Scada Evolution Changing To Meet New Challenges 651ad667378bc

SCADA evolution: Changing to meet new challenges

Oct. 3, 2023
Fifth-generation systems are the largest SCADA transition yet

SCADA systems have progressed along the same evolutionary path as any computer-based system. Every generation has been defined by the new challenges it must address.

First-generation, monolithic SCADA systems were characterized by radio modems and local data aggregation. Second-generation, distributed SCADA systems used telecommunications networks and PC-based systems. Third-generation SCADA systems were defined by window-based HMIs, along with standard network protocols. Fourth-generation systems are Internet-based networks with browser-based HMI and COTS infrastructure, and are typical of today’s systems.

Perennial innovation drivers common across all generations of SCADA include:

• Maximizing system reliability (no unscheduled downtime);

• Minimizing operational costs;

• Minimizing capital expenditures;

• Minimizing risk, including protecting workers and intellectual property;

• Providing more data, more reliable and longer distance coverage and faster analysis; and

• Competitive pressures to reduce costs and cycle time while improving quality.

These same perennial drivers are the impetus for fifth-generation SCADA systems, which include:

• Expanding IIoT devices inside and outside the traditional OT environment;

• Real-time integration of OT systems with non-OT systems including the cloud; and

• Cybersecurity for critical infrastructure.

Scott Greig, senior product manager at Willowglen Systems, and I recently presented on SCADA at the AIMST 2023 Conference in Dallas, and discussed how these perennial drivers are driving the need for adaptable SCADA, including:

• Emerging cybersecurity threats;

• Environmental, safety and security legislation;

• Availability of ML-based efficiency tools;

• Availability of IIoT devices; and

• Amalgamation of companies and service providers due to mergers and acquisitions.

These situational changes are driving the requirements for the fifth-generation adaptable SCADA platform, which needs to be capable of supporting these emerging needs:

• Frequent patches to support legislative requirements for installing software updates on a more frequent update cycle. Facilities normally having full outages are driving a need to support live updates without reboot;

• Managing new security threat vectors and understanding how the security threat can affect operations incrementally rather than a full operational shutdown;

• Obtaining safety and security certification from independent third parties to verify compliance with international standards and regulations;

• Managing operator overload with AI-based and ML-based efficiency tools to guide operators through increasingly complex operations that they may not have observed before;

• Exponential growth/incremental expansion of systems through integration of IIoT devices to drive more accurate models and understanding of facility’s operations;

• New paradigm for maintaining system reliability including, not only integration of multiple different suppliers into a single supervisory SCADA environment, but also how to upgrade legacy systems with new systems that can support situational requirements, while satisfying the perennial needs of every SCADA installation; and

• Pressure to adopt new technologies to realize cost efficiencies and manage risk through better understanding of and integration of real-time data into business planning processes.

The increasing complexity and expectations of fifth-generation SCADA systems mean, other than the aggregating and presenting data function from previous generations capabilities, it's no longer a “pure SCADA” play. SCADA is becoming a data orchestrator connecting information across all layers of the enterprise—from sensors to the cloud.

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