By Gregory Hale
Automation systems are now beyond the scope of single point solutions. Operators today need a new integrated approach to securing, managing, protecting and monitoring their systems, a new report said.

The changing dynamics in the automation systems market include technology, regulatory and business trends, according to the Pike Research report, entitled “Convergence in Automation Systems Protection.”

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A factor forcing the change is the increased complexity in control systems. Yes, the complexity of those enhanced systems is greater, but systems can manage much of that complexity rather than people, the report said.

“The challenges in the market are overbearing, which drives down system efficiency,” said Brian Ahern, president and chief executive of Industrial Defender, who sponsored the report.

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One of those dynamics is the increased need to secure the systems, staying on top of compliance issues, while at the same time continue to keep producing product. Since those three functions have significant overlaps in process and in data, integration among the three functions is possible, the report said.

Since most systems came about long before security was even a thought, manufacturers now have systems that are more difficult to manage. On top of that, operators need to do more with less. A third market driver is the growth of intelligent devices deployed in automation environments. These networked and IP-enabled devices are creating management requirements with which operators have limited experience.

The report discusses how these and other trends are motivating operators of automation environments, such as industrial control systems (ICS), to seek better ways to monitor, manage and protect their critical systems.

Instead of individual security areas like patch management, white listing, risk assessment, and all the other individual segments plant floor engineers and IT professionals have to watch on a system ever day, operators need technology and tools that enable them to a more integrated and intelligent approach to security, compliance and change management, the report said.

“In researching this report, we saw two main themes clearly emerging in the market,” said Pike Research Senior Analyst Bob Lockhart. “First is a growing recognition among ICS professionals of overlaps in the processes, data and technology required to monitor, manage and secure today’s automation environment. The second theme is that significant workload and expense reductions can be achieved by taking an integrated approach to these presently separate functions and processes.”

“There needs to be a way to unify all those point solutions through a single interface giving a unified solution,” Ahern said.

An integrated solution can take advantage of inherent overlaps, leading to a number of benefits that include:
• Reduced expense
• Lowered risk
• Reduced labor
• Less complexity

At the end of the day, the manufacturer can quantify all those benefits, meaning security, compliance, and operations improvements with measurable benefits which can give a true return on investment for security.

“If you bring in the management discussion like how do you mange the process, people and expenses, you can come up with a formula to create actionable items,” Ahern said.

Click here to download a copy of the Pike Research report.

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