Are Sunny Days Possible in the Cloud?

September 23, 2011

Do you remember not too long ago hopping into your car, driving, across town (when gas was $1- something) to your local retail store and searching the computer department to purchase a cereal box that contained between 2- 8 3.5” (or are you “wise” enough to remember 5.25” floppy) disks?  The disk contained software that would entertain us, make us more productive and educate.  If you don’t remember that, how about going to the record store and perusing the aisles for hours reading the CD boxes that were twice as big as the CD.

Well those days seem long past; and inserting a disk in anything these days….well, seems a bit ancient.


We’re now spoiled with the conveniences of iTunes,, Facebook, Youtube, Yahoo Mail, etc..  In addition, we’re all too familiar with the seemingly millions of applications that run on a myriad of mobile appliances.  None of these programs run on our PC’s hard drive.  They’re browser based applications that are essentially utility services which we share with thousands of users.

So, I began to ponder the question, “What’s the big deal about the Cloud in Manufacturing and Enterprise?” 

Is Cloud right for Manufacturing?

Most of us do not really care where our software is coming from—we just want stuff that works… right?  One thing the “Cloud” model produces is this proliferation of different service models.  These would be the infamous “aa” models.  Not to be confused, of course, with the model that contains 12 steps, but Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Everything as a Service (XaaS) in private or public deployment.  The potential merits of these new service models are well chronicled, especially for the business enterprise.  For example, the prospect of a simplified cost and consumption model, faster provisioning of systems and applications, ease of integration and flexible and resilient business continuity, among other things are always worth the development and risk.

Manufacturing and process applications are a slightly different animal than the typical enterprise network.  It’s a big issue when you lose strategic sales data or have trouble accessing the data when you have to report your quarterly numbers to the Sales VP, but it can be a catastrophic condition when your SCADA network brings down a complete line in your semiconductor fab or methane production plant costing your organization millions of dollars per hour.  Or worst posing significant physical safety issues to your employees as a result of network bandwidth issues.

So, can there be sunny days in the cloud?  Or does security, and network resiliency concerns and hurdles produce more storms, hurricanes, and tsunamis impeding the intended merits of the “Cloud”?  Another main concern is that these hurdles regulate “Cloud” deployment to batch processed or non mission critical applications.


Cisco believes that gaining the advantages of cloud computing in manufacturing and process environments revolve around establishing a trusted approach to the cloud. Without trust, the economics of cloud computing make little difference.

Trust in the cloud centers on four core concepts:

Security – Traditional issues around data and resource access control, encryption and incident detection

Control – The ability of the enterprise to directly manage how and where data and software is deployed, used and destroyed

Service-Level Management – The definition, contracting and enforcement of service level agreements between a variety of parties

Compliance – Conformance with required regulatory, legal and general industry requirements

I have this utopian dream where companies run their manufacturing and process applications from the Cloud.  Can you imagine the disruptive technologies that would spawn from providing a “Cloud” network platform that:

  1. Produces a network that is faster than the control system
  2. Provides deterministic packet delivery
  3. Enables synchronization across the system
  4. Meets data throughput requirements for motion control applications

This would make for a sunny day indeed.  Think it’s impossible?  Well In 1995, I never thought I would be able to stream High Definition video through my home network connection.

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