TechHub: New GE CEO Pushes for Digital Future, US Manufacturing Growing Fast & Cyber Security

Our Future is Digital

New General Electric CEO John Flannery put an end to the constant question, “where is the company headed?”

“I have a lot of decisions to make in my new role as CEO, but one decision is easy: GE is all in on digital,” said Flannery in a blog post on LinkedIn.

The digital age is bringing innovation and productivity for industries everywhere, allowing real, tangible outcomes for business.

Through scalability, installed base and industrial expertise, GE plans to be a major player in helping lead this transformation.

With a focus on their core verticals leveraging energy, oil and gas, aviation, healthcare, rail and mining, to help create a strong Predix ecosystem.

GE’s previous CEO Jeff Immelt at the 2016 Minds + Machines conference.

“The company I joined 30 years ago made machines that made the world work better,” said Flannery. “We are still that company, but the world has changed, and the industrial world is increasingly powered by digital applications.

We are part of this transformation, and we have a focused strategy that I believe is best for our customers and for GE.”

Join John Flannery and GrayMatter October 25 in San Francisco at Minds + Machines, an event that connects industrial thought leaders and showcases technology that helps solve the world’s biggest industrial IoT challenges.

Learn More About Minds + Machines

US Manufacturing Expands at Fastest Pace in 13 Years

American manufacturing expanded last month at the fastest pace in 13 years, according to Industry Week.

The strength of advances in the Institute for Supply Management’s gauges partly reflects impacts from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which forced shutdowns of refineries, chemical plants, retail establishments and car dealerships which were flooded in the storms and had merchandise destroyed.

However, the nation’s producers had already been on firmer footing because of improving global demand and an increase in US capital spending, according to Industry Week.

Manufacturing

Students visiting a PPG paint and coatings plant for Manufacturing Day 2017 in Delaware.

Orders are projected to remain strong in coming months as Manufacturing Day approaches.

Manufacturing Day is a national celebration of modern manufacturing, meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. Manufacturing Day occurs on the first Friday in October — this year’s falls on Oct. 6, 2017.

Statistical analysis of key event reporting suggests Manufacturing Day 2016 affected 595,341 participants, including 257,607 students.

Manufacturing Day is about celebrating manufacturing by providing an opportunity to focus collective attention on manufacturing, aiming to:

  • Empower manufacturers
  • Change public perceptions of manufacturing
  • Introduce people to manufacturing careers
  • Draw attention to the roles manufacturers play in their communities
  • Underscore the economic and social significance of manufacturing

Since 2012, MFG Day events has grown over 1,000%, with manufacturers in all 50 United States and Puerto Rico consistently participating.

Source: MFGDay.com

According to survey results by Deloitte from students that attended events in 2016:


89% of students were more aware of manufacturing jobs in their communities.

84% of students were more convinced that manufacturing provides careers that are interesting and rewarding.

64% of students were more motivated to pursue careers in manufacturing.

71% of students were more likely to tell friends, family, parents or colleagues about manufacturing after attending an event.

Every Third Computer Attacked in 2017 From Manufacturing Sector

In the first half of the year the manufacturing industry was the most susceptible to cyberthreats, with the industrial control systems computers of manufacturing companies accounting for almost one third of all attacks, according to Security Magazine.

The majority of the cyber threats were in manufacturing companies that produced various materials, equipments and goods. Other highly affected areas include engineering, education and food & beverage. Energy companies accounted for almost 5% of all attacks.

Special Agent Keith Mularski, Unit Chief of the FBI Cyber Initiative & Resource Fusion Unit, spoke at GrayMatter’s annual conference on industrial cyber security.

The main source of threats was the internet. Attempts to download malware or access malicious phishing web sources were blocked on over 20% of the ICS computers.

The reason this is such a high number is because of:

  • Interfaces between corporate and industrial networks
  • Availability of limited internet access from industrial networks
  • Connection of computers on industrial networks to the internet from operators’ mobile phones

Ransomware attacks on industrial companies tripled by June this year, with various large crime campaigns.

The WannaCry epidemic was one of the most notable, affecting 13.4% of all computers in the industrial infrastructure. ExPetr was a notorious encryption that followed, with 50% of the computers attacked in the manufacturing and oil & gas industries.

“In the first half of the year we’ve seen how weakly protected industrial systems are – pretty much all of the affected industrial computers were infected accidentally and as the result of attacks targeted initially at home users and corporate networks,” said Evgeny Goncharov, head of critical infrastructure defense department at Kaspersky Lab.

cyber

US pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. was affected by the ExPetya attacks earlier this year.

