Yokogawa: Automation Mgt, Security

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 @ 12:10 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Automation systems are a complex environment that will definitely looks much different in the years to come.

“Everything has a shelf life. When people bought technology 30 years ago, it was expected to last that long,” said Peter Reynolds, senior consultant at industry research firm ARC Advisory Group during his Wednesday keynote address at the Yokogawa 2012 Users Group in New Orleans. “Buy something today and it doesn’t last that long. You will have to make updates and patches more frequently.”

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Reynolds’ talk was all about future dynamics of the process automation system lifecycle management and one of the top issues moving forward was cyber security.

“Cyber security is an issue and has not been addressed the way it ought to be,” he said.

He said ARC conducted small research study of end users and found 50 percent of them are actually managing cyber security. However, in a world where the glass is either half full or half empty, that means another 50 percent are not managing their security platform.

“There is definitely a set it and forget it approach to cyber security,” Reynolds said. He said some of the responses are that cyber security is way too complex to install and a majority are implementing solutions in-house.

What the users defined by security was not immediately clear, but it does mean they are thinking of how they can defend themselves.

In talking about the system lifecycle management, Reynolds talked about the aging of technology, but not necessarily doing a wholesale change, but understanding how everything meshes together.

“Technology change may be less about technology, but more about the process,” Reynolds said. “Leaders doing this right are thinking about process first.”

There are strategies for dealing with automation lifecycle and obsolescence:
• Supplier relationship management
• Manage spare parts
• Wholesale migration
• Systematic migration
• Train and retain employees
• Virtualize and emulate
• Strategy and long range planning

One issue confronting the industry is using commercial off the shelf (COTS) products. While they are less expensive, they do have a limited shelf life.

Some of the top automation sustainability issues confronting manufacturers, Reynolds said, will be the idea COTS requires a different approach to maintenance, there is a changing support role, software version control will require continual updates, the security architecture will need to change where there will be a active definition to a secure plant.

Reynolds also added a few ideas on what manufacturers can do to improve sustainability of their automation investment.

One of those ideas would be to ensure plant staffs undergo proper and continuous training and another would be to build a company-wide center of excellence for cyber security.

Reynolds also talked about the growth of using the Cloud for applications that support a plant’s process automation system. “We think the Cloud is the next game changer as the fire and wheel.”

While development of the Cloud as a tool is still a potential trend that needs to develop, cyber security is not a future issue, it is a reality that is here now and will continue into the future, so a solid defense in depth model will be a requirement for manufacturers.

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