Fixing the unused-data problem with a hybrid cloud approach

Feb. 24, 2021
"The beneficiary of this work is the manufacturers."

IBM and Siemens this week announced a collaboration that aims to enhance the use and value of real-time operational data. Read about it here. 

We wanted to learn more, so we connected with Manish Chawla, IBM’s industry general manager for energy, resources and manufacturing. Take a look...

Smart Industry: Why does most data go unanalyzed? What’s the fix to this problem? 

Manish: According to a recent Forrester report, on average, between 60% and 73% of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics. Quite often the reason is because where the data is processed does not align with where it is most valuable.

For example, in the manufacturing sector, we find that most data generated is of the most value where it originated. However, with cloud-based architecture, that data has to travel up and back from the cloud, limiting the value it can provide. 

The solution to this an open, hybrid cloud architecture, which provides manufacturers with more flexibility to deploy and run digital technologies closer to where the data is generated. 

Smart Industry: What value are we talking about as a result of this cloud initiative? Who is positioned to most benefit from this?

Manish: The beneficiary of this work is the manufacturers. Our collaboration is focused on MindSphere, Siemens’ industrial IoT solution that connects with assets across the shop floor to surface data, analytics and insights tied to manufacturing operations. This collaboration brings together Siemens’ OT expertise with IBM and Red Hat’s IT expertise to give manufacturers flexibility in where and how they process their data, as well as reducing complexity. 

In some use cases, based on local regulation, competitive risk or data sensitivity, putting data in a public cloud environment is simply not possible; a private cloud is needed. Another operation for the same company may leverage a public cloud architecture. The benefit of this collaboration is that all facilities could still run the same applications, with common data governance and a set of principles. 

Another use case is making production quality checks using AI, and then making corrections in real time as the production process is being executed. This is best done when the Industrial IoT platform is operating at the edge rather than in the cloud. 

And, there are other companies concerned about data protection and cybersecurity; they avoid sending their data to a public cloud. We’ve seen a rising volume of threats and attacks on manufacturers. In fact, according to IBM’s latest X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, the manufacturing and energy industries were the most attacked industries in 2020, second only to the finance and insurance sector. Contributing to this was attackers taking advantage of the nearly 50% increase in vulnerabilities in industrial control systems (ICS), which manufacturing and energy both strongly depend on. 

Smart Industry: What is unique about this hybrid cloud approach?

Manish: So much of the process of digitization to-date has been one-dimensional: a push to the cloud. However, hybrid cloud is the future as it delivers flexibility and choice. 

Instead of only one way to deploy and run software, hybrid cloud gives the freedom of choice: autonomy, speed and control over shopfloor data processed at the edge, as well as seamless connection to the enterprise—“shop floor to top floor.” And because this is built on Red Hat OpenShift, you can deploy once and run anywhere. This can equate to significant time and cost savings for manufacturers that enables them to focus more on their operations and results.

Smart Industry: Define what you mean by “IoT as a Service”?

Manish: IoT describes the network of physical objects—things—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.  

IoT-as-a-Service describes how smart devices or even sensors on a factory floor are connected and offered as a package that delivers data, AI and insights to manufacturers.

Smart Industry: What most excites you about this initiative?

Manish: Before the pandemic, most of the investments in digital transformation were still in a largely experimental phase. Digital tools and software were more of an extension rather than a part of critical operations. The pandemic required companies to consider that everything from the supply chain, operations to worker safety be reimagined using technology. Open technologies unite and streamline these various functions to allow manufacturers to deploy them in ways that best enhance their efficiencies, keep workers safe and reduce complexity.