The launch of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Industrial Data Fabric (IDF) at Hannover Messe underscores the central role of AWS and its partner ecosystem as a major point of gravity for practical Industry 4.0 solutions. The new cloud-backed Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering provides a reference architecture and tools to help manufacturers collect, manage, and act on a wide variety of business-critical data. The implication is a greater emphasis on open data interoperability between AWS Services and AWS Partner Solutions, such as HighByte Intelligence Hub and Element Unify, both of which are available in the AWS Solutions Library and may be purchased in the AWS Marketplace as of Hannover Messe.
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Industrial Data Fabric Overview and Functionality
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is targeting and enabling the industrial data management space with a new set of offerings released at Hannover Messe intended to help industrial companies integrate, optimize, and scale Industry 4.0 solutions. The offerings consist of AWS Services, AWS Solutions, and AWS Partner Solutions, and guidance like reference architectures for end users, Builders (e.g., Element and HighByte, which have native integration on AWS), and Buyers (e.g., buy-and-configure solutions like Palantir and Cognite) that need economical, secure, structured, and easy access to high-quality datasets across their organization. Today, industrial applications are mainly standalone point solutions that are difficult to integrate and scale. The AWS Industrial Data Fabric (IDF) offerings seek to change this by propositioning a data-centric approach to Industry 4.0 that considers the data lifecycle across Information Technology (IT)/Operational Technology (OT) systems for better composability, portability, and repeatability, regardless of geography or whether the application is in quality, maintenance, materials management, or otherwise.
Launch Partners and the Need for Data Contextualization
Two of the most pressing issues facing manufacturers are information gaps and information silos. In both scenarios, critical information is being lost or misused, leading to unoptimized production. Either manufacturers are missing key analytics that can vastly affect efficiency and output, or they are siloed off into different platforms where their connectivity cannot be explored. Getting data from edge applications and into a unified and normalized space for further analyses is critical.
AWS IDF provides several tools to better integrate and contextualize data from the edge and in the cloud, without creating additional data silos. Two AWS Partner Solutions prominent at Hannover Messe were from HighByte and Element. In the offering, HighByte Intelligence Hub ingests and merges disparate data, such as machine, transaction (discrete), time series, and edge data, to efficiently process the information through the cloud so it is manageable and available to AWS Services. The software securely connects devices, files, databases, and systems via open standards and native connections. Meanwhile, Element's Element Unify solution helps align IT and OT around contextualized data by delivering key enterprise integration and governance capabilities, alongside Business Intelligence (BI) and visualization tools. Connectors/no-code data pipelines provide data and metadata ingestion from OT and IT systems, spreadsheets, and Piping and Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID) systems. Together, these capabilities allow models to be exported into flows and transported and applied via a common IDF framework.
Element and HighByte, when coupled with implementation partners, such as Deloitte, Infosys, Cyient, and TensorIoT, deliver a simple, effective, low-code environment for process and manufacturing engineers to ingest and contextualize unified Engineering Technology (ET), OT, and IT datasets.
Industrial companies need an IDF blueprint or equivalent to efficiently learn from and share best practices from centers of excellence and innovation hubs to the various spokes of internal and external supplier networks. HighByte and Element are among the marquee launch partners with AWS and a handful of System Integrators (SIs); however, AWS plans to launch additional partners in 2023 and 2024 to provide additional choice for customers and their preferences (Builder+ or true Buyer). Overall, the goal is for IDF to provide multiple options that simplify digital transformation for the manufacturing buyer through orchestrating the data and partner ecosystem on behalf of mutual customers.
A unified namespace for data and asset hierarchy model are foundational requirements for modern industrial DataOps and that’s what the current offering enables. Once this part of the house is in order, use cases like real-time production monitoring, robotics, quality management, and maintenance can be replicated and scaled. Other options include offerings from Palantir, Cognite, and Litmus, some of which are AWS partners and will be incorporated as IDF partners in due course. The AWS thesis is that without the right combination of AWS Partner Solutions and AWS Services, manufacturing customers will struggle to scale digital transformation.
AWS is partly right in that its large ecosystem and footprint give it a stronghold from both a technology leadership and a relationship perspective. Top innovators, including HighByte and Element, are alongside well-positioned SIs. What is missing is a simplified version and vision that can be communicated to a not-IT-first audience; specific customer benefit examples exhibiting the difference before and after/with and without IDF; and a clear business case that will persuade Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as much as large enterprise and industrial incumbents to align their data shops with the AWS way.