Outlook says cloudy – best practice for cloud operating models

Posted on 22 Feb 2024 by The Manufacturer
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Within the manufacturing sector there is currently a plethora of emerging technologies that are blurring the lines between physical processes and the digital world, resulting in vast and unprecedented levels of transformation across industry.

Traditional manufacturing solutions deployed on-premise are designed to manage shopfloor operations in a siloed manner, leading to islands of data and a lack of visibility across the enterprise.

However, manufacturing faces several challenges such as enhanced quality control and waste management, maintenance and downtime issues, optimal workflows and supply chain disruption. Therefore, to effectively address these issues, there is a pressing need for centralised manufacturing data and analytics platforms that enhance visibility and give manufacturers a greater understanding of what is happening within their businesses.

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“The biggest hurdles for the manufacturing industry right now is a complex cyber security landscape, a shortage of skilled workers to drive innovation and use technologies efficiently, virtualisation , getting visibility as well as correlating this in a holistic environment and partnerships between IT and OT,” said Thomas Hopfgartner, Cisco EMEA IIoT Manufacturing Lead.

With the ability to increase speed, agility and resilience of business processes, manufacturing has seen a growing trend towards cloud-based technologies i.e., the use of cloud computing to design and create operational processes and execute business objectives. Indeed, the rate of technological advancement means that cloud technology is going to be a fundamental component in the future of manufacturing.

Thomas Hopfgartner, Cisco EMEA IIoT Manufacturing Lead
Thomas Hopfgartner, EMEA IIoT Manufacturing Lead, Cisco

However, there are still barriers to entry, including cost of deployment, a lack of knowledge of how best to apply the technology, cultural barriers, siloed business segments and a lack of harmony between IT and OT operations. There can also be a marked increase in complexity once the technology has been deployed, leading to a decrease in business scalability, security and innovation.

Here, The Manufacturer speaks to Cisco to find out more about how a cloud operating model can increase a manufacturer’s agility and productivity, improve operational visibility, enhance partner collaboration and build supply chain resilience.

Benefits of the cloud

Research suggests that companies that are embracing technologies such as cloud and big data are enjoying significantly faster revenue growth. This is due to the fact that cloud processes and infrastructure have made it easier to support organisational agility; making it easier for businesses to scale up rapidly, deploy business innovation faster, support greater IT resilience and better align IT to business objectives – particularly during periods of rapid change and disruption.

A carefully planned-out cloud operating model makes businesses more efficient, agile, resilient, focused on customer and business outcomes, and ultimately, more profitable.

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If a manufacturer has a mix of cloud-native and legacy applications, hosted in differing locations, then a cloud operating model can provide greater end-to-end visibility through those processes and thus enhance user experience.

Some manufacturers, particularly SMEs, are cash poor, and as such, any investment in IT or technology, must be accompanied by a healthy level of ROI. In a technology landscape that can often be complex, that ROI can be negatively impacted by lengthy deployment times and convoluted configuring processes. Cloud can help speed this up.

With the distributed nature of cloud networks, there can be a concern among manufacturers around how to accurately identify compliance issues and risk. Once again, the enhanced visibility provided by a cloud operating model allows manufacturers to apply necessary software upgrades and patches far more easily.

Another concern for manufacturers centres around troubleshooting any cloud issues and managing network outages, Multiple connections across networks again adds an element of complexity to operations, however, cloud-based network management can provide that required clarity resulting in faster remediation and greater productivity.

With workloads spread across multiple clouds, it can also be difficult to cost-effectively manage capacity while maintaining the right level of application performance. Cloud operating principles can optmise these and offer improved application experience and reduced costs.

Although it requires a significant shift in mindset many organisations are now looking to the cloud for greater business agility and improved user experience. However, it is also essential to think about how the most advantageous features of the cloud can be combined with on-pemise environments.

The same principles and processes that support greater agility and innovation in the cloud can be applied to the network. In fact, Cisco argue that by not harmonising the two together, manufacturers are missing the chance to improve their operations, and little would be accomplished by way of addressing the complexity, lack of scalability and inconsistency created by siloed operations.

Achieving that amalgamation will involve a cultural shift that embraces the breaking down of business silos, promoting collaboration and encouraging cross-functional innovation. IT teams will need new skills, tools and processes to manage the new infrastructure, and during the transition to a cloud operating model, they will need to integrate existing on-premise network management systems with new cloud management platforms.

A rapidly developing trend among manufacturing customers and consumers of all types, is the growing demand for differentiated, bespoke and customised products. That has in turn, increased the need for manufacturers to be able to pivot and adapt quickly to shifting customer tastes. While it takes time to swap production lines, a cloud operating model can enable manufacturers to become more agile and effectively work with partners and suppliers to identify trends and respond rapidly.

