Is moving your SCADA system to the cloud right for your company?

Cloud computing is a hot topic. As people become increasingly reliant on accessing important information through the Internet, the idea of storing or displaying vital real-time data in the cloud has become more commonplace. With tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, and Google pushing forward the cloud computing concept, it seems to be more than just a passing trend.


Recently the focus of cloud computing has started to shift from consumer-based applications to enterprise management systems. With the promise of less overhead, lower prices, quick installation, and easy scalability, cloud computing appears to be a very attractive option for many companies.

Common questions surround this new technology: What is the "cloud"? What kind of information should be stored there? What are the benefits and risks involved? Is is moving toward cloud computing right for your company?

Cloud computing is not a "fix-all" solution. It has strengths and weaknesses, and understanding them is key to making a decision about whether it’s right for your company. We'll explore the major benefits and risks involved, and give you a set of factors to consider when choosing what information to put on the cloud.

Read the full version of the white paper "Cloud-Based SCADA Systems: The Benefits and Risks" now.

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  • <p>I read with interest the white paper "<a href="http://www.controldesign.com/whitepapers/2011/111202-inductiveautomation-cloud.html">Cloud-Based SCADA Systems: The Benefits and Risks</a>" from Inductive Automation, on the ControlDesign.com website last week. In my view, the paper makes a good case for why many existing SCADA systems may not be suitable for the cloud. It would probably be a mistake to plop a traditional SCADA package up on a cloud server and expect it to perform as well as running it in-house. </p> <p>Some may claim that putting SCADA in the cloud is an either/or choice. If that's how a system is designed, then it will suffer from the problems that the paper points out. But that's not how it needs to be done. A plant must be able to run in the absence of a cloud system, at least until technology and reliability catch up with the ultimate promise of cloud computing. The cloud can be seen as the logical extension of the in-plant system, and the proper selection of the software running in-plant will determine the success of moving into the cloud. We don't see traditional SCADA systems providing that basis directly—they're too tightly coupled to the LAN and a single-server/multiple-client model. The problems mentioned in the paper are not fundamental to cloud systems; they're fundamental to traditional SCADA architecture. </p> <p>What is really called for is a new way of thinking, a new type of infrastructure for real-time cloud computing that can support SCADA properly. For example, latencies between a process and an operator must be minimized by using event-driven architectures all along the data path, rather than relying on high-latency polling. Process data needs to flow one way from the plant to the cloud, without opening any firewalls. In addition, redundant cloud systems should mirror the complete data path from plant to user, and allow for hot-swapover capability between multiple cloud service providers. In general, cloud systems for real-time data need to be able to act like middleware components, not as single-point-of-failure servers.</p> <p>Given a proper infrastructure, cloud computing can be a viable alternative for industrial users. We discuss these topics, and more on the <a href="http://realtimecloud.wordpress.com/">Real-Time Cloud</a> blog.</p>

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