Collaboration between Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) is becoming a necessity to design and deploy an industrial network architecture that follows IT best practices for security, high availability, and quality of service.
However, skills gaps still exist between IT and OT that can jeopardize effective planning and configuration of the physical and logical network fabric, especially at the switch level. In the words of Panduit Solutions Manager Dan McGrath, “My contention is that two kinds of switches are found in many plants today: (1) unmanaged and (2) poorly managed!”
Dan makes a point worth considering, as unmanaged switches are often deployed to enable quick initial startup of the machine or process. However, this short-term gain can turn into a long-term loss when the time comes to scale more nodes or integrate single machines into the wider factory network, in the form of increased time and materials costs.
Deploying managed switches is a definite step up, but can give plant teams a false sense of manageability and security. If managed switches are deployed as plug-and-play devices without attention to configuration and setup, IT/OT directors may be left with a network that works on Day 1 but is teetering on the edge of functionality or with major security flaws.
To update a famous acronym, I think there is a better approach that IT and OT teams can follow that will drive better network planning and increased team collaboration: Know, Integrate, Simplify, and Standardize, or K.I.S.S.