Most people are familiar with the term Information Technology (IT). However, over the past few years we have seen Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) become increasingly intertwined, where in the past, these two technologies were kept separate.
What is Operational Technology?
Operational technology (OT) refers to the hardware and software used to change, monitor, or control physical devices, processes, and events within a company or organization. The devices this technology refers to typically have more autonomy than information technology devices or programs.
What is Information Technology?
Information technology (IT) refers to anything related to computer technology, including hardware and software. Your email, for example, falls under the IT umbrella. This form of often constitutes the technological backbone of most organizations and companies. These devices and programs have little autonomy and are updated frequently. Access to IT programs and connected devices are typically less restricted than to OT devices, and many, if not all, employees at a given organization may be granted access.
The main difference between OT and IT devices is that OT devices control the physical world, while IT systems manage data.
Operational & Information Technology Coming Together
From the overview above, IT and OT may not seem compatible. OT systems are isolated and self-contained, designed to run autonomously, and rely on proprietary software. On the other hand, IT systems are connected by nature, have little autonomy, and generally run using readily available operating systems.
In recent years, what was known as “traditional OT” has started to change, since the rise of the fourth industrial revolution, also known as “Industry 4.0”. Companies taking part in this change have begun implementing new digital solutions in their networks looking to stay ahead of their competition. These solutions aim to increase automation, add “smart” devices, make data more efficient and available, and interconnect networks for convenience.
As part of the interconnection, and to make OT components more accessible while being able to collect and analyze data about them, IT and OT networks are also becoming interconnected. This movement is referred to as IT-OT Convergence.
Industry experts predict that IT-OT will only continue to converge. This means that OT administrators should do their best to understand the IT environment, and vice versa – the sooner the better. Organizations should begin to align their standards, policies, tools, processes, and staff between the IT and the business to the changing OT systems. The approach to dealing with the organizational changes in response to IT/OT convergence is called IT/OT alignment.
In order to help the industry adopt IT-OT convergence, BuildingFit will be doing a series that will cover several aspects of the movement, including how to deal with cyber security.