In May, ARC Advisory Group has hosted its European Industry Forum (EIF) in the Meliã Hotel Sitges in Spain. The European Industry Forum is part of ARC’s successful series of worldwide conferences in the USA, India, China, and Japan.
A highlight of the ARC European Industry Forum was the much-anticipated workshop on “How IT and OT are converging”. The workshop featured a panel of seven industry experts who discussed the topic from a variety of angles and issues. The heart of the matter involves how the industrial world has kept its distance from the IT world. In many ways, the two were not compatible: short product life cycles, frequent updates, open systems and non-deterministic networks were simply too risky to use inexpensive industrial equipment with long lifecycles. Even as Windows-based HMI became the norm in plants, automation architectures remained proprietary.
According to our panel members, this situation is now quickly changing as the influence of IT grows in automation. Inspired by initiatives like Industrie 4.0 and IIoT, today’s automation solutions use more commercial computer, networking and information technologies than ever before. IT standards are pervading industry and threaten to replace existing industry standards.
A good example of commercial IT’s growing influence is the combination of OPC UA, a unifying language for dissimilar automation devices, and time-sensitive networks (TSN), a new IEEE standard that adds determinism to Ethernet, a hitherto lacking component that had been the root cause for the creation of at least six non-compatible versions of “industrial” Ethernet. This new, purely standard technology could in the future replace industrial Ethernet versions such as EtherNet/IP, Profinet, Powerlink and CC-Link IE with a single, unifying solution. The problem is, of course, the installed base of existing networks. According to our experts, network organizations will likely create migration paths to the new technology. The adoption probably will be slow at first as industry asset lifecycles are long.
In addition to technology aspects, the panel also discussed the implications of this convergence on partnerships and alliances, as well as the fact that IT companies are moving in on the traditional, profitable business of automation suppliers.
In May 2018, ARC will host its European Industry Forum (EIF) again. For further details, please contact your Client Manager or email email@example.com.