Industry 4.0, sometimes referred to as the ‘smart factory’, describes a trend towards automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies and processes which includes cloud computing technologies, the internet of things (IoT), and the industrial internet of things (IIOT).
Many factory operators, on their path to innovation and modernization have invested in networking solutions such as Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). With high-bandwidth connectivity now available in these factory locations, businesses are evaluating additional avenues of innovation. These include:
- Containerized applications that can deliver improved customer experiences through mobile apps, or safer working conditions through augmented-reality (AR) apps
- Containerized IoT applications that can automate operational workflows, e.g. tracking refrigeration performance in warehouses, point-of-sale system health, etc.
But factory operators face a number of challenges when it comes to deploying applications in these environments. Deploying, operating and managing the lifecycle for these applications across hundreds or thousands of locations is a massive effort that centralized IT teams may find hard to address. Getting new server infrastructure deployed in factory environments, if needed, also entails a significant level of effort.
To support these requirements, factory operators need to invest in application infrastructure tooling to deploy and operate applications to all these locations. They must invest in DevOps teams to build out in-house platforms to support microservices-based architectures using containers and Kubernetes. With companies struggling to deploy applications across a handful of regions in public clouds, centrally operating hundreds or thousands of locations is a very risky proposition at best. The development cycles can be long and complicated for Kubernetes and the associated open source tools required to create a full-featured Kubernetes solution.