Network operators in industries like oil and gas, utilities, and manufacturing need a central way to connect branch offices and transmit data from Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors.
With many IIoT devices operating in remote areas, software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) allow industrial organizations to choose the best path to transmit IIoT data. These remote paths could be over a broadband connection or cellular networks such as 2G, 3G, 4G, or 5G. SD-WAN also allows IIoT networks to reduce latency as it steers traffic toward a 5G path, says Anupam Upadhyaya, vice president of product management for network security at Palo Alto Networks.
Larry Lunetta, vice president of networking, portfolio, and communications marketing at HPE Aruba Networking, says IIoT environments have been a “walled garden” with locally managed protocols in areas such as factories and utilities. As IIoT devices gather data from a production cycle and send them to a global network, SD-WAN serves as the means to connect this data, usually in the cloud.
He says the SD-WAN acts as an “on-ramp” between local resources and geographically dispersed data. With multiple cloud platforms such as AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure offering different ways to connect data, SD-WANs provide an overlay to connect networks on top of public clouds to bring geographically dispersed data together.
Choosing the right path via SD-WAN depends on performance issues, such as latency, jittering, and server response time. That requires an SD-WAN to understand both network and application performance so it can direct the IIoT network to an optimal path, Upadhyaya says.
IoT devices communicate with an application in the cloud, but it can take multiple paths to get to the cloud, including multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), broadband, or 5G. Products like Palo Alto’s Prisma SD-WAN use machine learning to help network operators determine the optimal path for IIoT devices, according to Upadhyaya.
Other vendors that offer SD-WAN include HP Aruba Networking and Cato Networks. Here are some key ways that SD-WAN can be important to IIoT.