3 Reasons for holistic monitoring in Industrial IT

 Originally published on June 18, 2021 by Shaun Behrens
Last updated on August 31, 2021 • 7 minute read

Digitalization has been driving change in industrial IT in recent years. Data from the machine and automation level has become more relevant for the entire enterprise, and so machines have become more connected. This has an impact on how you monitor industrial environments.

Nowadays, teams managing an automated and interconnected industrial infrastructure need an overview of the traditional IT elements, the OT elements (like the gateway devices, PLCs, industrial routers, Aps, VPN routers, protocol converters, etc.) and metrics from IIoT devices (like temperature, humidity, and so on). 

But what exactly does this increased convergence of IT and OT mean for monitoring industrial IT? Most importantly, people at all levels of the organization must be using the same base data. And that means that the base data must incorporate IT, OT and IIoT metrics. This is what we mean when we refer to "holistic monitoring".

Here are three reasons why holistic monitoring is crucial in industrial IT.

The right teams need the right data

dashboard-graphicPreviously segregated teams now rely on each other. For example: IT teams are responsible for ensuring data generated by machines on the factory floor makes its way to the cloud, while industrial engineers or managers might need access to that data in order to make decisions regarding the production line. Essentially, all teams need to work from the same data, but they need to have different views of it depending on their requirements and tasks.

To demonstrate what I mean by this, let's consider the different views required by different teams.

  • Process management view
    For production managers, process engineers and maintenance staff, this is a view of the production process, from planning to execution. It is used to identify bottlenecks and their root causes in production performance, optimize throughput times, reduce quality issues, and increase general production efficiency.

  • Service management view
    For service maintenance management engineers and technicians, this view shows operational runtime data of machines and IT systems that are critical to the production process, and incorporates metrics and data from various aspects of the industrial environment. It helps service personnel to avoid issues and production downtime, understand where problems occur in the environment, and inform decisions about predictive maintenance.

  • IT view
    For system administrators, this is a view of the IT infrastructure, with the status and performance of various devices and systems. It includes traditional IT (such as routers switches and servers), industrial IT (such as gateways, industrial routers, etc.), and the status of control systems and field controllers. This data helps administrators ensure data flow across all areas of the enterprise.

Because you have data for all elements, holistic monitoring helps you provide views that are specific to the teams that need to see the data, while using the same core data.

Root cause analysis across systems and interfaces

Because data is passed across several systems, there is an increased risk of failure. All the gears are meshed together – if one doesn’t work, then everything else is impacted, too. In the case of a failure, it’s not enough to simply be alerted when the problem occurs; teams need to understand the root cause of a problem in order to prevent it from happening in the future. But to find the root cause, teams need to look across the entire infrastructure.

PRTG Industrial IT monitoring

Ensuring the flow of data upstream

It goes without saying that availability of machines and systems in OT is critical - downtime can halt production and have far-reaching consequences. But there is also a new dimension to this. As mentioned above, digitalization drives the need for data from OT and IIoT to be processed and analyzed. And this means that data needs to move from the factory floor and IIoT devices to upstream targets like data centers, cloud services, or ERP systems. And for that data to get where it's going, IT systems become critical, too. 

Because of this, availability and communication of devices across all areas becomes even more important: the status of control systems, machines, industrial gateways that route the information, and the supporting IT devices and systems must be monitored. Condition and status monitoring not only ensures devices, machines and systems are up and running, but also that data required for analysis and decision-making can make it to the upstream systems.  

PRTG as a vital part of the solution

Now you know the benefits of a holistic monitoring approach, the next challenge is implementing it, and most probably you will need a combination of tools. A monitoring tool like PRTG can form one part of the puzzle, because it lets you bring in elements from IT using trusted standards like SNMP or Netflow, from OT using standards and protocols like OPC UA or Modbus TCP (among others), and from IIoT devices using MQTT and other mechanisms. It can also help you build a picture of the availability and status of machines and devices across all the areas, and provides ways to get crucial data from industrial gateways.

In future posts, we'll be providing more information about how to monitor industrial IT with PRTG, so  be sure to subscribe to our blog for all of our industrial IT content and more.