Cisco has accelerated plans to build out an ecosystem of operational technology (OT) partners through the on-boarding of Madison Technologies as a strategic value-added reseller across Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ).
The move is designed to capitalise on the increased linkage between IT and OT while fuelling efforts to expand Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities across key industrial sectors, leveraging networking and cyber security expertise via the channel.
In becoming an OT VAR, Madison Technologies will prioritise the delivery of communication solutions leveraging Cisco’s Industrial IoT portfolio of solutions, with a specific focus on enhancing real-time visibility, security and automation capabilities at an end-user level.
The Brisbane-based business operates as a provider of communications and networking solutions targeting industrial and commercial market segments, notably utilities, resources, transport, manufacturing, enterprise and telecommunications sectors.
According to Paul Calabro -- CEO of Madison Technologies -- becoming a Cisco partner represents a “pivotal milestone” in the company’s 30-year history of connecting critical OT networks on both sides of the Tasman.
“Through this collaboration we’re able to strengthen our industrial offering and provide extended capabilities, applications and insights across our valued customers and targeted markets,” Calabro said. “Cisco’s end-to-end IoT architecture demonstrates the benefits of implementing integrated industrial IoT solutions providing essential data intelligence and insights.”
According to IDC, driving a strategy of IT and OT convergence ranks as a leading priority of more than 90 per cent of industrial organisations across Asia Pacific, yet integration stands tall as a market-leading barrier to adoption -- emphasising the need for channel expertise.
“Companies have expressed that the biggest challenge when utilising data for decision making is the integration of OT systems across siloes, and of those systems with enterprise systems in particular enterprise resource management systems (ERP),” observed Emilie Ditton, associate vice president of Energy and Manufacturing Insights at IDC.
By 2024, IDC forecasts that 50 per cent of industrial organisations will be integrating data from edge OT systems with cloud-based reporting and analytics, moving from single-asset views to site-wide operational awareness. Furthermore, 40 per cent of organisations are expected to have invested in a common IoT platform layer that provides access to data collected through various point solutions by 2026.
“As we see the convergence of IT and OT integration accelerate, the need for organisations to understand how this convergence aligns to business initiatives across safety, the environment, digitisation, cost management and sustainable growth is vital to implement Industrial IoT solutions,” added Ross Delacour, regional manager of IoT Route to Market across Asia Pacific, Japan and China at Cisco.
“The convergence of IT and OT is a multi-billion global opportunity and the collaboration with Madison Technologies is an incredible opportunity for Cisco to expand into the OT domain in A/NZ.”
Delving deeper, and as reported by ARN, the OT security market in particular is set to surge, with analyst firm Gartner predicting that by 2025 cyber attackers will have weaponised OT environments to successfully harm or kill humans.
On the face of it, Gartner’s prediction seems somewhat unnecessarily alarmist, but there have been plenty of examples over the past few years that have demonstrated the control cyber criminals can wield over internet-connected industrial equipment, in particular critical infrastructure.
As recently as May 7, a pipeline system carrying almost half the fuel used on the east coast of the United States was crippled by a major cyber attack. The five-day shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline resulted in widespread fuel shortages and panic-buying as Virginia, North Carolina and Florida declared a state of emergency.
As noted by sister publications CSO US and Channel Asia, a lack of visibility into the security status of its operational technology systems is likely what caused Colonial to shut down its operations.
Not shying away from Gartner’s seemingly dramatic claim, Rob McMillan, managing vice president at the analyst firm, suggests that the OT landscape is something akin to what might be found in the fictional wasteland of the Mad Max film franchise.
“This realm, which can have (and has had) real life or death implications, is the very definition of the Badlands,” said McMillan. “There’s no standardisation or tradition of consistent security controls in OT environments, melded with an archaic design discipline and naïve views of connected technology.”