Podcast

All Things FactoryStack & PharmaStack PT1 (Heads in the Cloud Podcast)

Happy Halloween. Join Darth Vader (Joseph Dolivo) and Geralt the Giraffe (James Burnand) on this episode of "Heads in the Cloud" as they break down FactoryStack and dive into the inner workings of the platform. Beware, the force is strong with this one... ;)

GI Griffin:

Welcome to another episode here of Heads in the Cloud, here with James Burnand and Joe Dolivo. Or should we say Vader and Geralt? Is that what we have going on over there?

James Burnand:

I know that your name is Gerald, but I believe it's pronounced Geralt the giraffe-

GI Griffin:

Oh my gosh. He's my buddy. I just figured we have like similar names.

Joseph Dolivo:

I mean, Geralt is here. James is like the Geralt wannabe.

GI Griffin:

He's the imposter.

Joseph Dolivo:
Geralt's right here.

James Burnand:
Oh, so says Anakin over here. Yeah.

Joseph Dolivo:
I prefer the Dark Lord, please.

James Burnand:
Dark Lord of the Sith?

GI Griffin:

We'd love to have fun, but this is definitely the place where we like to talk about Industry 4.0, IIoT, as well as digital transformation and automation for manufacturing. We're here to help you future-proof your business. So if you guys want to go ahead and get on into it, since you're already dressed for the part, I'd say let's go.

James Burnand:

I think it is worth noting for anybody watching this podcast, whenever you happen to be watching it, that it is Halloween time right now when we're recording this. That's why we're dressed up the way we're dressed up. And it's not just because we're crazy. We might actually be a little bit crazy, but this is because of Halloween.

GI Griffin:

I thought it was just because it's a Friday.

James Burnand:

It is also a Friday. Yes. But a Friday of the Halloween weekend.

Joseph Dolivo:

Casual Costume Friday. I'm smiling now, but you can't tell under the mask.

GI Griffin:

I can see it. I sense it.

James Burnand:

Oh goodness. So for the topic today, I believe we were going to talk a little bit about some of the technology pieces that are included in our products. Is that what you guys remember? Because it's been a long Friday for me.

Joseph Dolivo:
Yeah.  

GI Griffin:

If we want to go ahead and break down a little bit as far as FactoryStack, exactly what it is, how it works, and kind of a bit of the technical know-how so that people understand what are the working parts behind it, how can I use this, how can this benefit me, and more importantly, how can this be something of an asset for our team.

James Burnand:

Perfect. Okay. So maybe I'll get started with the genesis of where FactoryStack came from and why we've had this journey that we've been on to help manufacturers and integrators and service providers to be able to bring these offerings into the marketplace for their solutions and to enable their solutions to be ready for the cloud. It really goes back a long time, long, long time ago when computing was really not part of a manufacturing system. And as computers started to become part of the plant floor architectures where you went from having Data Highway and RS485 and PROFIBUS. And a lot of networks that were proprietary, they were some cases using things like Token Ring and some cases using coax cables and multi wire. They were really connecting proprietary devices to proprietary devices over semi proprietary communication channels.

As things modernized and moved forward, we started to really get into computers on the factory floor. So we started to have computer based HMIs, we started to use databases for manufacturing applications, and we started to tie together and integrate systems together so you could have manufacturing data connected to operational data, connected to labor data, and then to really start to build some value from those connections.

So if you look at the modernization and how you purchase most factory floor equipment, is you buy equipment, you buy processes, you buy pieces of technology that come with a couple of different components to them. They've got a mechanical component, they've got an electrical component, they've got some sort of a computing component to them, and sometimes a computer or server component to them. But every one of those components has a slightly different life cycle. So when you think about, "Hey, I bought this piece of packaging equipment," well, the mechanical part of it is probably good for 20 years. The wiring's probably good for 20 years. The PLCs are probably good for 10 to 15, but the computer that's on it may or may not be. It may be a three-year, five-year life cycle. And the reason for that is not so much the hardware, but it's the software and the operating systems that live on top of it.

So if you look at where we've come from with computers starting to become a part of that ecosystem, and really at the beginning, the strategy for most companies was to isolate, was to build air gaps into their systems so that they could basically treat a computer on the factory floor as an isolated piece of technology that didn't really require care and feeding and monitoring and management because it was intended to function as a part of a piece of equipment.

As we move forward, air gaps are a great myth these days. And when you look at the lack of investment in policy around how you manage those factory floor assets, unfortunately it's been a big source for cybersecurity vulnerability and it's actually created a lot of issues for companies that want to be able to ensure that they've got an external facing security framework and perimeter that's effective. But there's not a whole lot of controls for, controls being a different word in this sense, not so much factory for controls but controls in terms of security policy management update, as well as operating system policies around the plant floor computing.

So that creates a big gap and that's really kind of, I'm going to let Joe take over here for a second, but that's kind of the genesis of where FactoryStack was kind of born, was the idea that being able to thin the infrastructure, to be able to thin the computing on the factory floor, and to take advantage of some of the latest technologies that are enabled by the cloud makes that a whole lot easier than it used to be. And Joe, I'll let you take the talk for a little while.

Joseph Dolivo:

Yeah. You have no idea how hot it is underneath this mask, by the way. So I'm just staring here trying to breathe.

GI Griffin:

I was going to say it looks like you're staring me down.

Joseph Dolivo:

Yeah. Yeah. But you're right, James. And I mean, we talk about the cloud. It's really cloud native technologies, which are not specific to the cloud, but they're things that can allow us to take advantage of what the cloud does well, which are things like scaling and elasticity and flexibility and spinning it up and spinning down. But some of those technologies are things like version control. So in the software world, we've had version control of programs for literally decades. That's something that's very new to the automation world and it's still only used in a couple of software packages that really have deep integration with it.

