Integrator Panel: How Integration Has Changed & Where It's Going

45 min video  /  35 minute read


Chris Fischer

Sales Program Manager - Integrators

Inductive Automation

Chris Taylor

Managing Director


Mike Ficchi

Engineering/Business Development

Multi-Dimensional Integration

Keith Gamble

Information Solutions Engineering Manager

Barry-Wehmiller Design Group

Jeremiah Hannley

CTO and Managing Partner

Streamline Control

This panel will bring together some of the Ignition community's most accomplished integrators to discuss how the industry has shifted over the past decade and what technologies and practices will be vital in the future. From IIoT-enabled hardware and cutting-edge security tools to eliminating paper from the plant floor, changes in the last 10 years have altered how integrators approach business and opened up new opportunities. But which areas still have room for refinement and innovation? Hear experienced professionals give their insight and answer your questions about the industry's past, present, and future.


Chris Fischer: Hello. And I wanna welcome all of you to the Industry Panel. We appreciate you being here. The theme of the panel today is going to be how integration has changed and where it's going. Of course, Inductive Automation grew out of integration roots, so we rely on you as much as you rely on Ignition. We've got some great panelists here, and I think we're in for an exciting discussion today. To introduce myself, I'm Chris Fischer, I am the Integrator Program Manager here at Inductive Automation, I enjoy working with integrators at all levels of the program, and I'm gonna be moderating today. Let's meet our panelists. Come on up fellas. To start with, Chris Taylor, he's the Managing Director at BIJC Limited, one of our Firebrand Award winners this year. Chris has worked with automated control systems in the power industry for ... Oh no, excuse me, and has been an advocate of Ignition since his first project in 2011. He has many years of experience as an engineer working with emergency power systems and with critical power systems for global banking, energy, and data centers. Before BIJC, Chris was the head of electrical and controls engineering for a wind turbine manufacturer.

Chris Fischer: Chris is a corporate member of the Institution of Power Engineers and a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Chris created BIJC in 2014 as an Ignition integrator, and since then has expanded the business to develop SCADA systems for manufacturing, food and beverage, and textiles. Welcome Chris. We've also got Mike Ficchi. He is a Senior Controls Engineer at Multi-Dimensional Integration or MDI. MDI serves customers in all industries, both domestically and internationally. Mike has been with MDI, implementing control system solutions for over 15 years, and supports the greater MDI team in solving customer needs utilizing Ignition and Sepasoft. Utilizing Ignition and Sepasoft since 2010, Mike and the MDI team have designed, architected, and implemented applications as simple as an alarming application for remote notifications to enterprise-wide SCADA/MES solutions for customers. Welcome Mike. Keith Gamble is a Software Engineering Manager for Barry-Wehmiller Design Group. Keith joined the Design Group, which is one of the largest systems integrators in the world, in 2019, bringing his drive and passion for software engineering with him. With nearly 10 years of software engineering experience in various industries, Keith brings a unique perspective to implementing SCADA and industrial solutions.

Chris Fischer: His skill set involves systems architecture and design, software engineering, and leading a team of engineers. His specialty on the Ignition platform is within Perspective development and developing software applications within the Ignition framework. When he's not at work, you can find Keith snowboarding, golfing, camping, or doing anything outdoor in beautiful Northern California. Welcome, Keith. And we also have Jeremiah Hannley. He's a Partner and CTO at Streamline Control. Jeremiah is a professional engineer with 15 years of experience in architecting and deploying best-in-class operational technology and industrial control systems for various industries, including energy, pipelines, refining, and electric utilities. He's helped organizations modernize process control networks, execute large-scale SCADA replacement projects, implement scalable data acquisition, and help with design.

