Manufacturing plant operations may be virtualization technology's final
frontier. Fewer than one in five manufacturing companies currently run
production applications such as SCADA, MES, Historian, Batch or OPC in virtual
environments, and only seven percent say they plan to do so in the next twelve
months, according to a recent readership survey conducted by IndustryWeek
magazine for Stratus Technologies.
Virtualization use in manufacturing IT systems is far behind the technology's
penetration in IT infrastructures generally, where one in five companies runs 80
percent of all applications on virtual machines, and one in two companies has
virtualized 40 percent of all applications.
More than 500 IndustryWeek readers responded to the "Manufacturer IT
Applications Survey," representing a broad range of company sizes and products
produced. The magazine tabulated results by annual revenue categories -- less
than $100 million, $100-$999 million and above $1 billion -- and by the average
of all respondents.
In a related finding, just 11 percent of respondents said they use
virtualization to achieve high availability. "The manufacturers we deal with
know their cost of downtime with certainty and have IT systems designed for high
levels of uptime assurance," said Dave LeClair, director of product management
and marketing, Stratus. "Virtualization is best used for server and application
consolidation, not as a means for achieving availability. It's important for
manufacturing companies to understand that, while virtualization has certain
availability attributes, they come with added provisioning and complexities and,
in the end, still do not deliver a complete availability solution."
Pinellas County (FL) Utilities, which manages water and waste water systems
for five million residents and annual visitors, made the jump to virtualization
two years ago. "I can foresee a time when the SCADA operation runs entirely on
virtual machines and three fault-tolerant servers," said Ken Osborne, SCADA
supervisor, about his current eight-server infrastructure. "That option didn't
exist a decade ago. Our decisions then proved to be the right ones in every
regard and today we're smarter about our virtualization strategy because of it."
The full survey results were presented during a webinar hosted by
IndustryWeek on May 31, 2012. Featured speakers included NetSuite's GM of
Manufacturing/Wholesale & Distribution, Roman Bukary, and Stratus' Director
of Global Alliances, Peter Cook, who offered insights into what manufacturers
are currently experiencing with regard to downtime, as well as some best
practices to prevent it.