Similar to having the deployments of containers where the underlying file system and the services that are deployed are basically guaranteed to be the same from deployment to deployment to deployment. So you're reducing a lot of those problems about your configuration drift where you've got... You think you know what you have installed, let's say, on a virtual machine or on a computer, and what you really have installed is something else, and that's not being maintained and patched. And so that's another big one of these pieces.

And then something we've been doing, or at least we've been saying we've been doing for a long time is having backups and restore procedures. And I think in a lot of times we don't take backups. If we do take backups, we may not test those backups until it's too late, and then we realize that we've now lost a whole bunch of stuff. So that's a really good entrance way on ramp, if you will, to the cloud. You can start using the cloud for something very, very simple like storing all of your backups in which it could be replicated across multiple data centers, which is something you're probably not going to do if you're doing your own backups. And then using those things like containers using version control, you can have all these different changes that you're tracking in a very nice secure way and you can model all your environments that way.

So those are some of the technology advancements that have happened. Some of those, again, have happened in other industries a long time ago. Maybe some of them are more recent to the manufacturing world, but that becomes the foundation. We said, "Well, hey, what if we get productized these ideas and kind of align with where the industry's going around digital transformation, around some of the supply chain issues, around the life cycle of hardware that James was talking about, and build something from that," which is now FactoryStack and PharmaStack.

GI Griffin:

I like it.

James Burnand:

Yeah. And one of the things, Joe, you touched on was around backups and testing of backups. And just a little story here is that I know of at least two customers that I've dealt with personally that got hit with ransomware attacks in the last couple of years. And what I thought was interesting about it is these weren't someone who gained entry and then the moment they got in, they just unleashed the payload and away it went. These were folks that were inside of the networks for weeks. They were doing all sorts of digging and identifying. And they didn't just compromise the plant floor operational systems, but they actually compromised all the backup systems as well.

So when you think about the concept of resilience to those issues and having security layers between the way that you operate and the way that you back up and having intrusion management, intrusion detection as a part of your architecture, unfortunately, even folks that have, I'll say, relatively modern factory floor networks and architectures, you're only as strong as your weakest point. And when someone gains entry and is able to compromise the fabric of security that you operate within, which unfortunately in a lot of cases is not things like active directory and centralized credential management, it's local usernames and passwords or shared username and passwords.

When someone does get in, the damage that they can inflict is significant. And I mean, I have some rough numbers that I was told in private, but it was very, very large sums of money that were paid in ransom to these ransomware folks. And then it became the company's job to go back to their insurance provider and hope that as a part of their cyber policies that they're carrying, that they were compliant.

I can tell one of those worked and one of those didn't. So something to be careful of if you're a manufacturer is read very carefully your cybersecurity policy and make sure that you have very clear and very direct answers to all of the obligations that you have as a manufacturer and from a security context perspective as well as from the things that you're supposed to have been doing as a part of your obligation for that policy because it's super duper important, especially in this time where so many folks have been unfortunately attacked and been vulnerable to these.

Joseph Dolivo:

Yeah. I've seen a lot of discussion online as well about starting to use the cloud for certain things. We're taking advantage of these technologies. And the reality is that for folks in these industries, they probably don't have a lot of experience with it. And so the nice thing though is that there are companies out there who kind of know what they're doing. And so it's a lot cheaper to spend the money, find a partner that you trust to work with them upfront to do it right as opposed to doing it wrong or thinking you're doing it right or not doing it at all and then you end up with one of these problems.

So there's always an ROI discussion to be had around risk avoidance. How much money do you spend to avoid a problem that may or may not hit you? But you look at the likelihood of these things happening nowadays, and especially with these systems no longer being siloed and isolated, it's happening and it's going to continue to happen unfortunately.

James Burnand:

Yeah, and really if you go back to the original question is kind of, "Why FactoryStack and what is FactoryStack?" It's our answer to try to make that easier for end users. It's our answer to try to take some of the knowledge and the centralized capability that we have and are able to bring into a standardized method of deployment so that you can get the advantages of those combination of technologies and processes in the way that you operate. And really with the goal of saving money, making you more secure, and making it easier for you to be able to do things like integrating data to your data lake or to be able to apply AI to your manufacturing or whatever those big digitalization goals are, they always start with the information that's trapped in the control systems. They always start with the plant floor networks. They always start with how do I get information, how do I communicate securely, and how do I make that bridge work in a practical way.

And we think what we've done is beyond just creating the bridge. We've made a way for not just having the bridge, but also a way to then create value by hosting and managing these other useful applications as a part of that.

Joseph Dolivo:

Well said. I agree.

GI Griffin:

I love it. You guys are bringing up a lot of good points. Actually, so many good points that I think that we need to make this part one and that the following week we're going to hop right into part two and then dive in a bit more in terms of what's under the hood, kind of how we like to do things, how we like to approach things, just something a little more juicy, safer, some of the engineers that may want to learn a bit more about FactoryStack and PharmaStack.

So you're sitting here on Heads in the Cloud here with James Burnand and Joe Dolivo from 4IR Solutions. Make sure you guys tune in next week.

James Burnand:

And I will just say my wife is currently taking a picture of me with my horns on.

GI Griffin:

She's going to put you in a zoo. That's what's going to happen.

James Burnand:

All right, guys.

Heads in the Cloud, your source for future-proofing your business.

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Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51h5tY5S7ew

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Blog: https://www.4ir.cloud/blog

4IR Marketing Team
4IR Solutions
4IR Solutions offers a fully managed hybrid cloud infrastructure that enables manufacturers to simplify their operational technology, increase efficiency and scalability, and reduce needed resources and costs. Connect with one of our experts: https://info.4ir.cloud/connect-with-our-experts