Chris Fischer: He's a champion of using OT assets and data to help business achieve transformation through smart, agile, and cost-effective solutions. Most recently, he completed an award-winning control system modernization project for a large national pipeline company using Ignition. As a Partner and CTO of Streamline, he brings a wealth of knowledge, insight, and leadership to his organization and his clients. Also worth mentioning, Streamline Control also won a Firebrand Award this year. Welcome, Jeremiah. So of course, the Industry Panel is fairly conversational, we've got some questions we're gonna throw over to these guys, get their opinions, get their perspective, pun intended. So why don't we start going down the line with Chris. Question number one: What is a lesson or a success story from the past year that you'd like to share?

Chris Taylor: I think for our success story is the project that we've won the Firebrand for today. It was a leather manufacturer, we had some unique challenges for getting hides in and out of a fridge. You can see it in the Discovery Gallery, you can go and look at it. It wasn't really my project, it was part of my team, they've done a marvelous job and without Ignition, I don't think there's any other SCADA system that we could have used that would give us the connectivity that we required to do the job, so that's a real success for Ignition. The other thing that it did more than anything was that it allowed our customers to get data that was impossible to get beforehand, and he is using that data not only to produce a better product, with better quality, but he's also able to now quantify the quality of the product arriving at his facility, so he can now make better choices from his suppliers. And that was very important to him.

Chris Fischer: How about you, Mike?

Mike Ficchi: A success story for us recently, actually comes more in the form, not so much in the application itself, but rather as an integrator, finding ways to break down the barriers between customer and the other OEM products that they're purchasing that we are asked to connect through MES and SCADA using Ignition and Sepasoft.

Mike Ficchi: And finding a way, because of the way everybody looks at things differently and programs things differently is down to even the fact of talking different languages, because you've got OEMs coming in from other countries and trying to bridge that gap of, hey, we're trying to put together a site-wide or enterprise-wide solution, and I know you guys have your standard way of doing things, but finding a way to maybe alter, say your PLCs to include a UDT that might much easier implement into the greater ecosystem really is a win for everybody, including the customer and it's probably no surprise that there's quite some pretty stubborn OEMs out there that are not too excited to change their “standard code,” so finding a way to break down those barriers has been a pretty big win for a quite a large project that proper NDAs in place don't allow me to say too much about. So it's not necessarily application level, but really how do you bring the greater team together for the customer at the end of the day.

Keith Gamble: Yeah, I think a good success story on our side was a project that I believe we actually have in the Discovery Gallery as well with a pharmaceutical life sciences company focused on cell and gene therapy, and this was a great opportunity for us to look into more emerging and advanced markets, and try to bring Ignition in. And Ignition was really ... To Chris's point with the leather manufacturing stuff, it was kind of the only answer in terms of being able to get the data you needed out of what you needed it for, and then provide it somewhere else.

Keith Gamble: And so really seeing Ignition's capability ... Or sorry, being able to use Ignition to take a lot of data out of that equipment provided for business analytics, creating things like a Unified Namespace and really pushing into emerging and advanced technologies within that space has really been an eye-opening thing for us to show what we should be focusing on and the capabilities we have right in front of us that maybe we didn't see right there beforehand and how within graphs, grasp some of those more advanced and emerging technologies really are.

Jeremiah Hannley: For Streamline as well we had a Firebrand project this year, and it was around a pipeline industry, which is a highly regulated and controlled environment, so it was successful for us because it wasn't just the replacement of a SCADA system with another SCADA system doing typical poll-response, it was a holistic rethink of how to architect a modern SCADA solution for a highly geographically distributed system that still has all the same problems that a SCADA system does through legacy communications, high latency VSAT networks, to be able to take that, replace the SCADA system, but also to expand the Ignition platform from the edge all the way up into the boardroom using Perspective or an instance of Perspective that now sits on the enterprise level of the organization that aggregates all this data from the SCADA system and then exposes it to enterprise users.

Jeremiah Hannley: If I was to propose a solution like that to some of my clients, even five years ago and say, “Hey, as a pipeline operator in the middle of Kansas, you can get on your phone, securely see a real-time pump status or a real-time value of a valve or a ping location,” I just don't think that anyone would believe it's possible, but it is. And it's something that we're kind of championing going forward.

