What is the IT/OT Convergence?

The IT OT convergence means that real-world events can communicate with a digital network. Operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) both transmit information, store data, and serve as the backbone of many business processes. By combining these two systems, organizations can transmit information gathered from OT processes to their digital IT networks, for a unified approach to systems monitoring.

Let’s take a look at how the IT OT convergence works, plus some of the advantages and challenges of convergence. With the right tools, businesses can execute comprehensive monitoring systems that run securely and cohesively.

Contents

The Difference Between IT and OT
What is the IT/OT Convergence?
Different Types of IT/OT Convergence
Examples of IT/OT Convergence
What is IoT OT Security?
IT/OT Convergence Challenges
IT/OT Convergence Benefits
Facilitating the IT/OT Convergence in Your Enterprise
Protecting Your Business with PrivX OT

 

SSH_Article Graphic-IT OT Convergence

The Difference Between IT and OT

IT refers to any systems that store and communicate data electronically. IT systems can operate within physical, cloud, or hybrid environments, and they’re connected to a network with other IT devices. Computers, servers, applications, and other IT devices are some of the most crucial parts of any business operation. 

OT — short for operational technology — gathers information from real-world events, and logs data to provide actionable insights. OT is commonly used in industries where sensors and other equipment take measurements, then communicate their OT data for internal analytics. 

Traditionally, IT uses digital venues to communicate data with other members of the IT network. OT, on the other hand, often involves singular measurements that are recorded and monitored all in one place. When IT and OT are combined, it can open up a whole new world of possibilities opens for your business.

What is the IT/OT Convergence?

When OT systems are plugged into IT networks, the emerging technology is called IT OT convergence. IT OT convergence isn’t a brand new concept — convergence has been around for many years, as long as industries have gathered data from external sources for internal processing. But, as IT and OT convergence becomes more sophisticated, a wide range of industries are seeing new opportunities for growth. 

In practice, IT OT convergence uses inputs from sensors and other OT measurement devices to deliver practical results. Today’s cars make extensive use of IT OT convergence for automated features that increase safety, and improve the passenger experience. For example, when a car’s backup sensor (OT) detects an approaching bicycle, it can communicate with the car’s internal IT system to quickly activate the brakes. 

Automated brakes aren’t the only use for IT OT technology. As IT OT systems continue to expand across new industries, organizations need to understand how to implement and manage new IT OT technologies. New technology is only effective when employees know how to use it. With proper training, planning, and integration, IT OT convergence offers many enterprises an exciting new opportunity for growth and innovation.

Different Types of IT/OT Convergence

IT OT convergence allows businesses to connect their OT devices to IT networks. With machine-to-machine communication, IT OT convergence has the potential to help with automation and improve both efficiency and security. 

Within the world of IT OT convergence, there are several unique types of convergence worth discussing. Broadly, different types of convergence can be categorized into three different groups — physical convergence, software convergence, and organizational convergence. 

  • Physical convergence. Physical convergence is the most basic type of convergence, with little IT assembly required. With physical convergence, two processes are literally connected through physical means — usually when an existing OT device becomes connected to a new IT network. Physical convergence tends to be most commonly used to modernize older OT equipment. 
  • Software convergence. The goal of software convergence is to link OT data with IT systems. Software convergence allows businesses to collect OT data digitally, to view input from OT systems, then use OT data to improve external operations.  
  • Organizational convergence. Organizational convergence (also known as process convergence) uses external data for internal purposes. With organizational convergence, IT and OT teams operate separately, but they will need to continually exchange information to create an effective operational system.

Examples of IT/OT Convergence

IT OT convergence is an abstract concept with real-life applications. To understand the broad scope of application for IT OT systems, it’s important to understand exactly where IT OT systems are used. From industry to retail, IT OT systems can make a wide variety of business operations more efficient and more secure. 

