One Network Summit is a two day, no-cost event with the goal of providing end users and other stakeholders with state-of-the-art insights into two of the most impactful and challenging topics in the networking world today—the trend toward converging OT and IT networks, and the need for increased vigilance in cyber security. It was held in Detroit last month, September 18 and 19, 2018.

The Summit was attended by about 50 network professionals and featured wall-to-wall expert sessions and demonstrations presented by in-house colleagues from Belden and its brands including Hirschmann, Tripwire, GarrettCom, Lumberg and Tofino, as well as outside industry colleagues. Buoyed by the enthusiastic feedback we’ve received, we’re looking forward to the planning process for 2019.

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Building on a long successful history of providing value-adding industry education

As many readers know, the Belden brand, Hirschmann was instrumental in creating the OT networking environment, inventing the first industrial Ethernet switch in the late 1990s. At the time, many networking professionals, used to serial Fieldbus communications, thirsted for more information on how to make the most of the new technology, and so the Belden Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure Design Seminar was born. This highly educational multi-day event was presented at least annually at rotating locations around the country for more than 15 years, helping to inform hundreds of industry professionals and allow them to put Ethernet communications profitably and effectively to work in their facilities. Over the last couple of years, we found that enthusiasm for the venerable event had been waning—with industrial Ethernet becoming so common, users were by this point fairly knowledgeable, due, I hope, in some small part to our work with the Seminar. However, while we realized it was time to retire this Seminar, we didn’t want to take away the contribution we had been making for years as far as providing value-adding education to the industry. It seemed clear that Belden could continue to add value in a new and analogous way by leveraging our expertise with a different topic that was as challenging and top of mind today as industrial Ethernet had been previously. Looking around at the industry, it didn’t take us too long to focus on two—IT/OT convergence and cyber security.

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Providing state of the art, hands-on insights into two hot topics

We were hearing again and again from customers that the demands of today’s industrial networks—and their personal everyday challenges—included connecting more devices, managing multiple locations from a central site, making many or all parts of the network internet-accessible, and bringing together the plant and front office into a single network.

Based on our experience with hundreds of industrial networks, we knew that we could help them implement better cyber security in this complex and fast-changing industrial environment, give them tips to more effectively break down the silos of separate networks to achieve smooth IT/OT convergence, show them new methodologies for establishing new resilient and defensible networks, and demonstrate practical tools and present best practices for customizing their network design.

Further, we were hearing from customers that a new professional role was emerging in their efforts—a hybrid professional with expertise in the needs and challenges of both the IT and OT worlds. They were finding it challenging to create and support this role, and, with the traditional animosity between IT and OT needing to be overcome, grafted titles such as “Shop Floor IT Engineer” were not going to be widely acceptable or effective. Step one was to create a name for this new breed of professional—and, as part of this new Summit geared towards this emerging discipline, we did—Automation & Data Exchange (ADX) Engineer. Further, we planned to give these new multi-skilled professionals insights into their challenges, including ensuring seamless communication among all parts of the network, implementing controls that help ensure data security, collecting data and making it available and usable for forecasting and decision making, optimizing production uptime, centralizing functions and more.

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To accomplish all of this, the team packed more than 20 intensive sessions into the two days. Of note, most of each day focused on purely educational topics, with little to no mention of Belden brands. Later in the day, we would provide demonstrations of specific products that would solve many of the problems and issues that attendees were struggling with.

One of the sessions I personally received a lot of positive feedback about was “Architecting a Resilient, Defensible Network”—people were impressed with the possibility of an automated system guarding against changes in files and configurations. “The Protection of OT Devices in Their Native Environment” also had a big wow factor. One customer shared an experience where their PLC was shut off and stopped their production line dead, yet the security video showed that no one had been near it. This session talked about avoiding being the victim of remote stop commands like they had been. The new product introductions were well attended and very well received. And, as expected, the highly practical “Road Map to a Connected World,” with step by step insights into leading a successful IT/OT network convergence, was one of the most discussed sessions of the event.

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At press time, we are collecting survey and comment information from attendees and will use it in our planning for 2019. If you have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered, shoot us an email. And, if you’d like to potentially attend, let us know and we’ll keep you posted on details as we get closer.

Related Links

How Plant Operators Can Overcome the Language Barrier to Securing OT Environments
IT/OT Convergence Means Better Resources for Both
The Human Attack Surface: The Weakest Link in Your ICS Security
70 Percent of Energy Security Pros Fear Digital Attacks Could Produce a “Catastrophic Failure”