Chris Fischer: Awesome. And how is the role of integrators changing? Just generally. Why don't you kick us off, Jeremiah?

Jeremiah Hannley: Sure. I think when I started in controls, I was a controls engineer, and integration was a division of an electrical engineering group or department, and integration was in many ways, configuring a point or a display element or configuring software that represents a process or something like that, but what we found is that it's growing beyond that. You don't just need a Ladder Logic program, or you need people that understand software, you need cybersecurity individuals in the solutioning, you need people that understand and can integrate and work with downstream applications that exist on the enterprise level. So the role of the integrator is no longer just providing an OT solution, it's a holistic process to enterprise development method really.

Keith Gamble: Yeah, I think the four of us even talked about it back there beforehand, talking about our previous experiences and our backgrounds, and something that's happening in the integrator space a lot is there are different perspectives, pun intended, I guess, coming from different industries and different workflows, from controls to software engineering or it's all kind of converging and pushing the industry forward a lot right now to all the points and the Firebrand projects and everything here, the software engineering aspects behind these projects is very new. The industrial space historically is kind of scared of software a little bit, it's a big, scary thing, but Ignition makes that open and visible. And so really I think the role is changing to not just focus on the controls and manufacturing side of things, but also it's opening up to enable more software consulting, software engineering and those rules. So I think that the industry is kind of widening out to include a much broader space of expertise to try and guide those projects forward.

Mike Ficchi: Yeah, I can say in my experience, where I've started out to where I'm at now, is really as an integrator, you're also an educator, in terms of, especially today in a space where you do have IT/OT, IT on a production floor, those are two different levels that for years hadn't really talked to one another and don't really know each other's world. And so now they're being forced to communicate with each other, and we gotta try to help educate them on what each other ... What is important to each other and why. A traditional IT department who now may have to support some plant floor equipment because it's connected, and all of a sudden the network goes down. Hopefully you have some local client fallback or some edge panel in place, but there's times where that isn't the case, and submitting a IT ticket to the IT desk, and they'll get to it when they get to it, isn't exactly the acceptable thing these days, so there's an education as to what's important in both spaces.

Mike Ficchi: And on the flip side, you've got traditional manufacturing floor folks, controls engineers who they just need to get it running and the same thing, Oh, we gotta get IT involved, well, that's gonna take six months and half a million dollars, and I just wanna change this small thing on the floor. It's not the case, but it's hard getting folks out of that kind of traditional mindset. So education, it's educating the customer that in turn helps you be able to gain their business, gain their trust, and really gain that relationship.

Chris Taylor: So I think as the other panelists have said, to put it succinctly, what's changed is the scope. When I first started, you were a controls engineer, you had a controls engineer business, you do PLCs, you might do an HMI. You might have a big screen somewhere, and pretty much it was just OT, but as soon as you start to have an Ignition license, things start to accelerate out and then you've got to grow with that scope. That's the biggest change for us. As my business has grown, we've had to employ new people with new skill sets to address the needs of our customers, which just the scope just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And it's not a complaint; it's opportunities. Sometimes I must admit I do struggle to keep up, but I think that's the same for everybody. We all have a learning curve. So that's ... To answer the question, that is the biggest change, the scope.

Chris Fischer: Gotcha.

Keith Gamble: Can I make a comment?

Chris Fischer: Yeah, please.

Keith Gamble: Actually, it's about something Mike said and I've kind of been thinking about it, and I've preached this many times before I didn't think about it, but I know historically, and I think ... Do I try this or, Carl alluded to this earlier that IT was kind of this scary thing and Ignition came in to make IT more accessible. Like, IT wouldn't be as scary to interact with, but that's still a problem all the time right now, and I think as an integrator, it's our role often to be that bridge between IT and OT, to open up that communication, make ... Do the translation, obviously, the people on opposite sides of that spectrum are saying, “Why do different things to get the same result?” And I think our role is really important as a bridge of communication between those two environments on top of educating them, really just opening up that ability to communicate.

