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July 23, 2021

Intelligence at the edge for smarter manufacturing

Intelligence at the edge for smarter manufacturing

By Shiraaz Singh, Network Solutions Architect at Aptronics

According to Morgan Stanley, we are entering into a new era where data is driving transformation—and this isn’t data generated in the cloud or a data centre. Billions of IoT (Internet of Things) devices are becoming connected and producing a staggering amount of data at the edge. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside a traditional centralised data centre or cloud, and over the next few years, there could be more than 20 times as many smart devices at the edge of the network as in conventional IT roles.

The rapid rise of IoT and the connection of non-IT devices to the network has blurred the lines between IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology). McKinsey describes OT as “the use of IT to manage devices, machinery, and processes in industrial environments”. With OT, data is collected through smart sensors and PLC devices rather than from devices like notebooks and servers.

For manufacturers, there are considerable benefits to converging these two distinct technology stacks and making their production equipment “internet-connected”. The data being generated can be analysed and acted on in real-time, enabling more predictive operations, accelerating decision-making, and boosting efficiencies. It can speed up innovation and improve the quality of products and services. However, it has introduced several networking challenges ranging from concerns over trust, security and ownership to increased complexity, fragmented operations, skills shortages and a lack of agility, network automation and visibility—all factors that are critical to business success. Many manufacturers are also struggling to keep pace with and derive value from the sheer volume of data being generated from an increasing number of connected devices at the edge, especially when decisions need to be made based on data analysis in real-time.

What’s more, the world is in the grip of a global pandemic, and manufacturers are grappling with ongoing supply-chain disruptions. Many have experienced significant financial and operational consequences first-hand, which has increased the urgency for them to evaluate the reliability and resilience of their operations.

The priority for most manufacturers has been safeguarding the wellbeing and welfare of their workforce, making this a critical time to adapt and explore remote working technologies to keep production up and running while decreasing the number of workers on the floor. In addition, COVID-19 has created a new reliance on technology and connectivity, with success hinging on the effective utilisation of data. As a result, many organisations are considering smart manufacturing initiatives that can drive agility, speed and performance to remain sustainable and competitive in the long term.

To realise the value of this new data era, it makes sense for manufacturers to consider investing in a secure, modern networking foundation that seamlessly unifies IT and OT and enables OT to access existing IT services while allowing data to be processed, stored, and analysed at the edge where latency is at its lowest.

Unifying, automating and protecting the edge

Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) is an AI-powered platform implemented and supported by Aptronics that is designed to unify, automate, and protect the edge, enabling organisations to quickly capitalise on new opportunities, reduce costs and stay secure. Aruba ESP combines three fundamental technology principles: AIOps, Zero Trust Security, and a Unified Network Infrastructure, and has been developed to provide a cloud experience at the edge.

Optimising the network

Aruba AIOps is a network management solution that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) together with network and user-centric telemetry data capabilities to deliver the insights needed to detect, troubleshoot and remediate network issues rapidly before they have an impact.

AIOps identifies the root cause of the problem and automatically resolves it or provides accurate change recommendations, eliminating guesswork and ensuring reliable, optimised network operations. At the same time, the automation of mundane tasks boosts productivity and frees up network operators to focus on more strategic initiatives. AIOps minimises delays and potential downtime, which could cause supply chain disruptions and ensures that network service levels are met.

Security on the Edge

As IoT devices evolve and become increasingly ubiquitous and people continue to work remotely to decrease the density of workers throughout their operations, the risk of cyberattacks has become heightened. Also, many existing manufacturing systems have traditionally focused on safety and performance rather than security, making them vulnerable to attacks. According to Deloitte, manufacturers are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals, often with dire consequences such as business continuity risks, a loss of IP and competitive advantage and financial and reputational damage.

While many manufacturers cite security concerns as one of the top factors preventing them from exposing OT infrastructure to the Internet and “outside world”, Aruba ESP’s Zero Trust identity-based security is designed to mitigate risk and safely connect and protect users and devices. Zero Trust is a security model in which no device, user, or network segment is seen as trustworthy and should be treated as a potential threat. This means that every person and device accessing the network must be authenticated and authorised. Aruba ESP does this using Dynamic Segmentation, which ensures the identity of an endpoint and automatically enforces consistent policies across wired and wireless networks to authenticate and manage every user and device connecting to the network, enabling remote working and simplifying network administration and management while detecting and preventing attacks before they can impact the organisation. Now, OT devices such as PLCs, sensors and motors can be network-connected safe in the knowledge that they are secured and not vulnerable to security breaches from the IT side.

Simplifying operations

Many manufacturers use several different network management tools within their organisations, often creating siloed, inefficient environments that are complex to manage. Unified Infrastructure simplifies operations and delivers a consistent experience across wired, wireless, and SD-WAN networking domains and campus, branch, data centre and remote worker locations through a single platform, Aruba Central.

Aruba Central is a cloud-based network management solution that allows IT to manage the network, providing access, visibility and control through a single pane of glass. Aruba Central enables IT to deliver a comprehensive gamut of services ranging from AIOps to automation and orchestration and software-defined policies to bolster security. It also provides built-in analytics for actionable network and business insights enabling predictive maintenance, real-time situational awareness of supply chains, optimised output, improved efficiency and operational resiliency.

Flexible financial and consumption models

While a few manufacturers are experiencing an increase in demand, most are seeing a decline in sales and are facing cash-flow challenges as they endeavour to support ongoing operations and meet profitability goals. As a result, most manufacturers are looking to reduce operating costs and eliminate maintenance capital to create financial reserves to build resilience.

Aruba ESP is available through several financial and consumption options, so manufacturers can have the flexibility to choose the solution that best suits their needs. Aruba ESP can be delivered as a managed service through Aptronics or via Network-as-a-Service through HPE GreenLake. Aruba ESP can also be financed through HPE Financial Services, which offers a range of flexible financing options.

Aptronics has the skills, experience, and technical know-how to design, deploy, manage and support the complete Aruba ESP offering. Partnering with Aptronics means working with a dedicated team with the expertise to close any skills gaps, which reduces costs, helps to mitigate risk and frees up IT teams, enabling them to focus on business growth initiatives rather than day-to-day operations.

HPE GreenLake for Aruba is a pay-per-use Network-as-a-Service model that enables manufacturers to cut capital spending to support operations. Companies are billed monthly for what they use, and their infrastructure is managed for them, which frees up funds and resources.

To learn more about how Aruba ESP can help manufacturers improve operational efficiencies, boost agility, reduce costs, increase security and deliver deeper customer insights, please contact us.

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