example, graphical processing units (GPUs), neural processing units and tensor processing units can help OT inference and respond in real time or near real time at the edge, where data is created and where these systems live. Delivering the greatest possible value requires moving enterprise IT technologies into these OT environments.

Edge solutions such as the Dell Validated Design for Manufacturing Edge with Litmus or PTC are doing just that. Solutions like these drive efficiency on the factory floor by aggregating data and providing immediate insights that enable quick responses to problems that could cause a slowdown in production or an increase in defective products.

Where in the past Dell Technologies has excelled at helping customers modernize, automate and transform the data center, we’re now bringing that same set of principles and those same outcomes to the factory floor and doing it without creating silos of management, orchestration, automation or monitoring.

Creating a nexus of IT and OT

The latest data center technologies — such as faster processors, higher capacity and faster drives and accelerator cards — enable faster responses to data-driven insights. Now it’s time to look at applying these data center advances in a meaningful way to the edge — in this case, factory floors.

As we carry this technology over from IT to OT, Dell Technologies can help you do a few very specific things:

    • Bring our “modernize, automate and transform” experience from the data center to the factory floor.
    • Unify management, orchestration and automation to create a true fabric across OT and IT.
    • Microsegment the IT and OT environments to protect against issues like inappropriate data access, network intrusion or performance degradation.

While this nexus of OT and IT presents a few challenges, it also presents a number of opportunities.

Graphic illustration of the nexus of Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT).Changing the conversation

Creating a nexus of OT and IT requires connecting the CIO, IT director, and storage, network or server administrators with the COO, production line manager, factory manager or manufacturing design engineers. These are the people who are designing the products, operating the production lines and managing the supply chain to deliver the products and solutions that customers need.

The evolution of IT to include OT will drive new business outcomes in a way that is truly valuable. IT and OT leaders should be looking for ways to unify IT and OT, because if you can bridge that gap with  distributed compute fabric, end-to-end servicing and an end-to-end infrastructure platform — and do it in a simplified and differentiated manner — you will ultimately drive more value.

Helping manufacturers drive differentiated outcomes

IT and OT may be different, but there are common needs and a common understanding that we can help build across this whole landscape, with complete, unified and evolved solutions that can help your business operate and navigate in the new technology landscape.

Learn more at our edge solutions page.

Chistopher Laffey

About the Author: Christopher Laffey

Chris Laffey is a Sr. Principal Engineer, Technical Marketing, in the Dell Technologies Edge Strategy team. For over 30 years, Chris has combined his love of technology with storytelling to deliver an understanding of ever-evolving landscapes to all levels of learners and leaders. Within Dell Technologies, Chris has planned and executed strategic global go-to-market programs and engaged customers as a Field CTO. He has been recognized as one of the top-rated speakers for briefings, events, and enablement for our field resources and partners. In addition to spending time with his family, Chris enjoys sports, reading, writing, and listening to and performing all types of music.
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