Your enterprise might be using PLC-SCADA systems in its manufacturing units to keep a track of business operations for a long as of now. It indeed is an amazing remote monitoring and control tool when real-time supervision and data acquisition is concerned.
If you are willing to connect your SCADA systems to the modern cloud, such as Microsoft Azure IoT Core, then it is a wise decision for sure. Read this article to find out how you can do that.
Also Read: Azure or AWS
A Quick Introduction to PLC-SCADA
SCADA (Supervisory control and data acquisition) relies on PLCs (Programmable Logic controllers) for storing, compiling and delivering the information. As this software can easily integrate with all kinds of product equipment, businesses in various industries prefer to use it.
SCADA systems are preferred in the oil & gas industry, power & energy sector, chemicals businesses, automotive ventures and Food & beverages manufacturing units.
Why is it essential for Industrial Data Collection?
Manually filling all the data for your manufacturing operations handled by machines requires a lot of time, and more than that, faster processing. This means, your enterprise will have to employ a larger number of people for this purpose. Even after that, the collaboration and data collection won’t be flawless.
SCADA, on the other hand, has the ability to automatically compile such information and deliver it to the desired storage/processing unit. This information can be sent in real-time and is accurate.
Collecting the data from the manufacturing unit is crucial in order to detect problems, inventory status, and other such things. With such information in hand, experts can forecast and prevent the issues easily.
Why Monitor Your PLC-SCADA system through Modern Cloud?
In general, businesses used to gather the fetched and processed data to their local on-premise SQL databases. However, the cost of physically and digitally securing such data was quite high. Enterprise Data mobility and access for such arrangements are limited too.
With the SCADA system’s monitoring through a Modern Cloud, manufacturers can share the fetched data across multiple locations for their enterprise faster. Storing data in such a way also renders all the benefits of using cloud storage in general.
Experts at Stridely can help you connect your SCADA system to Modern Cloud. Here, we will take the example of Microsoft Azure to demonstrate how this deployment can be done.
Connecting your SCADA System to Azure
- Selecting Hardware and Assuring Compatibility
Your industrial PLC or SCADA system first needed to be accessed for its compatibility with the implementation you are going to do.
Luckily, MQTT, Modbus or OPC UA protocols can be used for a wide variety of PLCs that are generally used by manufacturers, while working to connect it with Microsoft’s cloud (like, in our case). Even if you cannot connect using these, there are a few third-party connectivity tools for this purpose.
Next, you need an industrial gateway. You may choose it from the Microsoft Azure Device Catalog.
After these two, you must also figure out a secured controller, 8-port manage switch, external power supply aid, breaker and IO module to move ahead and enable monitoring of the PLC-SCADA system through Microsoft Azure.
Please note that the process and hardware choices will differ as per your industrial PLC setup and choice of the cloud solution.
- The Networking Part
It majorly depends upon the gateway you have selected. For example, you might use Ethernet ports or LTE connection.
To strengthen the security of your deployment, you must use the network switch and place the industrial PLC in a different subnet than the network connected to Microsoft Azure cloud.
- Connecting the Industrial PLC to Azure
The open-source software solutions by Microsoft, such as Azure IoT Edge, can be used at this step. It uses Windows/Linux OS as the human-machine interface (HMI). You may choose the OS that you and your employees are habitual of using.
For older versions of Linux, you might need to compile the IoT Edge source code with OS scripts. However, the same won’t be needed for newer versions.
To connect your chosen protocol (e.g. Modbus), you can find out the right IoT Edge module in the IoT Edge Marketplace.
Once you have all the prerequisites, do the following:
- Install IoT Edge
- Add the Azure IoT Hub for the PLC-to-cloud communication
- Connect your SCADA-PLC system to the IoT Edge using the chosen protocol
- Configure the SCADA with Azure IoT Hub by registering port and defining publish intervals, registers, frequency of polling and so on)
- Making the final Security Arrangements
You must add device-level, network-level as well as Azure-level security in order to keep your industrial data safe.
For the device-level security, make sure that no one on your premises access the system with ill intentions. Also, assure that the data being fed to the SCADA is not being distorted.
For the network-level security, there are TLS and supports X.509 certificates that your control network might use. You should also follow the security standards to make the needed arrangements for the secured data transfer. Using IP filtering, VPNs and other such network security deployments can further improve your data’s security.
As far as the Azure-level security is concerned, you need not worry about it. Microsoft Azure is considered the complex-most and compliance-adhered industrial choice that covers over 70 compliances. Its cloud security standards are just perfect for your PLC-SADA to Cloud data acquisition process in real-time.
Besides these security-related measures, you must also be careful while choosing the hardware devices and deploy legit identity management constraints for the same.
The Final Word
Monitoring your PLC-SCADA system through Modern Cloud is an advantageous move. However, the process is complex and requires making optimal choices. Even after choosing the hardware, implementation of the connectivity and deployment of security is not tough either. A little mistake might cause damage to your precious industrial data.
Therefore, always consider consulting the experts and hiring the Azure or Modern Cloud experts so that the procedure remains smooth.