Cost savings and operational efficiency can be achieved by using cloud-based software or combining it with an on-site strategy.
Automation, control, and instrumentation vendors are increasingly offering cloud-based software. Automation software should reside where it is needed by end users. In what circumstances is it more prudent to use software-as-a-service (SaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) than to own the software?
As plant operations become more flexible and agile, automation systems are being called upon to do more. In the era of Industry 4.0, “intelligent” production is expected to become more prevalent. Information technology (IT) progressive business compliance technologies are employed to improve decision-making processes using smart objects, autonomous products, and smart decision-making processes.
As industrial enterprises become increasingly connected, it is increasingly important to avoid situations in which their intellectual property (IP) and critical infrastructure are made public. This concern is compounded by the nature of modern control platforms, as well as the facilities themselves. Modbus and Ethernet were introduced to the industrial automation sector in 1979 and the early 1990s, respectively. Communication was simplified through these standards, but there was a potential for bad behavior as well.
A lack of budget and requirements for reliability, stability, and longevity have prevented industrial manufacturers from adopting robust security strategies. The hardware and software of many industrial control systems (ICSs) last for 30 or more years without needing to be changed. It is possible to expose automation systems anywhere – whether in the cloud or on-site – by using Ethernet, in different mediums. The term on premises or on prem can also be used to describe on-site architectures.
Computing in the cloud is on the rise
Due to trends associated with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), mobile, wireless, cloud, and cybersecurity, there has been a significant change in the control and automation landscape recently.
Banking and enterprise systems have adopted cloud computing as a paradigm for computing. A critical process must be protected from unauthorized access through robust physical security, firewalls that are continuously managed, intrusion detection software, and encryption. Defending IP is done using a defense-in-depth strategy. Enterprise management and automation hierarchy have generally been the only areas where cloud-based industrial solutions are used.
Cloud computing offers many benefits, including:
- Standardization of development, test, and simulation environments reduces setup and configuration costs.
- It is possible to configure distributed engineering resources for multiple projects and multiple users, regardless of their location.
- The ability to reduce on-site physical footprint, hardware, software, and maintenance while focusing on the core competencies of managing assets.
- The right cybersecurity solutions are available to protect intellectual property and keep the system up to date.
- Investment costs are reduced to the actual use when a demand-oriented pricing model is used.
Cloud computing-including SaaS and PaaS-is increasingly being used by manufacturers to design and operate industrial control systems.
Services such as SaaS and PaaS are growing
The SaaS model involves hosting applications on the developer’s server and making them available to customers online. When it comes to process control, SaaS implies extending the capabilities of existing in-house systems beyond what they could do by incorporating data collection, integration, and distribution capabilities.
As a result of SaaS, process monitoring can be conducted in real-time thanks to access to plant data. A predictive maintenance program can also be driven by Big Data. In other words, KPIs and dashboards enable facility-wide or enterprise-wide visibility, focusing attention on what’s important and otherwise leveraging existing and new SCADA investments.
In comparison to traditional software ownership, SaaS can result in significant cost savings when properly implemented. A cloud service model offers minimal hardware and software setup costs while delivering high availability and redundancy, which facilitates application maintenance. The underlying IT infrastructure is managed and controlled by the end users. Monthly or annual fees are charged for all software licenses, security, networking, and computing, reducing capital expenditures (CapEx). Services are accessed for a one-time fee. It is common for organizations to pay only for the services they use and to add or remove them as they see fit.
SaaS also has the advantage that the automation services provider usually provides updates to the software applications. Providers will work with customers to ensure all installed software is updated and patches are applied in accordance with current software releases and application requirements. In order to reduce support costs while improving security, the provider takes on this added responsibility.
Software development and testing organizations benefit from PaaS by gaining access to efficient programming environments and development tools. Streamlines the development process by providing a centralized development environment that can be accessed at any time.
Simulation environments can be found in some cloud-based environments to test project applications in advance of launching them in production. In the past, industrial organizations have used custom software and database applications, but in the cloud they are deployed as virtual machines (VMs). As well as providing a platform and tools, the automation service provider can also provide cloud application development services.
SaaS and PaaS applications can sometimes use the same software. PaaS could be used to develop applications for control and process engineering and SaaS to run them in production environments. Automating, controlling, and monitoring distributed assets are now available through off-process development environments (Open VEP) or SCADA software tailored to provide enterprise-level reliability and security.
This software can be installed in a data center with direct telecom and internet connections that allow high-speed and reliable connectivity to all remote devices and a complete overview of the business.