To meet challenges such as customization at scale and made-to-order, manufacturing companies are increasingly looking to Industry 4.0. But to realize the full potential of Industry 4.0-technologies like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), additive manufacturing (3D printing) and advanced robotics, you need a more flexible and powerful digital foundation. With its scalability, agility and processing power, the cloud is the natural choice to power such a foundation. However, you need to look further than a basic lift & shift scenario to create a consolidated platform that can truly bring together operations technology (OT) and IT.
Lift & shift isn’t enough for manufacturing
If you are like many other manufacturing companies, you may be suffering from an inflexible and complex IT architecture where changing one thing risks breaking the integrations with everything else. This problem won’t be solved overnight by simply lifting and shifting existing applications and data into virtual machines, which is often referred to as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This frees you from the effort of having to maintain your own hardware and make capital expenditures but does not go further. Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the next step, which enables you to create a more flexible platform with more robust integrations and unlocks the true power of the cloud.
PaaS and Industry 4.0 go hand in hand
By leveraging Platform as a Service (PaaS), manufacturing companies can gain access to the tools to consolidate IIoT device data and develop new IoT-centric applications. These applications make it easier to manage the numerous sensors, industrial control units, cameras and other IIoT devices used in Industry 4.0.
In 2020, more than half of new applications developed on PaaS will be IoT-centric.
With PaaS, you no longer have to manage middleware like operating systems, security solutions and application integration servers by yourself. This puts greater digital capabilities and resources at your disposal than a standard IaaS setup.
PaaS is especially useful for:
- Consolidating and managing many devices from one place (think IIoT devices)
- Integrating both on-premises and cloud applications and data
- Aggregating data from both on-premises servers and cloud storage to power advanced analytics
- Innovating and accelerating new digital capabilities via microservices and APIs
A cloud-native platform is a win-win
If you’re integrating your applications using an application integration server like Microsoft Biztalk, then your platform is essentially based on an on-premise approach. You may be integrating a mix of on-premise and cloud applications and data in a hybrid environment, but you are still doing that from an on-premise platform.
By leveraging PaaS, you can use a cloud-native platform instead. Cloud-native means that you use a platform based on all the power, flexibility and integration capabilities (like Azure Integration Service) of the cloud. However, you still don’t actually have to put everything in the cloud. For example, you might need to keep some data on premises for compliance reasons and that’s not a problem.
A cloud-native platform is a win-win – you get more powerful cloud AI, analytics and integration features – without having to make any compliance compromises.
Cloud-native applications are future-proof
On-premise applications can be plagued by inflexibility as well. For instance, updates can be expensive, time-consuming and rare. And if you’re not up to date, you may be missing out on powerful new features that could boost efficiency, especially considering that most new technologies and innovations are now focused in the cloud. By going cloud-native not only with your platform but also with your applications, you can unlock greater scalability, agility and performance, which is necessary to get the most value out of Industry 4.0 technologies.
Software as a Service (SaaS) goes beyond IaaS and PaaS to enable cloud-native applications that outperform and outlast their rapidly outdated on-premise counterparts. After all, it’s only natural that applications developed specifically for the cloud will be better at leveraging all the benefits of the cloud, such as the latest AI capabilities.
The ability to easily, frequently and painlessly update cloud-native applications makes them future-proof.
To infinity and beyond lift & shift!
Looking beyond lift & shift is the key to opening up infinite digital possibilities and infinite Industry 4.0 potential for your business. Learn more about how Microsoft Azure can be leveraged to future-proof your applications and get your OT and IT resources out of silos and into a platform that enables innovation and productivity gains beyond your wildest dreams.