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How Open Software is Driving Costs to Zero and Fostering Innovation
October 28, 2021 | Albert Rooyakkers
(Note: This article is based on remarks made by Albert Rooyakkers as a part of a panel discussion during the CODESYS Tech Talk Fall 2021 customer event.)
Cybersecurity is all about driving costs to zero because almost every user is basically making a commodity. Competition, margins and prices drive everything. People don’t buy automation for the sake of automation; they buy it as a means to an end, which is to produce their commodity.
Maybe five years ago cyber security wasn’t factored into lifecycle costs at all. Now for every customer we work with — small, medium or large — cyber security is a key component. Digital transformation should really be called the cyber secure digital transformation. Otherwise, you are expanding your digital footprint and the cyberattack surface, which expands cyber risk and cyber costs.
The CODESYS software model enables the kind of innovation that drives the engineering tools cost model toward zero. You can integrate their open tools; engineer, simulate and develop with them; and the cost per user is low enough that companies like Bedrock Automation can provide their IDE and firmware at no cost.
Distributing innovation – focus on software and the network
For every pump, reactor and distillation column there are untold other pumps, reactors and distillation columns just like it. And in this open standards world, as the tools and algorithms evolve for them, they will be made available instantaneously to others with the equipment. So, we really don’t need a thousand different companies to train the algorithms. This should decrease costs while accelerating adoption.
Take cyber analytics as an example. There are companies that sell intrusion detection software and other cyber tools that require significant investment and training. But that may not be the best approach. Another way is to distribute these software functions to the edge and into the devices where the problem is. In a distributed IoT architecture, it is important to understand what is going on at every device. We have developed fundamental cyber analytics for network monitoring and run it in the device where it belongs. An added benefit is that distributed cyber analytic tools can be built with a fraction of the code and complexity of centralized tools and allow us to provide it to users at no cost.
Cyber analytics needs this approach. You need to be able to get 95 percent of the benefit at 5 percent of the software complexity and cost. All automation tech needs to be thought of in the context of the control architecture, which will be fragmented and distributed. Even a brownfield DCS upgrade at a large process facility could be replaced with a “junction box, IoT-like” solution with hundreds of distributed edge devices with IO, Control and Networking built-in. To make this work, it is all about the network, private or public, with control and cyber functions executed at every edge device.
Software is consuming automation. The functions and connectivity of every device must be software-defined. Automation as a service is likely to happen and that will also simplify and reduce the LCC for users.
The AI Connection
AI is going to play a role in cyber secure digital transformation. The costs to acquire and deploy AI are dropping dramatically. In the same way that people born today may never drive a car because autonomous algorithms will instead, this could happen to industrial processes for operations and maintenance, with AI supplanting human intervention.
Hardware still fundamental
These trends are built on a foundation of a completely different hardware model with advanced components, firmware and supply chain elements to provide intrinsically secure devices with the computing power and flexibility to be software-defined and software enabled.
For more on how intrinsic cyber security can reduce lifecycle costs download our white paper on Lifecycle Cost Analysis.