Some of the most common applications of IT OT technology are: 

  • Industry. IT OT convergence continues to create innovative new technologies in industry and manufacturing. From factory production to inventory management and emissions management, IT OT systems are at the forefront of today’s industry landscape. 
  • Retail. Retail uses IT OT technology to identify which products are popular where — and who’s buying them. With OT devices set to measure product performance and revenue, retailers can analyze data from across locations to optimize inventory levels, goods production, and even store hours. 
  • Pharmaceuticals. With data available from medical trials, pharmaceutical companies can adjust medications with patients in mind. In this case, OT devices are used to collect medical data from healthcare providers and observe the effects of drugs to assess their success. Fast and reliable medical data helps pharmaceutical companies to get the information they need to optimize drug effectiveness. 
  • Transportation. In the shipping industry, data from vehicles is collected to identify the most efficient routes and the ineffective vehicles within shipping fleets. To facilitate getting goods from point A to point B, shippers can use IT OT technology to observe the effectiveness of delivery, and to adjust transportation methods accordingly.

What is IoT OT Security?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the interconnection of OT devices that converge to form a single, unified network. Because OT devices don’t naturally operate within an IT network, IT OT convergence is used to create an IoT system. In IoT, data from different OT devices converges for storage and analysis.

Maintaining secure IoT and OT systems is an important part of any IT OT operation. When OT devices are linked within an IoT network, they communicate important information that can be highly sensitive. IoT uses data analytics to create real-world results, which means a data breach can be expensive, at best — and dangerous, at worst. 

IoT security has some specific demands that differ from traditional IT security. Businesses using IT OT systems must understand how to set up access credentials for OT devices without compromising data integrity. A traditional VPN isn’t always sufficient in protecting IoT OT security, which means secure access combined with data encryption is essential.

IT/OT Convergence Challenges

There are plenty of IoT and OT security challenges that may arise with IT OT convergence — especially when low-tech OT devices are retrofitted to a newer IoT system. When devices aren’t accustomed to network connection, they often do not have the privileged access credentials necessary to keep information safe. Effective access management, as well as data encryption, are necessary for any secure IoT infrastructure. 

Implementation is a major challenge associated with IT OT systems since OT devices need to be integrated with IT infrastructure securely and effectively. Physical convergence requires trained IoT professionals and network admins need to understand how to manage both IT and OT devices. In addition to setup challenges, enterprises will also need to ensure both employees and IoT admins are properly trained in how to use their new IT OT infrastructure.

IT/OT Convergence Benefits

Despite a handful of challenges, IT OT convergence offers lasting benefits for businesses across industries. With an effective implementation, management, and security plan, IT OT systems have the potential to significantly improve efficiency and productivity. 

Because IT OT allows for accurate and rapid monitoring of OT conditions, enterprises that use IoT systems can quickly analyze and improve their performance based on OT data. For effective OT monitoring, organizations need to have a secure and efficient IoT infrastructure, with the capability for centralized analytics. With real-time OT data, a business can improve all kinds of performance indicators — from resource utilization to regulatory compliance to safety measures. 

Aside from directly improving the output of products and services, IT OT convergence can greatly improve internal business processes, too. When IT OT infrastructure is running smoothly, businesses can expect less disjointed operations, less downtime, and more efficient internal communications.

Facilitating the IT/OT Convergence in Your Enterprise

IT OT convergence offers significant technological advancements and opportunities across industries. But how can you tell if IT OT convergence is right for your business? And, even if IT OT convergence is appealing, how can you implement it in your business? 

With the right planning, large and small businesses across industries can implement IT OT systems. To avoid some of the common pitfalls of IT OT convergence, it’s important to train your employees in IT OT systems before the new technology is introduced. For everything to run smoothly, it’s also important to work with an IoT administrator who is qualified in managing IT OT convergence. Many admins have specific certifications in IoT management.

Protecting Your Business with PrivX OT

As IT and OT technology becomes more integrated, businesses have the opportunity to streamline their operations like never before. However, IT OT convergence poses lots of new security challenges that aren’t always addressed by traditional IT security solutions. 

That’s where SSH comes in. With PrivX OT, SSH provides the Digital Guardian of OT Cybersecurity. PrivX is a Zero Trust solution with encrypted key access and credentials management for IT systems, both large and small. With PrivX OT Edition, you can access all the security of PrivX within your IT OT framework. From industrial control systems, to programmable logic controllers, SCADA, and plenty of other OT types, PrivX offers comprehensive cybersecurity for your IT OT landscape. 


For more information about PrivX OT, contact us today. We’d love to know how we can help.