Before the advent of sensors in cars, phones, thermostats, refrigerators and factory-floor devices, information technology and operational technology were two different worlds. The Internet of Things is changing that.
Now, as a sea of data is sucked in to all kinds of devices in all sorts of places, there is an increasing need to merge IT and OT in order to collect, store and analyze information in the most cost-efficient manner possible — all in real time. The network edge increasingly is where the action is, as these worlds come together.
Enterprises now use edge computing to create “smart” buildings and cities, more efficient factory floors and unique retail customer experiences. It’s a huge opportunity for vendors like IBM, Cisco, GE and HPE.
“We’re on the front lines powering the intelligent edge as your enterprise stretches from deeply connected digital workplaces to intelligently monitored operations to transformative experiences for your customers,” said HPE CEO Meg Whitman in a keynote address at the company’s Discover conference in Las Vegas this week.
“We’re getting more and more data at the edge so that data doesn’t have to travel back and forth to the data centre or to the cloud and the reality is that often data has to be captured and analysed at the edge, reducing latency,” Whitman said.
At last year’s Discover, HPE introduced what it called the first converged systems for IoT. The Edgeline EL1000 and EL4000 systems are based on Intel’s Xeon processors and offer built-in computing, storage and data-capture, essentially taking data-center power to the edge of the network in hardware that can be mounted on all sort of things, in factory floors, rail cars or even wind mills.
Now, HPE is launching an Edgeline Services Platform (ESP), a software foundation layer on which the company and its partners can build and plug in apps for acquiring and managing data from a variety of different sources. The idea is that by adding analytics — and when appropriate, cloud services — companies can get insights and facilitate action to improve customer experiences as well as their own bottom line.
ESP is an open platform: It can run on Intel’s Xeon, Linux or Windows, incorporates the PXI modular electronic instrumentation platform standard, and HPE is publishing specs for it.
“We are embracing OT,” said Tom Bradicich, HPE’s general manager for servers, converged edge and IoT systems.
“When we get to the edge, out of the data center, we see a whole new world that’s quite popular and very large but it’s not IT,” Bradicich said. “The reason we bring them together is because customers want us to. There are different edges but the most popular edge is IoT because that’s achieved celebrity status.”
Along with the introduction of the new platform, HPE is coining a term for what it calls a new product category: software-defined OT. Edgeline systems incorporate HPE’s iLO firmware, allowing them to be controlled from the data center or even from remote devices using HPE management software.
Along with the Edgeline Services Platform, HPE this week introduced the Edgeline Data Aggregation App, which plugs into the platform and can ingest data from Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), which are essentially OT devices.
HPE also announced the Edgeline Address Translation App, which converges tasks related to network address translation, from a larger network — on a factory floor for example — to subset networks such as specific manufacturing lines.
Essentially, HPE is allowing enterprises to do away with separate proprietary routers and switches, replacing those devices with hardware and software integrated into the Edgeline platform.
Bradicich uses the smartphone as a metaphor. Nowadays, you don’t need a camera, flashlight, or music player if you carry a phone — all those functions have been integrated via processor technology or software into one device, he notes.
HPE is pricing the new software, available now, in several ways: separately (on customer demand), bundled in an Edgeline appliance, or with a Services agreement.