Increasingly, manufacturers are faced with a difficult choice; do the benefits of upgrading servers offset the additional cost of making such a leap?
If you enter “Industry 4.0” or “Fourth Industrial Revolution” into any online search engine, the amount of news articles, interviews, features and videos extolling the capabilities of the associated technologies will number in the thousands.
Both terms – others are also being used – encompass robotics, advanced automation, cloud computing, data analytics, cyber-physical systems, machine learning, and more; yet the day-to-day reality is that many manufacturers are still reliant on clipboard and paper processes – hardly the vanguard of 21st century manufacturing.
When a technician from global fault tolerant computer servers and software company, Stratus Technologies, is called out, it’s often to address a business’ reliability issue.
The company’s vice president of business line management Jason Andersen explained to The Manufacturer that when he walks into a brownfield site, he usually finds systems which are decades old and desktop-based, rather than server cloud-based. Systems, which Andersen describes, as being largely “unreliable” for what’s being demanded of them.
“Manufacturers have a choice. You can talk about analytics, IoT and future-proofing, but if you look at the prototypical business, simply bringing in a server system with some additional capacity and professional services provides that business with what it needs to grow.
“Further down the line, it can add a gateway or VPN [virtual private network] software, and suddenly the conversation shifts forward to asset management tools and modern programmable logic controllers (PLCs). You might not need everything tomorrow, but it’s a scalable system, offering you the capacity to grow.
“Making the decision to replace that opportunity with low-end, edgewise servers – essentially a desktop with some connectors in it – is not going to help futureproof your business. All you’re doing is swapping old for new; all it does is maintain the status quo. There’s a better way of doing this. If you’re able to, invest that bit more and put your business in the position of being able to take advantage of the next thing, and the thing after that, and so on.”