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Choosing the right cloud for the industrial internet of things

Choosing the right cloud for the industrial internet of things
More manufacturers are deploying solutions that build upon the industrial internet of things (IIoT), making operators also look to cloud computing technologies.
More manufacturers are deploying solutions that build upon the industrial internet of things (IIoT), making operators also look to cloud computing technologies. 

Benefits of cloud computing for IIoT

There are many benefits of using cloud computing for IIoT. One being that a cloud service provider handles all IT-related issues such as security, scalability, user management, storage, hardware and connectivity aspects, leaving factories to focus on what they do best: manufacturing, according to Patrick Smits, Marketeer at Ixon.

Manufacturers are also leveraging cloud computing to take advantage of resource-intensive, advanced analytics and machine learning technologies. “Using cloud technologies, manufacturers can gain additional insights, which are identified in the cloud using advanced analytics and then fed back to the operational environment. This expertise may also come from industrial equipment manufacturers that offer third-party digital services to manufacturers,” said Enrique Herrera, Industry Principal for Manufacturing at OSIsoft.
Enrique Herrera, Industry Principal,
Manufacturing, OSIsoft

Already many manufacturers have started to adopt machine learning models and are applying them to smart manufacturing data, according to Richard Howells, VP of Solution Marketing at SAP. Doing so allows manufacturers to minimize repeatable tasks capable of being performed by software, improve the accuracy and predictability of maintenance schedules, and drive first-time-right results across the organization. Furthermore, since cloud environments offer almost unlimited compute and processing power, it can also provide a similar interface for work from the different points of view of different employees, engineers and senior management.

Cloud-based networks of connected assets are also enabling manufacturers to shift their business models to be more prescriptive than reactive. By creating a central repository for collecting and tracking critical information, cloud computing further allows manufacturers to develop smarter products to capture more information about how they are operating and performing around the globe, Howells added.

Additionally, there are economical and environmental benefits to using cloud computing for IIoT. Using an IIoT cloud platform with shared infrastructure can save costs and lower overall power consumption.

Private or public cloud?

There are several main considerations when choosing between public or private cloud for IIoT. These include economies of scale, speed to provision and integration to manufacturing enterprise solutions. It is also important to understand what the user’s end goal is for utilizing cloud.

A private cloud could be ideal for customers who want their own dedicated platform with isolated data, storage and network environments. Since a private cloud would require the manufacturer to take care of essentials such as security, scalability, flexibility, data integrity, back-ups themselves, it is a good solution for those looking to attend to their own data security, privacy and protection needs. 

On the other hand, a public cloud solution means the above-mentioned essentials (e.g., security, flexibility, etc.), are all taken care of by the cloud provider. This may be preferable to some manufacturers. 

Overall, worldwide spending on public cloud services is expected to more than double between 2019 and 2023, according to a report from the International Data Corporation (IDC). Discrete manufacturing — manufacturing of distinct items — accounts for a big portion of this growth. 

Howells pointed to another opportunity, one that brings the benefits of private and public clouds together: a multi-cloud. “Multi-cloud is a strategy in which companies can store and manage their software in the cloud environments that best fit with their chosen environment and software, such as AWS, OpenStack, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform or others, helping companies realize both cost savings and efficiencies,” he explained. 

Regardless, no matter which cloud model a smart factory chooses, the top priority should be understanding the individual business needs and matching that with the top benefits of each type of cloud environment.

User education will promote growth

For now, one of the main challenges is convincing manufacturers that cloud solutions are more secure than most private cloud or on-premise solutions, where local IT departments are responsible for the security and management of data. Cloud providers actually have a much better track record in securing data and connectivity options than most local IT departments, according to Smits. Ultimately, more in-depth training and education of cloud benefits could help ease the concerns of manufacturers and further propel adoption.

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