Endian explains the benefits of container technology applied in the world of industry 4.0, architecture offers solidity, safety and flexibility in use.
In recent years, industrial companies have come under pressure from two points of view: on the one hand, the decisive role that digitization will play in the future has become clear; on the other hand, the number of cyber attacks has skyrocketed: this can make any digitization project a risk. Container technology, managed on a highly secure digital platform, offers the solution to these two challenges.
Container technology: Flexibility and portability allow for resource savings
The model from which container technology draws inspiration comes from industry: packed in standardized containers, all types of goods can be loaded onto different means of transport, such as ships, trains or trucks; this ensures efficient use of the transport area and fast loading.
Similarly, a software container contains both the software itself and its libraries and everything it needs to function properly: just as a crane can lift a shipping container and place it in another location, containers can also be moved or copied from one machine to another without problems.
A container is completely independent of the underlying operating system and other software containers that are in use in parallel. Companies can develop their own software or use existing Open Source applications that are packaged in containers and made available to everyone.
The most important component of container technology is the Container Management Engine (CME): Docker, which is natively installed in the latest generation of Endian solutions, is currently the most popular CME and ensures that the resources that the container needs are available at the right time.
Increase efficiency and scalability
With the technology specifications, companies can implement their digitization projects at a fast pace.
Suppose a plastics manufacturer programs software for predictive maintenance and tests it on a machine: after successful testing, the same software will be implemented on production lines around the world. For this purpose, it is packaged and configured in a container and then transferred to all machines: this procedure saves time, reduces the risk of errors during installation and reduces the amount of work, as it can be fully automated. So through parallelization it doesn’t matter if the application is installed on five or five thousand machines.
Thanks to’independence of an operating system, the same containers can be used in different environments: for example, even in different production sites that do not use the same operating system, only one software can be used. Since containers are highly portable, companies have the ability to make them work in different environments Cloud or multi-cloud. This avoids potential downtime: if there is a failure in the underlying infrastructure and the application can no longer be managed in the current environment, it can easily be moved to another, encapsulated in a container. This is a clear advantage, especially for predictive maintenance and all other functions that require a consistent database.
Cyber security as a foundation
Operating containers, collecting data or, for example, remote access to a machine requires the presence of a device in the place where it is located, i.e. at the so-called “edge” of the company’s network. At the same time, the issue of cyber security must be taken into account in all digitization processes right from the start. Costs for subsequent vulnerability remediation increase as the project progresses, and it is often not even possible to fill security gaps after a cyber incident.
Industrial IoT gateways offer the right solution for this need, as they combine IT security, functionality and computing capabilities that allow them to replace an industrial PC. Endian 4i Edge X, for example, offers high computing power and is equipped with many IT security features, such as firewall, intrusion detection system (IDS) and antivirus. CME Docker is pre-installed and supports container-based software applications. Gateways are also suitable for network segmentation, which divides the company’s network into different areas: this prevents malware from spreading out of control from one machine to another.
Another important point is data security: to protect them from theft or manipulation during transmission, a tunnel of encrypted connections such as a VPN is required. That Endian 4i Edge X gateway works in such a way that remote access can be ensured, for example for maintenance: this feature has proven particularly useful in the latter period, as technicians often did not have the possibility of easy access to machines and systems to carry out maintenance. The gateway’s storage capacity also contributes to data security: if the Internet connection is interrupted for a certain period, the gateway can temporarily save the data for later transmission, for example to a cloud, where it can be evaluated.
All network gateways must be managed through a central tool, because it increases the level of IT security from two points of view: firstly, it makes it possible to keep the software up to date; Second, it can be used to implement detailed usage rights so that each actor is only allowed to see the data or perform the actions relevant to his area of responsibility.
Container technology allows for flexible and fast implementation of digitization projects. Agility and flexibility can only deliver long-term competitive advantages if cyber security is planned at all levels.
Andrea Albertini, Sales Manager at Endian
Every manufacturing company must get in shape and adapt to Industry 4.0 standards, but digitization must not come at the expense of IT security. At the same time, every company has its own needs that require a targeted solution: often, however, standard software does not offer a suitable solution, and customized software reaches such costs that it cannot compensate for the benefits. In this case, the use of container software represents a valid alternative: our Endian Secure Digital Platform allows you to securely connect people and things to the network and allows the simultaneous operation of containers.