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Socialising SCADA let it SNoW

Rob Bamforth, Principal Analyst

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Were small devices and sensors ever connected before the term the Internet of Things (IoT) was coined? Sure they were, especially in industrial applications, where the term SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) sums up what all of this is really about information flow and control. This comes from the 1960s, when computing was much more standalone ie precious little in the way of interconnected networks and transports were closed and proprietary. While networks evolved and grew, the key for the revolutionary changes in connectivity was open systems, and a set of internet protocols (IP). These tore through larger proprietary computing systems, headed down to the desktop and into the smaller devices mobile sector where network operators saw an opportunity and the term Machine to Machine (M2M) gathered some momentum for a while. The low cost of connectivity componentry and pervasive open, IP networking allows pretty much anything to be connected to anything. In the 1990s, the head of a large analyst firm said that by 2004 even light bulbs would have IP addresses. Herein lies a potential problem how do you give everything a unique address? The IP standard for addresses most widely in current use IPv4 has been creaking and groaning for some time as its rather limited addressing system has been used up. In 2011, the last blocks of IPv4 addresses were allocated to the regional Internet registries. By now, several regions have run out and grey markets exist for addresses. The use of Network Address Translation (NAT) is widespread, rife and vital. Inside your own private network, you run your own IP addressing system, and a server maps this via a single address to the internet as a whole. My light bulb can have the same IP address as yours in fact millions of light bulbs can all have the same address without impacting the overall IPv4 address resource pool one iota. Without this, little would function. This wasnt quite how it was meant to happen. The Internet standards group, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) created a new standard in the 1990s, IPv6 (dont ask why IPv5 never made it to market). Apart from the astronomical number of addresses (3.4 x 10 to the power of 38 more than enough for not only light bulbs, but also tulip bulbs and many other things besides), it has capabilities that allow for seamless mobility, plug and play management, and better support for multimedia applications. It would seem a no brainer, and despite a World IPv6 launch in June 2012 involving carriers, ISPs and networking equipment manufacturers, still IPv6 usage is operating at relatively low percentages of internet traffic. On December 9th 2013, just 2.24% of users were accessing Google over IPv6. Will the interest around the IoT stimulate more action around IPv6? It might help, but there are more pressing demands on the IoT than addresses and actually things might not need to be on the internet after all. In amongst all of the hype about how it is now easy and cheap to connect anything to anything, an important detail is often missed why bother? Many business cases for the IoT are based on what is technically possible, and tend to gloss over who benefits and how much effort they might have to put in and over what timescale to achieve the benefits. Just as an example, the oft-quoted poster child of the IoT is smart metering, yet even this is proving difficult to justify without legislative incentives. This should not really be a surprise as most consumers struggle to see the benefit for

Socialising SCADA let it SNoW

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2013 Quocirca Ltd

themselves, and as electricity meters generally have an installed lifetime of 25 years and cost little to manage, there is little there to attract mass updates from the utility companies. Mobile networks have hardly been around that long, so marrying the two into a new value proposition that is worthwhile for device manufacturer, installer, network operator and energy supplier is not easy. Even when a connected device application proves worthwhile, there are potentially many more downsides if the connection is universal. There might be too much data traffic over the means of communication chosen, pushing up costs and potentially affecting the quality of service and for SCADA applications (for example, within the nuclear energy sector), this is often far more critical than the speed of users swapping emails or quality of digital phone calls.

There are also risks around security and resilience, which might be better minimised by isolation and containment within an internal internet, where IPv4 is entirely sufficient, rather than opening up to a wider network with unknown consequences. In truth, those beating the IPv6 drum cannot rely on the IoT to make their lives easier. The internet has a huge role to play in SCADA, but as a form of networking standardisation and not necessarily as a form of universal connectivity. Standards-based devices might be more easily clustered together in a way to build IP connected applications, but as an analogy to social media, in groups where they have shared interests and are accessed or controlled by individual users who also share that interest not an Internet of Things, but Social Networks of Whatever. This article first appeared http://www.computerweekly.com on

Socialising SCADA let it SNoW

http://www.quocirca.com

2013 Quocirca Ltd

About Quocirca
Quocirca is a primary research and analysis company specialising in the business impact of information technology and communications (ITC). With world-wide, native language reach, Quocirca provides in-depth insights into the views of buyers and influencers in large, mid-sized and small organisations. Its analyst team is made up of realworld practitioners with first-hand experience of ITC delivery who continuously research and track the industry and its real usage in the markets. Through researching perceptions, Quocirca uncovers the real hurdles to technology adoption the personal and political aspects of an organisations environment and the pressures of the need for demonstrable business value in any implementation. This capability to uncover and report back on the end-user perceptions in the market enables Quocirca to advise on the realities of technology adoption, not the promises. Quocirca research is always pragmatic, business orientated and conducted in the context of the bigger picture. ITC has the ability to transform businesses and the processes that drive them, but often fails to do so. Quocircas mission is to help organisations improve their success rate in process enablement through better levels of understanding and the adoption of the correct technologies at the correct time. Quocirca has a pro-active primary research programme, regularly surveying users, purchasers and resellers of ITC products and services on emerging, evolving and maturing technologies. Over time, Quocirca has built a picture of long term investment trends, providing invaluable information for the whole of the ITC community. Quocirca works with global and local providers of ITC products and services to help them deliver on the promise that ITC holds for business. Quocircas clients include Oracle, IBM, CA, O2, T-Mobile, HP, Xerox, Ricoh and Symantec, along with other large and medium sized vendors, service providers and more specialist firms.

Full access to all of Quocircas public output (reports, articles, presentations, blogs and videos) can be made at http://www.quocirca.com

Socialising SCADA let it SNoW

http://www.quocirca.com

2013 Quocirca Ltd