Achieving the Industrial Internet of Things through Virtualization

ELLEN KOU | September 7, 2018

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Connected factory applications in manufacturing equipment are creating complex new problems. These problems are both technical and economic in nature. On the technical side, there is a need for separation of mixed-criticality applications to achieve timing, security, and efficiency goals, while still communicating with the world outside the factory. On the economic side, manufacturers need to avoid risks associated with changes to long-standing existing software core algorithms. Altering these algorithms could be time-consuming and expensive, especially given the huge number of platforms that need to be upgraded concurrently to realize a true connected factory. The most efficient way for industrial equipment designers to solve these problems is to adapt existing software tools from other industries. One software tool can help achieve the necessary separation while enabling manufacturers to leave existing core algorithms untouched. This is virtualization, which has been used extensively in enterprise and network systems for decades but is relatively new to embedded systems. Virtualization is a widely used term that encompasses a range of technologies and can mean very different things in different contexts. A virtualized cloud system will take on vastly different tasks than a virtualized enterprise system and does things that are even further removed from what a virtualized embedded system does. Regardless, virtualization provides similar benefits: decreasing the number of physical resources needed and providing a way to segment networks, applications, or processes.

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