The concept of cloud computing has been around for decades. And it was originally derived from the flow charts and diagrams used to envision the early foundations of the internet. Even then, the concept of linking many devices as an accumulation of computing resources with increased analytical power was seen as valuable.
What is cloud computing?
Simply defined, cloud computing is a way to deliver computing service on-demand through the internet. The cloud can be public, delivering a defined service to multiple users, called the public cloud. Or the mode of cloud service can be a private cloud, delivering IT and other services over a company’s private IT structure.
Using one of these two models in manufacturing, companies can utilize a service provider’s offerings ranging from Software as a Service (SaaS) where users utilize the provider’s applications, Platform as a Service (PaaS) where users are provided a development environment, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) where users can develop their own software and operating system while using storage, backup and security provided by the cloud service provider.
Reaching for the Clouds
For many manufacturing companies, cloud computing services offer benefits unobtainable and more cost effective than in-house IT. This is critical for web-based companies where access from any location is vital. But it is becoming increasingly desirable for manufacturers who are at the forefront of Industry 4.0 technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things that are delivering productivity gains previously unheard of.
Benefits of cloud computing for manufacturing companies include:
To Cloud or Not to Cloud, Onsite Still Has Value
A study by Goldman Sachs shows that spending for cloud computing grew at a 30% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2013-2018 while enterprise IT grew at only 5%. However, onsite IT is still a viable, and in some cases preferred, mode of operation for many companies. Of those companies utilizing onsite IT, reasons ranged from security concerns (73%) to control over IT resources (38%) to compliance issues(38%).
For companies utilizing onsite IT systems, many do so based on the perceived disadvantages of the cloud. And the advantages of onsite IT will vary from industry to industry as well as from large companies to small. However, some of the benefits of onsite IT include:
Efforts are underway to address some of the disadvantages of cloud computing. One approach is the use of Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB). CASBs act as a gateway between cloud providers and users to implement enterprise security policies. They can also help companies adhere to newly passed legislation for data security compliance.
As Industry 4.0 technologies advance and security and compliance issues recede, the move to higher adoption of cloud computing will continue. For technologies such as Industrial IoT, the advantages above allow connected enterprises that encompass whole factories to deliver data and analysis for improved efficiency. These cloud-based systems will impact how factories operate over production, inventory control, maintenance and scheduling. And the ability to customize, scale, control and deploy in an agile and competitive fashion means that the cloud a company uses can be tailored to meet a company's specific goals and deliver that company’s unique value to its clients.