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IoT projects succeed best when operations and IT are singing the same tune

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Dr. Tom Bradicich, Vice President and General Manager, Servers and IoT Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

The farmer and the cowman should be friends.
Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends.
One man likes to push a plough, the other likes to chase a cow,
But that’s no reason why they cain’t be friends.

Territory folks should stick together,
Territory folks should all be pals.
Cowboys dance with farmer’s daughters,
Farmers dance with the ranchers’ gals.

—From “The Farmer and the Cowman” 1

When Oscar Hammerstein II wrote those words for the song from Oklahoma! in 19432, computing was still in its infancy. However, in the years since, new territories have been established. Rather than carving up the prairie, today our territory is the enterprise, and, yes, we territory folks should all be pals, especially in this brave new world of converged and connected network infrastructures.

In addition to the changes in the technologies with which we work, the ways in which we work are changing across the enterprise. I’ve explained some of these changes in previous blog posts.3

In addition to preparing the organization for various hardware and software changes, there are some new, strategic personnel alliances that should be formed for these technologies to work optimally and benefit the organization. If you’re an engineering or operations technology professional—an OT—consider how to work side by side with an IT professional. If you’re an IT professional, consider reciprocating.

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OT/IT collaboration is essential for IoT projects

Right now, there's an opportunity to advance Internet of Things (IoT) solutions through tighter collaborations between OT and IT.

Often, these are two different worlds. I’ve had an OT professional, who is a test engineering director, tell me that he connected his test and measurement systems to the corporate network, only to have IT shut them down right in the middle of his data acquisition and test.

The IT guy—the CIO’s employee—said, “Well, your system doesn’t have a corporate firewall and virus protection. I can’t leave it on my network.”

The OT guy responded, “I can’t add firewall protection because it slows down and interferes with my measurements."

This story is oversimplified, but it’s indicative of the basic tension between those two professionals’ missions in the enterprise.

That conflict can have some unusual results. I visited one company where the OT guy showed me the data center that he built. He was as proud as a peacock. This is sometimes called "dark IT." Remember, he’s not an IT guy. He built his own data center because IT wouldn’t help him. Frankly, It was a terrible data center. It did work, but it was really inefficient and too expensive. Cables lay everywhere, and hand-carrying disc drives around for data transmission was the norm.

That made me realize that OT is an underserved market for the IT skills that we have. I thought that if Hewlett Packard Enterprise, as an IT company, could help facilitate the migration of IT skills and extend empathy to OT, as well as the converse, this would be a huge value to our customers.

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Ultimately, both disciplines will converge

Get ready for convergence. You have an advantage if you’re more open to advancing the cooperation between OT and IT. So, if you’re inside the data center, let me encourage you to reach out to the person building out the IoT on the manufacturing floor or elsewhere and say, “How can I help you with IT?”

I know from firsthand experience that such cooperation works. At one of the largest energy providers in the United States, I sat down with the IT and OT staffs at the same table. They are an example of overcoming that cultural barrier. They said, “The only way we could be successful is to merge and converge OT with IT.” The proof is they have working industrial IoT solutions in deployment.

What are they doing differently? First, they’re not experimenting and waiting for standards. And they’ve deployed the technology and have a working cooperation philosophy and practice. From my point of view, that's what’s helped them deploy IoT successfully. 

“Oh, the IT and OT teams should be friends.

“There's no reason why they can't be friends.”

 

1. "The Farmer and the Cowman," Wikipedia, retrieved 9 May 2016

2. "1943: The Timeline of Computer History," Computer History Museum, retrieved 9 May 2016

3. Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions from HPE, retrieved 9 May 2016

Image credit: Flickr

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