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Terminal servers essential as IT, OT systems converge

By Max Burkhalter
February 19, 2013

Information technology and operations technology used to be such separate spheres of operation that the two departments were kept in separate silosin most organizations settings. This created an environment in which different skill competencies, management practices and day-to-day operations were prioritized in each sector, leaving many companies with clear boundaries between what falls under the realm of IT and what has to be handled by OT teams. These borders are now disappearing.

According to a recent Smart Grid News report, many businesses are experiencing a growing need to align IT and OT functionality in light of intelligent device architectures. The smart grid and accompanying distribution energy resources systems are a prime example of this movement.

Aligning IT and OT for smart grid functionality
The smart grid is a key example of the rise of distribution energy resources solutions. The news source explained that the smart devices used in smart grid systems require IT and OT architectures to be integrated with one another to support functionality. Generally speaking, the operations technology systems within the utility grid have to be connected to the network and various data analysis, management and transit solutions that are based on IT architectures. Making these diverse systems work well in conjunction with one another can be a difficult and costly process, but the end result is a system that functions more effectively.

The technical burden associated with making IT and OT systems align with one another is not just about finding the right technologies to support integration. There are also skills-related issues that come into play in this area. While OT and IT employees generally have vastly different skills that need to be balanced with one another in a unified setup, most organizations have an established workforce with a major divide between IT and OT functionality. This can create considerable operational challenges when making the transition to intelligent architectures built on IT and OT functionality.

Easing the technological side of integration
Terminal servers can make it much easier to make IT and OT systems to work in conjunction with one another. In many cases, OT solutions are built for serial network functionality, making it difficult to attach them to the Ethernet systems needed to enable IT integration. Terminal server infrastructure provides the interoperability necessary to enable serial to Ethernet functionality. As a result, terminal server systems provide an essential connecting point between IT and OT systems.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations. The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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