“In this sense, the WannaCry and ExPetr destructive ransomware attacks proved indicative, leading to the disruption of enterprise production cycles around the world, as well as logistical failures, and forced downtime in the work of medical institutions. The results of such attacks can provoke intruders into further actions. Since we are already late with preventive measures, companies should think about proactive protective measures now to avoid ‘firefighting’ in future.”

Billions of sensors are being rolled out rapidly as the Industrial Internet expands. The devices for operational technology are very different than those found on information technology networks and they need specialized technology to protect them. 

Download the GrayMatter Cyber Security Guide for Operational Technology to get a comprehensive understanding of security in the OT world including top vulnerabilities. The guide walks you through the first steps in knowing what’s on your network and has specific advice about the assessment process from our top cyber security consultants.

Download the Cyber Guide

Everything Old is New Again in SCADA Architecture

I can recall from my youth a day where my cousin and I hung out at my uncle’s engineering office on a Saturday.  Maybe it was several days, but as I get older the days seem to meld together.

While my Uncle worked on whatever project was eating up his weekend, he placed us in nearby cubicles and logged us into the facilities mainframe computer.

zork_i

Zork Screenshot

I found myself lost in countless hours of Zork.

For those of you not fortunate enough to have experienced Zork, it was one of the earliest interactive fiction games available for computers.

They just don’t make games like that anymore – for better or worse.
Shifting back to present time, it dawned on me as I was presenting yet again on a thin and virtual architecture I put together for a client, that everything old was new again.

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We are once again supplying operators terminals to access a cabinet full of computing resources.  And for several good reasons.

In today’s data driven world, companies are looking for solutions that are fault tolerant while being easy to maintain and configure.  At Gray Matter Systems, we have developed what we like to call the Virtual and Thin Architecture.

By being Virtual and Thin, what we are doing is leveraging Thin Client Technology in a VMWare Environment.  This gives us several advantages.

What is Virtualization?

When I said the word server, most people would think of a physical box, by virtualizing that box, we can host many software based servers within it.  This reduces our overall footprint on several levels – physical space, power consumption, and unused resources.

server-concept-1439271-4-m

Courtesy: freeimages.com

Using VMWare also allows us to create a Highly Available and/or Fault Tolerant environment by leveraging VMWare technologies such as VMotion, VMotion High Availability, and Fault Tolerant.

VMotion allows you to manually move servers from running on one host to another dynamically while the server remains running.

VMotion High Availability automates this process such that when a Host Box fails, any server that was running on said Host Box will restart on another Host Box in the Virtual Center.

Typical reboot time for a Virtual Server is around 30 seconds as compared to the 5-10 minutes of a typical physical server – thus minimizing downtime.

Couple that with iFix Enhanced Failover and the end user will not see a loss of data as the redundant server would take over operation as the primary server automatically restarted on another host box.  Within 1 minute you’d be fully redundant (hardware and software) again.  VMWare fault tolerant can take the hardware redundancy one step further and start a shadow instance of a server on another Host Box in the Virtual Center.

In this case, when a Host Box fails, any server that was running Fault Tolerant that was on that host box would see its corresponding shadow go active near instantly – thus no downtime at all.

With our servers centralized, we can now look at how our clients connect to the data contained in our databases (which are running on the servers).

For the last 20 years, thick clients have been the prevalent technology used to connect to our data servers.  This required a physical PC to be located and maintained at each operator station or any station that needed access to our data.  We now recommend the use of Terminal Servers and Thin Clients.

Thin Clients Are Not PCs

They are devices that generally have no moving parts that power a keyboard, mouse and monitor and establish an RDP session to a Terminal Server (Citrix or Web as well).  The actual processing and configuration for the clients are then maintained on the Virtualized Terminal Server running in our VCenter with Virtualized Data Servers.

Thus all of our computing resources are centrally located and maintained.  Replacing a Thin Client can be done in a matter of minutes.

Even less if you use Thin Client management software such as ACP’s Thinmanager.

Courtesy: freeimages.com

Courtesy: freeimages.com

Our typical rollout these days for a distributed client server SCADA system consists of the following:

  • Redundant set of iFix SCADA servers
  • Redundant set of Terminal Server running iFix Terminal Server and  ACP Thin Manager
  • Proficy Historian
  • Optional Proficy Webspace

These servers in turn are then accessed by thin clients out on the plant floor as illustrated below:

Untitled2
The overall solution provides for ease of maintenance and a centralized configuration.  All the while allowing you to more efficiently use your processing and storage resources while using less power and having a smaller overall footprint.

Lastly, it provides significant uptime performance and fault tolerance.

It’s funny how as times change, aspects and strategies of the past become vogue again.

In many ways we are back to that “mainframe serving the client terminals” architecture of the past.  Even bell bottoms made a comeback in the near past.  As far as myself, I’m just waiting for someone to develop an open-world version of Zork for the PS4 or XBox.

One can hope.

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