IEN Europe: According to a study carried out by the market research and consulting firm Pierre Audoin Consultants in 2013, around 40 percent of the German manufacturing industry are strictly against the use of Cloud Computing. Roughly 70 percent had their doubts as far as availability and performance are concerned, but of course they also showed great concerns regarding data security. Do you understand those concerns, or do you even share them?
Zenner: Regarding availability and performance we don't share those concerns. Many certified Cloud service providers are specialized on exactly those aspects. By means of distributed data centers and sufficient performance resources, companies can profit from highly customized solutions. However, its's completely different if we talk about security. Here it definitely makes sense to use certified data and IT centers here in Germany and to take care that end-to-end encoding is guaranteed.
IEN Europe: Is there any effective way of countering those concerns?
Zenner: In Germany you have ISO 27001 certified data centers that have realized the BSI basic protection, and that also offer a great performance and availability. But in case those concerns can't be smoothed, or the performance of the internet connection of the service provider can't be guaranteed permanently, we can also set up a "Cloud" within the internal network of the customer.
IEN Europe: Do you think that Cloud Computing is a prerequisite in order to successfully put into action Industrie 4.0 or the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Zenner: Yes, without the Cloud there will be neither the Internet of Things nor Industrie 4.0. Moreover, the Internet and the Cloud will take care that Industrie 4.0 will be based on established standards such as HTTP, REST APIs or HTML5-conforming web sockets, and not on whatever exotic automation standards.
IEN Europe: At the most recent SPS IPC Drives show in Nuremberg Welotec, together with the experts of the company SSV Software Systems, presented a newly developed IoT service platform called SARA Connect, which allows sensors and actuators to communicate with each other. Is this a Cloud-based solution as well?
Zenner: SARA Connect can an may be Cloud-based. But what we can do as well is install SARA Connect on a server within an automation network or in a data center selected by the customer. Most companies already have an internal server room or even a data center. We can operate SARA Connect on those servers.
IEN Europe: How does SARA Connect deal with data security?
Zenner: Data security is a crucial subject. Therefore, SARA Connect is based on a security-by-design approach. Naturally, all standard connection are encoded. In case we include additional interfaces like for example Modbus or SMS, which don't feature integrated encoding or security, they will be encapsulated from the rest of the application, or they will get secured by a VPN tunnel. As important as encoding and securing the data by firewall or access restrictions is however the training of the staff on our customer's side. An integral part of this training is generating secure passwords, dealing with passwords and PKI certificates, as well as the installation of the respective processes.
IEN Europe: Please tell us something about other essential features of this platform.
Zenner: SARA Connect is a data broker. This means that companies can base their application on a secure and proven platform. SARA Connect manages to integrate Industrie 3.0 and the IoT, and thus creates Industrie 4.0.
IEN Europe: Where do you see the main fields of application for this technology?
Zenner: First and foremost in the integrated networking of the entire manufacturing landscape, including all PLCs, sensors and actuators. On top of that, SARA Connect takes care of providing MES, ERP and other IT applications with machine and process data.
IEN Europe: What else does Welotec offer in order to secure data communication in the industrial field?
Zenner: Apart from the mere software, we supply the support service for selecting the adequate architecture. In addition, we supply training for the users. This package not only leads to a secure software within the Cloud or the data center, but also to a secure handling of the software.
IEN Europe: In order to briefly get back to the study mentioned at the beginning: In contrast to private users of online or Cloud services, who seemingly have surrendered to the fact that their private data is being spied by external third parties, such a behavior is not to be expected of small to medium-sized companies. The reason for this is that with the loss of their know how and intellectual property, they would be deprived of their means of existence. Do you expect a change in this attitude in the short or medium-term run?
Zenner: We think that a change is already taking place. We only have to get away from constantly thinking about the Google or Apple or Amazon Cloud. Those are all US companies that might be tapped by their own government. A few years ago we talked to our customers about Cloud solutions, and they didn't want to hear a thing about that. In the meantime we avoid the word Cloud when talking to our customers. Instead, we talk about secure high-performance data centers or an installation within our customer's data center.