In today's rapidly evolving industrial landscape, businesses are constantly looking for innovative avenues to bring in more visibility, improve security and ensure cost optimization and predictability in operations. One such avenue for growth is the convergence of operational technology (OT) with information technology (IT), which can revolutionize the industrial sector by enabling real-time data exchange, analytics and automation and the seamless maintenance and management of OT assets.
What is IT-OT convergence?
IT-OT convergence refers to the integration of traditionally separate OT and IT systems, processes and expertise. It involves leveraging advanced networking technologies, data analytics, cloud computing and cybersecurity measures to bridge the gap between these domains. The goal is to create a unified ecosystem where data from industrial processes can be seamlessly collected, analyzed and used to drive operational efficiency, cost savings and innovation.
According to an IDC survey, 70% of industrial organizations will be adopting IT-OT convergence by 2025, which helps explain why we’re witnessing massive growth in these integration technologies.
Key business drivers of IT-OT convergence in the industrial sector
According to IDC, IT-OT convergence will generate $1.2 trillion by 2023. This presents a huge opportunity for the industrial sector and technology providers to derive value from their investments.
- Automation opportunities
Use real-time data — from IoT sensors — for improving automation and efficiency and reducing errors.
- Enhanced operational visibility
Enable real-time visibility, proactive maintenance and optimized resource allocation to reduce downtime and risks.
- Cost savings
Automate operations, reducing manual labor costs and enabling predictive maintenance for improved network uptime.
- New service and pricing models
Enable innovative usage-based service models to reduce upfront costs for customers.
- Decentralized, siloed processes and expertise
As IT and OT have traditionally operated in silos, it’s crucial to cross-train personnel and combine expertise for operational efficiency and security.
- Exposure to cyber risks
Cybersecurity is a significant hurdle in the industrial sector, especially with vulnerable OT systems operating on legacy protocols.
- Hard-to-integrate protocols
The challenges of integrating IT tools — including compatibility issues — impede operational efficiency.
- Skill gap
The shortage of skilled labor in the industrial sector limits the effective use of IT and OT systems.
- Costly OT expenses
OT processes and systems generally operate in siloes, making it difficult to maintain and operate them.
In addition, integration, scalability and data management also present significant obstacles to IT-OT convergence. That’s where leveraging the right technologies can be of great help.
Enabling IT-OT convergence with comprehensive networking
- Industrialized and ruggedized gateways and switches
Multiple OEM providers enable reliable and secure IT-OT connectivity, through ruggedized and low contention gateways and switches designed for harsh industrial environments and demanding applications.
- OT network connectivity solutions
Major OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) provide robust networking solutions designed for OT environments. These solutions offer reliable and secure connectivity, ensuring seamless communication between OT devices and IT systems.
- OT tracking and monitoring
These solutions provide visibility to all OT endpoints, devices and machines to help organizations identify anomalies and incidents.
- Network security solutions
End-to-end network security solutions offer complete asset inventory and help you to ensure continuous compliance and network segmentation for a strong foundation for Zero Trust.
- End-to-end solutions
Comprehensive networking solutions blend industrial IoT, cloud computing, edge computing and cybersecurity for seamless IT-OT integration, real-time insights and efficient data exchange. LoRaWAN, Wi-Fi 6, private Wi-Fi 5 and sensors offer comprehensive single-source solutions for networking needs.
- Integration platforms and APIs
These tools enable smooth IT-OT data exchange, ensuring interoperability, data integration and connectivity between legacy and modern infrastructure for seamless functionality and collaboration.
The convergence of IT with OT offers vast potential for the industrial sector. It helps in breaking down silos, mitigating cyber risks and streamlining integration, to enable effective data management and unlock significant business benefits. No wonder embracing this convergence isn't a choice anymore. It’s rather a must for organizations to thrive, innovate and gain a competitive edge in this evolving industrial landscape.
- What is OT?
Operational Technology (OT) deals with managing and controlling physical devices such as machines and equipment in industries. It focuses on how these devices work and their outcomes in the real world rather than the data and communication related to them.
- What's the difference between IT and OT?
IT encompasses computers, networking and data processing and management of enterprise IT environment. In contrast, OT is related to industrial control systems like supervisory control and data acquisition, typically found in manufacturing and industrial environments.
- What is IT/OT convergence?
IT/OT convergence is the integration of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems to enable seamless communication and coordination between physical equipment and digital systems.
- What are the benefits of IT/OT convergence projects?
There are many business benefits such as improved efficiency, reduced costs, enhanced workflows and better decision-making. IT-OT convergence allows you to directly control and monitor complex systems from anywhere. This helps you to accelerate predictive maintenance and minimize downtime.
- What are the challenges of IT/OT convergence?
Some of the prominent challenges include security, communication and training. Integrating IT and OT systems can create vulnerabilities if not properly secured. Additionally, getting IT and OT teams to collaborate and communicate effectively can be difficult due to their different skill sets and priorities. Legacy OT systems and mission-critical demands can also pose significant challenges in the convergence process.
To take the discussion forward, please write to us at Contact.NGN@hcl.com.