Hyperconverged Infrastructure in Manufacturing: Changing with the Times
Increasingly there is greater importance being placed on finding the best way to transform IT infrastructure in the manufacturing industry, primarily to meet the need for efficient operations and growing customer expectations. To service these demands, the manufacturing industry is looking to hyperconvergence for the potential benefits it can provide and enable its growing use of the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, and its need for more effective edge computing systems.
Manufacturing businesses have the opportunity to operate as much smarter organisations through the implementation of the right industrial IoT. Edge computing and IoT enable manufacturers to decentralise the workload, and to collect and process data at the edge or nearest to where the work is actually happening, which can overcome “last mile” latency issues. Edge computing also reduces complexity and enables easier collection and initial analysis of data in real time.
Processing work near where it is also being created and collected becomes possible when using edge data centres. They allow more in-depth processes and analytics, as they act as an intermediary between IoT edge devices and larger enterprises. However, many manufacturing organisations have faced a number of hurdles as they have endeavoured to deploy, manage and enjoy the benefits of IoT and edge computing. And that’s where hyperconvergence can make all of the difference.
There are, however, common misconceptions around the term ‘hyperconvergence’ that need to be unpicked in order to unlock the benefits of IoT and edge for organisations in the manufacturing sector.
The perception of hyperconvergence has changed over time, but, in its earliest days, it was a converged infrastructure solution that included the hypervisor for virtualisation. This is a critical distinction as it has specific implications for how architecture can be designed for greater storage simplicity and efficiency.
Anyone can provide a native hypervisor. Hypervisors have become a market commodity with very little feature differences between them. With free, open source hypervisors like KVM, anyone can build on KVM to create a hypervisor that is unique and specialised to the hardware they provide in their hyperconverged appliances. Many vendors still choose to stay with converged infrastructure models, perhaps banking on the market dominance of VMware―even with many consumers fleeing the high prices of VMware licensing.
Hyperconverged infrastructure saves money. By utilising a native hypervisor, the storage can be architected and embedded directly with the hypervisor, eliminating inefficient storage protocols, file systems, and VSAs. The most efficient data paths allow direct access between the VM and the storage; this has only been achieved when the hypervisor vendor is the same as the storage vendor. When the vendor owns the components, it can design the hypervisor and storage to directly interact, resulting in a huge increase in efficiency and performance.
Including the hypervisor natively in the solution increases management efficiency, as the necessity for another vendor is eliminated. A single vendor that provides the servers, storage, and hypervisor makes the overall solution much easier to support, update, patch, and manage without the traditional compatibility issues and vendor finger-pointing. Ease of management represents significant savings in both time and training from the IT budget.
Hyperconvergence in Manufacturing: Carrs Tool Steels
One example of a manufacturer that turned to hyperconvergence is Carrs Tool Steels, a leading provider of high-quality steel, founded in 1902. Previously, Carrs Tool Steels had standalone, non-virtualised servers, which often operated multiple functions meaning it carried the risk of taking down the whole network. When the risk that the legacy servers could stop business operations became too high, the company decided to look for a more resilient platform for its systems. The company chose to upgrade its IT environment to a hyperconverged solution that could be managed automatically, and that would improve performance and reduce the risk of downtime. Carrs Tool Steels is now a future-proofed business.
Partnering with the cloud
Hyperconverged infrastructure has the ability to be used alongside other infrastructure solutions, including the cloud, as it is a fully-functional virtualised platform.
Hyperconverged infrastructure offers many of the same benefits as cloud computing: it is simple and easy to manage on premises. In fact, for most organisations, a hyperconverged infrastructure may be the private cloud solution that is best suited to their environment.
Unlike the arguably outdated ways of 3-2-1, hyperconverged infrastructure allows IT administrators to focus on their workloads and apps. Gone are the days of occupying themselves with managing infrastructure - they can focus on more important, value-adding matters. It is clear to see that a hyperconverged solution can be the perfect match to cloud: it is fast, easy and scalable, which is exactly what the modernised manufacturing industry needs.
By Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO, Scale Computing
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.