Chris Taylor: You're correct. You need people on your teams who can speak both languages and can talk to the people in the same room and just reassure them, everything is gonna be fine, we can do this and we're not gonna upset you, and you're gonna get the benefit from this. That's the key thing to selling this.

Keith Gamble: Yep. That's all.

Chris Fischer: Yeah. Okay. So are there new strides in MES, ERP, and SCADA integration, and if so, what role do you guys see Ignition playing there?

Chris Taylor: What strides? I've had this question and I thought about it. Ignition can play a huge role in this, and it's down to us as integrators to make sure that our customers were aware of the capabilities, because it's very difficult to stand in front of them and explain everything that it can do because there is so much that it can do. So we can play a part of ... Are there any new strides? Yes, it's multifaceted. There's all sorts of things that we can be doing. Cloud integration, especially, I'm very excited about the Ignition in the cloud as a service that we can access with my sales hat on, this is gonna be a great tool for demoing new projects and new ideas for DevOps, all sorts of things that we can do with that. Without spending a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of money to produce something new. So thank you Team Steve. That's gonna be great. So I'm looking forward to that. So I think that is a new stride. I haven't seen that in any other SCADA manufacturers, so I'm looking forward to that.

Mike Ficchi: I would say this a big stride is definition of MES. When we kind of first started diving into this at MDI, there was a lot of different ... A lot of people had different definitions of what MES was. Where is the line? What falls into the MES bucket? And I think year after year, we're seeing that it's kind of taken a more of a unified form amongst customers in different industries and using different platforms, I think is what kind of maybe clouded that. 'Cause you take a Rockwell or Wonderware and they have some stuff that's MES, but some stuff that's not MES and it's very cloudy, where Ignition and Sepasoft come in is they find a way to really kind of define those boundaries. And they make it as we ... You were saying earlier, you're gonna have folks and people who can get in the weeds, but also be able to talk in layman's terms to be able to, Sepasoft makes it very easy to be able to put that in layman's terms. To help define that. So that the customer walks outta that meeting and go, “Now I get it. And now I understand a little bit better what MES is to this integrator in this platform, and it can very clearly hit the goals that I'm trying to get to.” But I'd say that's a big stride in terms of unifying what the definition of MES actually is.

Keith Gamble: I'd say probably the largest stride I can think of, and it's not exactly as new now, but is Perspective, right? MES, ERP, and even SCADA they are all about data. They're all data hungry, powerful tools, right? And that's where Perspective shines. It is an amazing tool for visualizing bulk data, for interacting with, creating, and reporting on large data sets, complex data, and making data much more accessible. I think it is really, Ignition's one of their best capabilities right now is how capable Perspective is at doing that and that's where it's leagues ahead of other competitors in those markets. Because as I mentioned before at the software side of it, those kinds of tools traditionally being developed by software engineers for those companies as opposed to Ignition is allowing software engineers to develop it in their platform and make it a little bit more tailored, a little bit more clear to each client what MES is to his point. But I think really Perspective and the rise of mobile-first and web integration is probably the most powerful thing right now in Ignition’s pocket for those tools.

Jeremiah Hannley: Yeah, I agree, I think Perspective is amazing with what you can do with it. I think the stride is really converging this all into a common ecosystem, a single-stack solution, but just really converging the OT layer and the IT layer. And the Ignition platform as we all know, it just enables that. It enables an enterprise user to have a Perspective dashboard off of the same data set. And then it enables a control room that has a very distinct fixed resolution display with abnormal state or ASM in mind on the HMI frontend. It has all that kind of built-in to really, to bridge all this, and then with the ServiceLink modules now, you can just start pushing this data up into the cloud and onto these other applications. So I think the stride in this space is the unification of the IT-OT environment, and Ignition just has all of that stuff built into it. You don't have to go to a different software package, you're not feeding information between this software or this software or this application or this data management group within your organization, it's pretty much an edge node and you can publish everything up right to control system, right up to the enterprise.

