What would you do if you found out some of the software running your company was behind schedule on dozens of patches and updates — including critical security patches that were several years out of date? You might think that could never happen. You'd be wrong.
CIOs in enterprises across many industries are discovering that surprisingly antiquated and purpose-built applications are supporting their companies' operations, controlling everything from factory equipment to pumps, heating and cooling systems and electrical power.
This is the world of operational technology, a world that has existed ever since the first engineer put a speed limiter on a steam engine in the 1800s. Since that time, operational technology has run completely independently from IT in most organizations. But these days, several converging forces — increasingly complex digital devices, growing concerns over security, and a desire to benefit from big data and the Internet of Things — are forcing operations and IT to work together. It's not always easy.
"Operational technology is the domain of engineering and operations staff that is separate from IT," says Gartner analyst Kristian Steenstrup. "In most companies, they're in separate buildings and never talk to each other. How do you manage things in your organization when you've got more technology and data traffic outside IT governance than within?"
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