Network Re-design

IT best practices and standards do not always align with OT requirements and in many cases can hinder OT networks.

Background

  • Problems can often arise when traditional IT best practises are applied to operational networks, which often have a different set of business drivers.

  • This case involved a review for a large mining operation’s OT network and their process control system.

  • The network was failing to perform to expectations with a significant number of connection drop-outs between equipment, leading to decreased operational efficiency.



Why was Vernetzen engaged?


Vernetzen was engaged to analyse the network failures and security elements from both an operational and network standpoint, leveraging its unique OT networking, engineering and process control disciplines.


The client was keen to eliminate the possibility that the poor performance was caused by a malicious third-party gaining access to the organisation’s network.


Vernetzen’s findings highlighted key areas which did not comply with O.T. best practice network standards. The following contributed to poor performance and communication failure between devices:

  • The network had been designed in accordance with IT best practices (not necessarily for OT performance).

  • As a result there was a high level of security between devices through multi-layered routing and switching.

  • This led to the network experiencing far higher latency than the required operational parameters.


Conclusions


  • IT and OT Networks have at their core very different design objectives. Typically an IT network favours a high level of multi layered security to reduce the risk of data breach. In OT environments networks must operate with extreme low latency ensuring the best communication between operational assets.

  • Operational assets rely on data from other assets to accurately perform the required task. Without this vital information, efficiency and production can suffer or halt completely.

  • As operational networks shift towards IP based networks, it is important to consider the different requirements of OT networks. Vernetzen can make practical recommendations to ensure continuous efficient operation of infrastructure.

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