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The Impact of the Industrial Internet on Data Storage: Connected Machines & Devices + Analytics = New Opportunities, New System Demands

Dr. Richard Soley, Executive Director, Industrial Internet Consortium

With the rise of interconnected machines and devices, many companies are beginning to reap the benefits of deploying Industrial Internet technologies throughout their organizations: from the way data is stored to the way factories operate. The Industrial Internet integrates data from connected machines and devices with analytics to create a comprehensive picture of what is happening now and likely to happen in the future.

“Keeping all connected machines updated and bug-free – as well as up to the same security standard across the board -- will cause newfound concerns for operations executives”

According to a joint study by International Data Corporation and EMC, the Industrial Internet is driving exponential growth in the “Digital Universe”: from 4.4 zettabytes today to 44 zettabytes by 2020. In addition, IT professionals will go from storing, on average, 230 GB of data each to 1,231 GB each.

While the benefits of the Industrial Internet are well documented – predictive maintenance, lower operating costs, increased utilization rates, etc. -- the vast amount of new data that is created place clear stresses on data management infrastructure. As more and more data becomes available, legacy systems will need to be able to accommodate vast influxes of data at a single time, as well as ensure that the processing of data is continuous and smooth. To solve these issues, new thinking and new data management solutions will be needed.

One such new approach is the concept of the “industrial data lake”, coined by GE and Pivotal Inc., which allows data independent of format and structure to be managed and analyzed using a common architecture. In the past, data needed to be organized and converted into one format before it could be analyzed – a time-consuming process. Not only are industrial data lakes faster, but they are cheaper alternatives to traditional ways of managing industrial data.

GE Aviation used Pivotal technology to build an industrial data lake to integrate and run analytics on data generated from 25 different airlines. GE found that the time it took to run the analytics against the data set shrunk significantly – from months to merely days. In addition, the process saved GE’s customers one percent on their yearly fuel bill.

While it's clear that the Industrial Internet leverages the data management industry, to operate and derive analytics, there are important issues and concerns arising that need to be addressed.

Security remains a priority, and in the age of the Industrial Internet, is even more of a concern. New connectivity of data means new security exposures. As more devices and machines become connected to each other, hackers will find new ways of gaining access to the data and information that each device and machine contains. Keeping all connected machines updated and bug-free – as well as up to the same security standard across the board -- will cause newfound concerns for operations executives. In addition, the enormous amounts of data generated make it harder to pick out any suspicious traffic.

Integration of solutions from different vendors is another concern for industry players adopting Industrial Internet solutions. How are users able to receive a cohesive picture of all available data if one system won’t sync with another? Not only is this not cost-effective for the user, but it defeats the purpose of having Industrial Internet-connected systems. Industry requirements and standards will need to be put into place to keep vendor solutions integrated.

Though the answers to these problems are not yet clear, what is apparent is that the Industrial Internet requires an industry-wide approach to solving these challenges. One such organization that is working to address these issues is the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), formed by AT&T, Cisco, GE, Intel and IBM in March 2014. Now some 130+ member organizations strong, the group is working to actively accelerate the development, adoption, and wide-spread use of interconnected machines and devices and intelligent analytics. Its Data Management and Analytics team is actively working on ubiquitous data-sharing integration backbone for the architectural elements of Industrial Internet technologies.

As Industrial Internet solutions become more regularly applied to data storage, industry members will see day-to-day operations become safer, more productive, more convenient, and more cost-effective.

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