Keith Gamble: If I could comment on what you're saying with you're not having to share the data, I guess. To the benefit as well you can share the data, the data is exposed, it's available, you can put together a web dev endpoints to make data accessible, visible. So I think it's, to your point, it's fantastic, you don't have to do that. But then the same, in the other hand, it's impressive that you can do that, right?

Jeremiah Hannley: Yeah.

Keith Gamble: You're not locked to, oh, I can't get this data 'cause it's in some binary encoded format, I gotta buy their connector tool to go do these things. And no, it's just your data. Do what you want with it man. Like here you go, and I think that's ...

Jeremiah Hannley: It's really a single-stack solution to do that, to allow all your applications downstream and even on the control side or the enterprise side to integrate into it. So from an end user perspective it's fantastic, 'cause I just know one piece of software to manage.

Chris Fischer: Before we throw it to the audience, I wanna get your thoughts quickly about ... What would you like to see more of from Ignition and the Ignition community? Anybody?

Keith Gamble: I think something that, once again, we talked about this kind of beforehand and we all agreed, we wanna see more of basically everything that was announced a couple hours ago, right?

Keith Gamble: But that exact same list of things we're all sitting there like, “Oh, thank you. Of course, yes. Let's do that, right?” There are a couple of things that didn't get touched on, and that's what I know that people are kind of biting their breath waiting, but like tags, existing as a configuration item in the gateway file system. Things that really enable CICD and automation and version control and that wide sweeping array of developer efficiency tools and life cycle tools. I think that's what we're looking to see the most of right now, it's where we're adding some of the most power to our applications and maximizing development efficiency, and that's where you guys are, you're putting your eggs in that basket. So it works for us, but I think that's one of the most important growth areas right now for the platform.

Chris Taylor: And for us, for our company, we're finding ... We're learning more and more about CSS having some form of CSS editor inside the Perspective Module. That would be fantastic. So we can do more of that rather than annoying everybody and doing CSS injection.

Jeremiah Hannley: For Streamline, I would say we do a lot of like Ignition Edge deployments, where we're managing thousands of edge nodes for clients, so I think just improvements around enterprise licensing for Edge would be fantastic, like a single license applied to many edge nodes would be great.

Mike Ficchi: 8.3.

Keith Gamble: Good answer.

Chris Fischer: Short and sweet.

Mike Ficchi: Right?

Keith Gamble: I think another thing too that ... This is a comment that was kind of mentioned when Ignition Cloud [Edition] was being talked about, was the comment of the cloud connector modules or whatever, that will manifest itself as title-wise, but being able to talk to modern software development tools, MongoDB, or Redis cache being able to take web-based content and provide it to the web in Perspective. I think that's something that, yeah, you can technically do a lot of those things now when you dig further into scripting and then you run into some more advanced problems with memory leaks and all that fun stuff, but I think really digging deep into that cloud side paired with the power of Perspective, I think that's a really exciting area to watch grow as well.

Jeremiah Hannley: Yeah, you're really gonna take the platform outside of a control system and expose it to the enterprise and build dashboards, and you build applications now. We use Perspective, it's like a little application engine where we just have some scripts and have a little mobile device showing a specific data set targeted to a specific group of users, so ... Absolutely.

Keith Gamble: Yeah, that's actually one of the most, the best use cases to watch grow as well is traditional SCADA systems, if you're building something in Vision as an example, you may have 40 screens with a very wide amount of tags, thousands of tags, and maybe a couple hundred lines of code is gonna spread throughout, but Perspective opens up that opportunity, but also to the projects that are maybe four screens, 100 tags, and 20,000 lines of code, that just really automatically builds itself as an application development framework that the industrial space is comfortable with. That's the use you guys are doing, same here, it's one of the most powerful spots.

