Peer Reviewed

Electric Power Industry Operational Technology in the Cloud

While the benefits of cloud computing have made its adoption prevalent among commercial businesses, educational institutions, and consumer service providers, as a result of commonly perceived vulnerabilities of the cloud, the electric power industry has been slow to transition the controls necessary to plan, analyse, and operate power systems to the cloud. As the sophistication of our adversaries continues to outpace the ability of owners and operators to defend their on-premises operational technology (OT) networks and the security of the cloud improves, concerns about the cloud environment will begin to melt away. For those ready to assess and mitigate the inherent vulnerabilities of the cloud, there can be reliability-, safety-, and security-enhancing benefits that could ultimately lead to a more secure environment for critical operational functions. Incorporating cloud computing into operational power grid applications can result in reduced costs, greater reliability, and enhanced flexibility. Each traditional use of cloud computing, in addition to newer emerging uses, comes with benefits and risks. As the emerging uses for cloud computing mature, mitigation strategies will similarly mature to reduce risks. If the electricity sub-sector fails to engage and collaborate with the secure cloud service providers, they will never understand the concerns that need to be addressed. For the majority of the electric power industry, the question remains whether energy control systems can safely be located in a cloud environment. While control, latency, and security are traditional and valid concerns with cloud adoption, we are quickly approaching a point where these concerns are becoming more difficult to mitigate on premises. It has taken years for the sector to accept that ‘air gapping’ OT from information technology (IT) is no longer realistic; it is not surprising that it may take years to accept OT in the cloud. However, the electric power industry's imperative to operate efficiently and reliably is inevitably going to lead to the movement of some elements of its OT to a secure cloud environment.

Go to the profile of Michael Smith
Sep 28, 2016
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