Hacker attacks with ransomware like WannaCry and Petrwrap are keeping the world busy. Even large companies look powerless as their central IT systems are being hacked, causing damages in the millions. No wonder that the media blame widespread networking as the cause and interpret the attacks as a setback for Industry 4.0.
Yes, the attacks reveal risks, weaknesses and security gaps in IT networks. But I am convinced that Industry 4.0 needs cloud technologies, and that the cloud will come. Why? Because the benefits of connectivity outweigh the risks.
Here’s an example: An electronics manufacturer wanting to link his various production sites and set up a monitoring solution via a classic IT project would have to hire and manage many software developers over many months. Data models must be defined, and goals and logistics must be specified in advance. Everything must be coordinated – department units, software developers, data, tools, etc. This makes the system inflexible whenever machines, locations or requirements change. And by the way: the resulting classic network will not be safer than a cloud-based solution, because WannaCry managed to infiltrate many classic IT networks and solutions via long-known holes in the operating system.
The cloud on the basis of platforms like Siemens MindSphere (other industrial companies like GE as well as IT giants like Microsoft and Google offer similar solutions) offers a different scenario. Machines deliver data to the cloud, where it can be filtered and analyzed with a multitude of apps. Everything operates separately: machine deliver the data, software developers build the apps, companies configure their own tools and dashboards, and users decide which data they want to visualize and analyze. The result: exceptional speed and flexibility.
Yes, we will continue to see hacker attacks with lots of resulting damage. And needless to say, companies and governments need to pay more attention to IT security and invest more money into research, tools, training and people. But at the end of the day, everything is a cost-benefit calculation. The risks and costs of a hacker attack are countered by the opportunities and benefits and the flexible connectivity of cloud technologies. And I have no doubt that these opportunities and benefits outweigh the risks. The cloud will come.