All good things come to an end

Ethernet emerged in the automation control room in the 1990s, it connected servers to workstations and, via a separate network interface card, provided access to master PLCs and controllers. It is not unusual to find Operational 'OT' Technology / SCADA systems in place today that were implemented at a time where operational threats were limited to path failure and a harsh environment. This is just one aspect of obsolescence - others are far more obvious.

End of Life Planning for OT Infrastructure

System-wide Approach

There are many aspects of obsolescence that need to be considered within a management plan. Whether you have a 'mid-life' product with legacy firmware and minimal configuration or you can no-longer find spare hardware on eBay the outcome is the same your infrastructure is at increasing risk. With Operational 'OT' Technology systems, implemented in the 1990s or naughties, still operational, the networks and control systems that enable and operate them were of an an era where the threats of the time were either environmental or related to the speed of network recovery on path failure. In recent times, the threat landscape has changed beyond recognition. Whilst the longer term view may be replacement, some short term adjustments can mitigate many of the new generation of 'cyber related' risks.

Configuration

An OT network implemented, even a decade of more ago, to last the life time of the overarching process may have a number of key security features available for configuration, they were just never configured. A review and assessment of configuration combined with an appropriate protective monitoring strategy could extend the useful life of generally reliable 'Industrial Ethernet' hardware considerably.

Software & Firmware

Software and more specifically software vulnerability can be a major threat to OT networks and the systems that use them. Challenges relating to Windows XP are well documented, less obvious embedded operating systems that deliver the functionality of managed network devices should not be overlooked. An effective network maintenance regime should ensure updates are performed at least annually.

Hardware

Sometime it is necessity that drives change. IT4A have seen cases where upgrade is deemed necessary only when second user spares can no longer be sourced on eBay! These environments tend to have limited expertise in network related matters and adopt the 'if its not broken don't fix it' policy out of necessity rather than a relaxed risk appetite.

Here to help

IT4A help Customers overcome all the challenges of network obsolescence; hopefully well before the last chance of that well known auction site runs dry! We have access to the widest range of current products and the expertise to allow as seamless a migration as is possible.

Automation networks rely upon 5 key technology areas:

"I can honestly say that with IT4A working alongside us we assembled the right team managed to achieve all our goals successfully"

Nuclear Sector,
Project Manager