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How Converged Edge Systems Enable Firms to Build an Intelligent Edge

AudreyCox

Before the advent of the industrial internet, information technologies (IT) and operational technologies (OT) lived in two different worlds:

  • Information Technologies – the spectrum of technologies for information processing, including software, hardware, communications technologies, and related services. IT is designed to provide business services and mostly operates out of a centralized information aggregation, processing, and dissemination facility is known as the data center.
  • Operational Technologies- hardware and software technologies that detect and creates change by the direct monitoring or control of physical devices, processes, and events. OT is designed to provide operational services and insight and placed on the "shop floor," alongside machinery and equipment, in autonomous vehicles, smart cities, smart grids, wind turbines, retail stores, and the supply chain.

Pre-IoT IT and OT had little incentive to commingle. They were owned and operated by two different sets of resources. OT infrastructure has always been outside the IT domain. IT has never appreciated the nuances of OT systems. The data sharing is therefore limited, unidirectional, and mostly transactional.

However, IoT bridges the gap between IT-OT rapidly. Data is no longer just under the purview of IT or OT. While OT has been collecting detailed operational data for as long as IT, it was just mostly isolated to the plant or field. Smart and connected devices which are under the purview of OT enable additional data collection, assimilation, and control which is analyzed and fed back by IT to OT. There is a need to collect, store, and analyze data in a cost-efficient and timely manner. The convergence is spilling over data and insight from one side of the gap to the other. The convergence led the industry to recast the boundaries for IT and OT and also enables IT and OT to blend their data and system.  It led to a tiered data-centric model known as Core-Edge-Endpoint.

 

IT-OT Convergence, Intelligent Edge, and Software-Defined OT

The industry is moving into a new paradigm known as the "Intelligent Edge," which is about delivering data and resources to people and things via networks.

Converged Edge pic.png

The Edge consists of an IT Edge and an OT Edge, each with separate infrastructure design.  An Intelligent Edge combines the two edges. In other words, it's designed to carry out OT and IT functions seamlessly without separate infrastructure.    It brings IT-OT convergence with a common infrastructure that addresses both IT and OT requirements. A converged and intelligent IT/OT Edge is capable of hosting IT apps and OT systems and software on a common infrastructure layer, enabling a seamless Core-Edge-Endpoint IT-OT infrastructure.

Moving OT functions onto a converged tier requires making much of it software defined. Software defined OT (SD-OT) moves OT functions into software running on industry-standard hardware, which can access or even host OT control systems. Alternatively, OT-related control and data acquisition functions are network-based and can be performed from the Core or anywhere in the Edge. With SDOT, the OT software, like IT software, can run on bare-metal on virtual machines and increasingly inside application containers. As a part of the IoT initiative, firms can fully shift development burden from hardware to software.

 

What HPE has to offer in Converged Systems?

HPE is now taking the concept further by introducing Converged Edge Systems — converged IT/OT systems that enable firms to build an Intelligent Edge. Converged Edge Systems are ruggedized general-purpose systems that build datacenter-grade industry-standard computing hardware and integrate OT functions such as control and data acquisition systems. Since many IT functions require significant computing resources, Converged Edge Systems need space and power efficient hardware that provides:

  • Connectivity: Includes high-speed data acquisition connectivity from sensors wired or wirelessly and data transfer to another Edge tier or the Core for further processing.
  • Compute: Enables an appropriate level of compute — either data center grade or low power compute — for performing data acquisition and analytics.
  • Actuation and control hardware: Host action and control OT hardware to control robotic arms, autonomous cars, conveyor belts, and wind turbines.

 

HPE’s EL1000 and EL4000 are the differentiator

HPE introduces the IoT Edgeline portfolio in the summer of 2016. The Edgeline EL10 and EL20 are Intel Atom-based, industry-standard, general-purpose IoT Gateways for data aggregation, transfer, and persistence. On the other hand, the Edgeline EL1000 and EL4000 Converged Edge Systems are Intel Xeon-based industry-standard servers, designed with a generous amount of compute, data capture and persistence, and integrate OT functions such as control, data acquisition, and industrial networks.

In 2017, HPE launched the Edgeline Services Platform (ESP) — a software foundation layer on which HPE and its partners can develop and deploy software-defined and converged IT–OT applications such as combined data capture and analytics. HPE intends to maintain ESP as an open platform; it can run Linux or Windows and incorporates the PXI modular electronic instrumentation platform standard for control and high-speed data capture. ESP also includes:

  • Edgeline Data Aggregation App (EDA), which plugs into the platform and can ingest data from OT devices such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs)
  • Edgeline Address Translation App (EAT), which converges tasks related to network address translation from a larger network (such as a factory floor) to subset networks such as specific manufacturing lines

 

HPE believes that Edgeline and ESP enable the company to build a SD-OT ecosystem, one in which the Edgeline systems are themselves controlled from the Core or the Edge. HPE wants to empower firms to replace separate proprietary routers and switches with a Converged Edgeline platform, which runs all IT and OT software centrally.

"Embracing SD-OT and IT–OT convergence with converged Edge systems as a part of an intelligent Edge strategy accelerates IoT readiness," said Ashish Nadkarni, program director, Computing Platforms, at IDC.

 

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About the Author

AudreyCox

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