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How to make remote access and configuration easy

Jan. 8, 2021
In this sponsored content, we talk with EZ VPN CEO Paolo Denti.

Paolo Denti is the CEO of EZ VPN, provider of IO Industry products and services specializing in industrial remote access and assistance solutions. Denti holds a doctorate in computer programming and has been working in the industrial-machine business since 1993. He’s helped hundreds of customers in finding solutions to many industrial machine-related challenges until he founded EZ VPN.

PAOLO DENTI
CEO
EZ VPN

Q: What is IO Industry?

A: IO Industry is a brand of EZ VPN, a leading company in the corporate IT sector that developed a quick and secure solution to remote-access corporate networks via VPN connection. Because of the ease of use and configuration of the EZ VPN technology, more machine builders have adopted the EZ VPN solution to access the PLC and control panel of their machines. Because of the growing demand of EZ VPN technology in the industrial IIoT sector, EZ VPN created a separate brand called IO Industry with a line of products that are designed and developed with the OEM’s and system integrator’s needs in mind. A new series of industrial-grade hardware was created, which allows users to connect via Ethernet cable and 4G or 5G. There’s also the option to connect Wi-Fi to the hardware in AP mode once on-site.

Q: There are several options for remote access to machines. Why was IO Industry developed, and why does the industrial sector need solutions such as IOcon? How does it compare with other solutions in terms of complexity and future-readiness?

A: Currently, there are several methods and solutions to connect remotely to industrial machines or systems. Unfortunately, most of them are complicated to use and require specific technical knowledge during the configuration process. Furthermore, most remote-access solutions are limited in providing remote access or a simple data retrieval. With IO Industry, we created a product that will allow the user to configure the remote connection in less than 2 minutes, but, most of all, we also provide a Docker environment that will allow you to access data from your PLC with an out-of-the-box application. This environment, called IOhub, will allow developers to create custom applications to satisfy OEM’s and customer’s needs. IOhub is included at no cost with IOcon IOX1 hardware.

Custom applications made EZ

Caption: System integrators have the total freedom to develop their own custom applications using their preferred technologies, frameworks and languages.

Q: How is IOcon different from other solutions, in terms of configurability, user management, connections and router/bridge mode?

A: IOcon was designed with the same philosophy we have for our EZ VPN products. It is a true plug-and-play solution where the remote connection is self-configuring once the device is connected to the local network. All the user has to do is to adopt and register the device in his/her account, and the VPN connection is established. We have developed IOcon using the constructive feedback that we received from our customers, who said they wanted a remote-access solution that can be plugged in and it works. That is what we delivered. IOcon works in any network condition and environment. Managing users and concurrent connections were also identified as problems with limited solutions available in the market, which is why we have designed a specific Group feature that aids in managing a group of users with no limitation on the total, allowing up to as many as fiver users per machine connection at the same time.

One more unique feature of IOcon is the ability to configure the connection in router or bridge mode. While router mode is the most used configuration when building a new machine, we wanted to give customers the additional option to simply retrofit existing machinery without having to modify the existing machine panel. The bridge-mode configuration will allow a user to plug in the IOcon hardware to the switch or router in the existing machine control panel and establish the remote connection.

Q: What assistance do you offer to customers who want to migrate?

A: We have a lot of customers migrating from their current remote-access solution to IO Industry because they find our solution easier to manage and a lot more affordable, while delivering additional useful features. We can assist customers who want to migrate to our service by implementing an automated migration using our REST API which allow them to automate 100% of the actions they can complete manually on our management website.

Q: The industrial sector is experiencing many issues with security breaches. How is IOcon addressing this significant problem?

A: Security is just as important now as it has been to users in the past, and we have applied what we’ve learned through experience in the corporate IT world to the industrial sector. EZ VPN infrastructure secures its connection using OpenVPN certificates and technology. OpenVPN is popular with million of users and, being an open platform, is constantly debugged and monitored for security flaws. EZConnect, the client we recommend for access to machines, is based on an OpenVPN technology with a useful feature that allows the user to see all possible machine connections in one spot. It will dynamically add and remote machines from the list based on the access rights received on every machine.

Q: Can you tell us more about IOhub?

A: As it applies to VPN remote connections, Industry 4.0 and IIoT do not have to be complicated. IOhub brings the same philosophy that we applied to the IOcon remote-access solution to the IIoT world.

We developed a new environment and open platform that allows OEMs, end users and system integrators to deploy existing applications in a breeze without the need to write complex custom software. Also, system integrators will have the total freedom to develop their own custom applications using their preferred technologies, frameworks and languages, and they will be able to leverage and utilize existing blocks from the EZ VPN/IO Industry platform or from any existing “Dockerized” application, public or private.

With all IOhub-capable devices, IO Industry supplies, out of the box and at no additional cost, a set of Docker containers that read data from the field/machine, using the main industry protocols, such as OPC-UA and Modbus; send and receive MQTT messages; store data either on premise or in the cloud; certify data using blockchains technology; run backups; provide Web access to the file system; monitor machine status; and much more.

On top of this, any customer or system integrator will be able to simply build custom applications using existing blocks.

The deployment of the applications is simple and easy, just like all EZ VPN products. We completed the hard work by taking out the complexity and applying best industry practices, giving users the ability to deploy and manage all installations from a centralized website.

With IOhub users are able to configure and deploy a full-fledged system to collect data on a remote installation or machine. And they can decide whether to store data in the cloud or to store it on premises, making it easy to create charts anywhere.

In line with our company strategy, we are not developing proprietary technologies that force users to employ proprietary languages, frameworks, software development kits or runtimes. Instead, we are just bringing all the power of Docker containers to the hands of our customers by hiding all the complexity to set up environments, install, deploy, configure, maintain and monitor system statuses.

For more information, visit www.ioindustry.com.

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