The security conundrum

A key cloud-related concern for many manufacturers is the rising levels of cyber crime within the sector, and it is viewed by some that placing data, processes or even IP within the cloud increases risk and vulnerability. Therefore, security remains a major hurdle for a wider adoption of cloud technology.

And it is a fear that is by no means unfounded. Research has shown that manufacturing was the top target of nefarious actors attempting to carry out cyber extortion in 2023. Manufacturing organisations represented 20% of all cyber extortion attacks last year – a 42% increase over 2022 and 17% more than the second most targeted industry.

This rise in attacks within the sector is thought to stem from the relative lack of security maturity within manufacturing businesses – when compared to the finance or retail industries for example. Incidents of ransomware are skyrocketing and criminals are using AI to perform increasingly more sophisticated phishing attacks.

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For an industry like manufacturing, one that will do virtually anything to avoid downtime and has lengthy, often complex supply chains which create more vulnerabilities than most other sectors, a security-first mindset is no longer optional.

However, far from increasing the avenues of attack, a cloud-based operating model can actually help shore up security levels. Manufacturers are now in unanimous agreement that emerging technology is key to addressing the sector’s challenges, and those that are already ahead of the curve when it comes to deployment are often seeing increased levels of productivity, revenue and growth.

In rings true then, that technology could also provide the solution to many security risks. Indeed, in many cases manufacturers that have already moved to cloud-based models had either seen no change in the number of security incidents or have actually seen a decrease in the number of attacks.

At first glance, having your files, email and application servers close at hand at your own offices, may instill a sense of security. However, the opposite could be the case. Manufacturers – particularly SMEs – would be hard-pressed to put in place the dedicated financial and personnel resources needed to maintain an intricate web of IT security measures.

In comparison, cloud can offer manufacturers much more stringent data security, back-up processes and access control – without the ‘strings’ attached to on-premise security. In addition, a cloud operating model can offer automated compliance checks, thus reducing the number of out of compliance devices—a major source of security breaches. So, rather than a cause of fear, the cloud can be a boon for manufacturers in terms of both security and business growth.

Research suggests that companies that are embracing technologies such as cloud and big data are enjoying significantly faster revenue growth shutterstock_1676406394 (1)

Research suggests that companies that are embracing technologies such as cloud and big data are enjoying significantly faster revenue growth

How Cisco can help

There is no doubt that manufacturers must innovate rapidly to boost competitiveness and drive their businesses forward, all while preparing for greater uncertainty and risks. Integrating cloud operating models is a way to achieve this.

Cisco’s network infrastructure platforms help IT make the transition to the cloud operating model easier by delivering capabilities that promote improved, consistent and collaborative cloud, data center, and network operations. More consistent operations improve application performance, promote greater agility, reduce costs, increase revenue and deliver a stronger end-to-end security posture.

Cisco provides the most comprehensive set of solutions with the visibility, consistent policy governance and insights-driven automation for a more effective cloud operating model. Cisco offers on-premise and cloud network management solutions to meet the customer where they are, delivering flexible, optimised, simplified experiences for all customers.

Cisco’s whitepaper offers advice on how to apply the benefits of a cloud operating model across an entire digital infrastructure. Click here.

Cisco has created a fast and easy self-service tool as an essential first step toward determining how to migrate to an extended cloud operating model – one that can be applied to on-premise infrastructures. The tool can help assess how well key infrastructures embody the cloud operating model today, uncover the most significant opportunities and highlight the next steps.

Using this web-based tool, users can evaluate access networks, WAN, data centres and data centre networking infrastructures by answering four simple questions. The questions are aligned with core cloud principles and focused on overall readiness – not specific technical deployments. The user chooses which infrastructures to assess. After each set of questions, they will be given a snapshot of how to move that domain further along the cloud operating model path.

The cloud operating model can enhance the IT and application experience by reducing process fragmentation through consistent policies and end-to-end workflows. Cisco’s data center and networking platforms, provides the most comprehensive set of solutions with the visibility, consistent policy governance, and insights-driven automation for a more consistent and necessary for an effective cloud operating model.

Thomas concluded: “Technologies such as cloud and edge computing, network automation, security solutions and IIoT integration in solution approaches simplify end-to-end IT in the manufacturing industry. This solution approach includes more efficient resource management, improved scalability and better protection against cyber threats.”

Get insights to align your network management with the way you prefer to operate your manufacturing business, on-premise or in the cloud. Book a free 30 minute consultation with Cisco today.

This could be a place to highlight how automated compliance checks with the cloud operating model can reduce out of compliance devices – a major source of security breaches.

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