25 April 2012 by James Hayes
- a sector not normally associated with its heartland mainstream business computing; but Cisco has big plans not only for the smart technology that's coming into factories and assembly lines around the world, but also for the next-generation of technologists who'll be tasked with making it all work - and in manufacturing that means manufacturing engineers, rather than conventional ICT techies who provide CCNP rankers.
In respect to the first, Cisco 'reinforced its commitment to the industrialisation of the Internet' with the launch at Hannover of the Cisco IE 2000 industrial switch series. This class of devices is designed specifically for the build-out of intelligent networks for industrial automation that link the plant floor to enterprise networks.
This glib phrase belies the fact that managing datacommunications within manufacturing plants or assembly lines is not only hugely different to running business applications in offices, but it also requires competent personnel who can work the kit, and integrate it with strong-arm robotics and big metal that stamps and molds and hisses. To this end company has revealed that it is "looking at the possibility of Cisco training and certification for manufacturing professionals", according the Maciej Kranz, VP/GM of Cisco's newly-established Connected Industries Business Unit, speaking exclusively to E&T.
Cisco regards manufacturing - smart manufacturing, more specifically - as a major new potential market for its solutions, and that potential seems so evident that it is surprising that some of its erstwhile competitors haven't grasped the possible benefits of strutting their stuff in front of procurers visiting the world's biggest industrial fair.
An important driver of change here are sensors, Kranz points out: "The growth of sensor-based data is just unprecedented," he says. "They are now being installed in many industrial environments where they haven't been before, or certainly not in such a sophisticated way. Oil rigs, for instance, fitted with sensors for various applications, generate terabytes of data. And as that data builds-up organisations need to traffic it and analyse it. In some ways this is not so much different from the datacommunications that Cisco has been doing for years - the same issues like security and resilience still apply, of course - except that the units have to be much more robust." Kranz's unit's engineers have been busy finding ways to make Cisco kit ready (think ruggedised routers) for these tough environments.
"Barriers between the IT and OT [operational technology] worlds are just breaking down," Kranz avers, as the latter increasing calls for "levels of sophistication that have up till now been the preserve of enterprise IT".
The time has only just become right for Cisco's move. Up until quite recently industrial computing platforms had to have very high levels of reliability and robustness because they were so often operating alongside safety critical systems. Another point not to be overlooked is Cisco's reputation for the build-quality of its existing product lines, and the fact that as a company that has been closely involved in the manufacture of product hardware for over 20 years, it's had plenty of experience of life on the factory floor.
Edited: 25 April 2012 at 02:37 PM by James Hayes
Posted By: James Hayes @ 25 April 2012 02:29 PM General
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