At the beginning of 2020 I was just returning from an amazing trip to Japan and looking forward to finishing up my Executive MBA from the University of Nevada Reno. On the way back, I had heard about the corona-virus discovered in China, but didn’t think much of it after really being detached from the Ebola, MERS, or SARS outbreaks in the recent past. A global pandemic just wasn’t something that was on my radar, and by looking at the way things have turned out, anybody being honest will say it was not on their radar either
Strategizing advanced enterprise technology systems, requires looking ahead to what could possibly go wrong, and designing systems that are robust, reliable and accessible, even in the worst case scenario. For me, working with an Energy and Water utility in California meant planning for a town destroying forest fire, all the while losing physical access to wells, pump stations and electric substations. Often having 17 plus feet of snow regularly every winter provided real world scenarios where disaster like conditions existed on a yearly bases.
As a result, for 20 years I have designed technology around operations and the internet of things; focusing on ensuring there is high availability both in normal times, but more particularly in non-normal times. I also focused on mobility; trying to ensure even when physical access was limited or non existent, virtual access was always available from anywhere, on any device, at any time.
These design strategies often flew in the face of traditional technology strategies in the operational technology (OT) space. Converging IT networks with OT networks was, and still is in some cases, frowned upon by companies and implementers. These old school philosophies, however, significantly increase costs, and ensure that mobile access is difficult, if not impossible. With stories about operators being sequestered in control rooms or at substations, the question I ask is why? The answer to me is obvious. These utilities were not prepared for the new-normal. Their IT and OT networks were not converged and their mobility to access and operate from afar were non-existent. As we are learning, it is no longer OK to not plan for a new-normal or the next new-normal. We have to be prepared for what we don’t see coming.
My hope with this blog is that I can lend my experience as well as my designs to help others who maybe struggling with how to build utility ready enterprise systems that are converged, redundant and reliable, accessible from anywhere, hardened by the latest cyber security technologies and methodologies, and enhanced through artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. I hope to point you to some industry experts who have guided me and my thoughts, and most importantly, I hope to have fun and collaborate with many of you on this journey.
Till we speak again, Ian