Jeremiah Hannley: Absolutely. Yeah.

Chris Fischer: Well, with that, why don't we take some questions from your peers and colleagues. We've got some microphones floating around, it looks like we got one right over here.

Audience Member 1: From a software development standpoint, I've heard some MongoDB stuff from you guys. What do you just think about microservices and how should Ignition developers start thinking microservices level, and start doing very small apps because now we're talking about SDKs and how SDKs could be customized, but we as, not end users, but the supporters for customers are we ... If we're writing heavy code, should we start looking into microservices? And is that a good option for us?

Keith Gamble: I think I'd say it needs to ... Ignition needs to continue to grow into the direction of better supporting the microservice architecture, but it also needs to not. In that it needs to be able to be a one-stop shop to put everything. It needs to be able to hold all the pieces. But there are going to be applications developed that you're gonna take your architecture and you're gonna split out your architecture like crazy, where you have scaling Perspective frontends, you have a dedicated tag, when dedicated database interactions, dedicated, separate different entities to do all of that. I think the tool has to do both, and if you are going to continue to take further into the software engineering space with Ignition, you're gonna have to know both as well, you're gonna have to understand how the gateway network communicates and operates.

Keith Gamble: How you're moving data around, how you can be optimal and efficient there. I think both sides of it are a bit of a requirement, but I also think that both are gonna continue to have to grow together and parallel.

Audience Member 2: Okay. Hey guys. As integrators, I've got a quick question. How do you all approach selling Ignition to potential customers that don't necessarily need all the bells and whistles, and additionally, on top of that, in industries such as water and wastewater, where SCADA systems are hard spec. Do you all make any attempt to work with engineering firms or the end users to get Ignition spec into the job beforehand?

Jeremiah Hannley: Can I jump on this?

Chris Fischer: Yeah.

Jeremiah Hannley: The question is, is like, how do you inject Ignition into organizations?

Audience Member 2: Pretty much, yeah.

Jeremiah Hannley: So at Streamline, we do a lot of work around, say, MQTT, and we use Ignition, not necessarily as a SCADA platform, we call it a real-time ... A real-time engine, really, right? So we have systems where we have edge nodes talking MQTT basically converting Modbus into Sparkplug, pushing it up into a really a central Ignition instance to expose that information, even as OPC UA to another SCADA platform, and that just gives the client or the end user kind of some exposure onto the technology as a whole.

Jeremiah Hannley: And shows you how modular it is, and within those projects we often like go, “Well, we're gonna purchase a Perspective license and now we're going to have some dashboards and visualization around the monitoring of the network infrastructure as an example.” And then that gives organizations like a comfort and eagerness into it, and I find that the more they get their hands on it, the more they're like, “Yeah, this is a direction we wanna go,” so it's just like, you can start ... And you can start these really small use cases and then use Ignition at a cost-effective rate, and then build out upon that.

Mike Ficchi: Just to build on that. I classify it as small wins, it is a small win, you get a customer who's got a problem they need to solve, and it may not be the most ideal use case for Ignition, but you can find a way ... It's Ignition, you can find a way to get into anything at a very small cost, and even if it's at the level of put ... Like you said, put an edge, an edge node out there, and now you give the maintenance manager the ability to pull up something that's happening out on the floor on a machine that is their prize machine, you just made their day and they can ... Now, now they do the sell right, they go to the ops manager and show him what's going on, and all of a sudden ... “Oh, that's awesome. Can we do this? Can it do that?” And before you know it, it's ... No pun intended, we're in California, it's like, wildfire, and it just spreads.

Keith Gamble: Insensitive, man.

Mike Ficchi: Well, I'm sorry.

