The following is the third in a series of posts based on Rockwell Automation’s “Manufacturing Perspectives” press event at its 2012 Automation Fair in Philadelphia. The focus of this post is industrial cloud computing. Links to the previous two items in this series, which focus Manufacturing Keys to Success and Flexible Manufacturing respectively, are provided at the end of this post.
Industrial Cloud Computing
Rockwell is particularly bullish on the role cloud computing will play for manufacturers going forward. Along this line, Rockwell has partnered with Microsoft Corp. to leverage the company’s Windows Azure platform to deliver Rockwell’s solutions via cloud-based architectures.
Fran Dogherty, CTO of the Worldwide Incubation Enterprise and Partner Group for Microsoft, was a speaker at the Perspectives event. During his address, he said there are three questions Microsoft is constantly hearing from its customers:
1. How do we use technology to drive innovation?
2. How do we take new technologies and use them to increase the efficiency of our business?
3. How do we change the work environment to meet the expectations of workers/users?
Dougherty says one of the core challenges for manufacturers is to figure out how to take data and make it into something meaningful. He says cloud computing — where hardware, software and data are accessed and housed remotely — can help end-users do this by making IT resources more widely and efficiently available. However, he says the keys to success for employing cloud computing in a manufacturing environment rely on the dependability, security, and real-time accessibility of the technology.
Dougherty acknowledged that security is a central concern for users who are considering cloud computing for manufacturing. As such, he suggested a hybrid cloud architecture —where parts of the cloud are private and others are public — may be the solution.
Blake Moret, senior VP of Control Products & Solutions for Rockwell, said that Rockwell is uniquely positioned to help manufacturers leverage cloud computing to their advantage, noting that Rockwell is already providing remote support at more than 30,000 customer sites. And while he said Rockwell’s support services have historically been manual in nature, they are quickly transitioning to more remote access where customers have provided Rockwell direct links to their systems so they can monitor alarms and asset information for remote troubleshooting.
Moret said cloud computing enables remote troubleshooting of systems in an efficient manner, by leveraging a single network for monitoring rather than a bunch of disparate devices. In a cloud environment, Moret says Rockwell’s role is to provide infrastructure to enable information flow so data can be effectively analyzed to deliver useful results to customers.