Keith Gamble: I think a comment there is that's the beauty of the licensing model man, the fact that if you ... Let's say I need a very simple application to just look at some tags in an Allen-Bradley PLC and based off of a tag changing and a completely different sub-system that I can't get these two PLCs to connect for whatever reason, I just have a simple script, move it across. What that license is, a core license, and I'm pretty sure it comes with the OPC UA and the basic driver, so there you go, you got core license and you've got a project on your hands, you'd be amazed how little you need sometimes to get running with Ignition, and that's probably the easiest way to get it in places where cost is a concern and you just start with little pieces, little wins.

Chris Taylor: That's exactly what we would do. If you can get your foot in the door and you've got just a small project, for everything you do, give a little bit of value added, something new, something that they haven't thought of, but something that is gonna give them information that they didn't have before, or control of something, or view of something, or some new data that you've merged, two bits of information to produce new data, data that they didn't have before. And they will love that. They will love it, they will use it and then they'll say, “Okay, can we have this, can we have that?” Of course, you've gotta control your scope creep because it always happens, but that's the way to get more people involved and to get the customer engaged.

Mike Ficchi: If you can make someone's life easier, they're gonna ... They're gonna champion it for you, if you can.

Chris Taylor: Yeah, and that's what you need is a champion.

Chris Fischer: Right. Awesome, anybody else?

Audience Member 3: Yeah. Jim Montague from Control Magazine. I was just wondering, as all the web-based SCADA gets more dynamic and takes on control tasks and things, is there any cybersecurity lessons learned or specific best practices the panelists could share for people who aren't as far along the learning curve?

Keith Gamble: Yeah, right out the gate, don't even make SSL a consideration, just jump straight to HTTPS, use secure certificates, there's like ... There's some things that ... I mean, they're optional for a reason, right, but there's a good recommendation. Right? I think there's a ton from a cybersecurity standpoint that could be focused on within the tool, there's conversations during the Developer Panel about stuff like using your IdP and security of their versus like 2FA, and there's all these different options, and it's a very wide sweeping area I think in the, I don't remember exactly what it is called [Ignition Security Hardening Guide]. However, on the knowledge-based articles, there is a document talking about cybersecurity best practices and hardening an Ignition system that goes through a lot of those recommendations, talks about why SSL ... What the benefit of certificates is why, how to avoid things like a full text password floating through the Internet on accident. So I think that's a really good resource to just look at and take a checkpoint of where you are right now, and look at those things and say, “Okay, what am I gonna have to do to get there?” And then on the way, you're gonna find other pieces that you didn't even know were there that are gonna really help harden that environment.

Chris Taylor: Yeah, we use the hardening guide every time we have a new deployment. One of the steps we do is go through the hardening guide every time, we know what it is, but we go through it every time just to make sure we don't miss anything. Simple things, if you've got PCs or PanelViews with USB ports, turn them off. You don't need them. It's great having security on your OT network or whatever it is, but someone can still walk in with the USB stick and just plug it in and you wanna stop that.

Keith Gamble: That's it. There's a comment right there for Travis and team, we're all looking at that hardening guide, like it's our rule book, so you gotta make sure it's up to date all the time, 'cause we looked at it last week and we'll look at it next week, so something new pops up. It's almost interesting, I'm sure that those articles are primarily written as they write it now and focus and then we'll write another one next time, but it almost seems there could be a benefit of having something that's a continually updated version of something like that in such a space that's constantly changing.

Keith Gamble: And another side comment, he mentioned the USB thing, when we think about it. Okay, well I guess we’re plugging Perspective here again, but really mobile devices, mobile devices are a good opportunity to increase your cybersecurity practices because they can often be really locked down and you can use Perspective and Android, Apple or whatever, but ... I'll give the thumbs up to Apple in some regards, and the device is so locked down, if you use a Perspective HMI on an iPad from a security standpoint, there's not much the person can do with it, other than use it as an HMI. It's really great for locking down and that's available on all kinds of different ways, but embracing mobile devices can be an easy way to leverage the cybersecurity efforts of the massive companies that have thousands of people focused on it all day, you can leverage what they've already done.

Jeremiah Hannley: I think also, you mentioned following the hardening guide as a best practice, but just also following best practices for your industry around network segmentation, ensuring indirection, if you're passing data through the DMZ into the enterprise, just kind of like holistically looking at the solution and then ensuring that that's, that you comply with whatever industry you're working in.

Chris Fischer: Got time for a couple more. Anybody else? No. Alright, well, I wanna get your perspective on one other topic, we've been dealing with ... Everybody has been dealing with supply-chain issues, obviously, I wanna hear a little bit about what you guys have been doing to circumnavigate that and has Ignition played a part in those issues?

Chris Fischer: You want to kick us off Jeremiah?

Jeremiah Hannley: Sure, so how do we manage the supply-chain issue? I usually just write really mean emails to my vendors, but ... And then call 'em and be like, “Hey, anything you can do?” No.

Jeremiah Hannley: Yeah, because Ignition is not hardware-dependent. We internally do everything and basically in virtual machines or Docker containers or so forth, so when we execute projects now we spin that all up, it's all virtualized, and then we have simulator engines, some tool sets that we built internally to basically mock the data set for the systems we're building and then build the visualization in front of that, so by the time the hardware comes in, we're basically pushing the configuration down to the hardware, running it through the formal acceptance testing and then moving into the next phase of the project.

Keith Gamble: Yeah, I agree with a lot of that, and I was just gonna say, containerization is key there, man, that's one of the best ways to help rapidly improve that, but I guess another piece that you can think about is, okay, Ignition can run anywhere, right? You can really minimize the requirement of the actual physical onsite hardware by leveraging the cloud, Ignition Cloud [Edition] that we keep talking about. You can put some of the heavy lifting up there and you can just make sure there is a fairly lightweight, but robust data collection system at the bottom right, you can have a Raspberry … Maybe not a Raspberry Pi but you could have a Raspberry Pi collecting all the data at the edge, pushing everything through a store and forward, and then from a supply-chain standpoint, you didn't have to go get a several-thousand-dollar rack server that's gonna take forever to show up, you could get something that you can pick up at Best Buy, and then leverage the cloud that when you reach out to your cloud provider and have, you spin up a VM, they're probably not going to let supply-chain shortages affect you. They're gonna have enough space and help you get that kind of stuff going, and I think really leveraging the ability for Ignition to run on anything pretty much is probably one of the ways to work past that.

Mike Ficchi: I think it's just more the same, we're all kind of dealing with the same thing, and like you said ...

Jeremiah Hannley: Nasty emails.

Mike Ficchi: Nasty emails.

Chris Taylor: Or planning, you need to plan and I'm fortunate, most of our projects have quite long leading time, so we can plan, but you need to be flexible because I don't know why, but some suppliers don't always tell the truth about their delivery dates, and you just have to be flexible in what components you're using, especially with PLCs at the moment, they're very tricky to get a hold of, you might get most of it, but you, the one bit that you need, doesn't turn up, so flexibility and of course Ignition helps there because ... Good array of drivers, so you can mix and match if you need to.

Mike Ficchi: I mean, to that point, I mean, transparency. I mean you gotta be honest with your customer and not try to promise something because everyone's dealing with it, that's the reality of it is, is you're going into a project and you're a small piece. Guess what, the mechanical contractor is dealing with the same thing, the electrical contractor is dealing with the same thing, so just being transparent with your customer, it may hurt in the moment, but it'll be appreciated long-term for sure.

Keith Gamble: And then as a last minute fail-safe, you can come to a conference like this, find your sales rep in person, and then tell them, they can't ignore you in person, they can ignore an email or a call, but if you're looking them in the eyes, they're gonna have to say something.

Jeremiah Hannley: That's true.

Chris Fischer: So watch out sales reps. Alright. Well, with that, we are at time. I wanna thank our panelists today, Jeremiah, Keith, Mike, and Chris. I also wanna thank you guys, have a great afternoon, enjoy the rest of ICC.

Posted on October 18, 2022