Engineering Information Management in the Cloud
Cloud technology is a key trend, but for those working with sensitive asset information, the decision to move may be difficult. So is the cloud right for you?
Recent trends indicate that the cloud is not only a reality that is here to stay, it is a strategy that every business must consider in order to remain competitive in the global market. Over the last ten years, cloud technology has emerged as a key trend, but little information is available about the specific impact the cloud has on managing engineering information.
What is the cloud?
The cloud can refer to a model for internet-based computing or to the provision and use of services, software, platforms or infrastructure as a service. In other words, the cloud is a metaphor for the complex structure behind the internet that allows users to access technology services through a web browser, but without needing to understand how this is constructed, and independent of their geographic location.
Cloud-based solutions may be offered in several deployment models: as a private cloud, a public cloud, hosted or as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. An emerging option known as the hybrid cloud combines the different deployment models. Each model comes with its own benefits and risks, so selection is greatly affected by the specific regulatory and business compliance needs of the client organization.
Change and greenfield projects
In brownfield situations, owner operators of capital-intensive production facilities are faced with many change projects each year, ranging from small plant modifications to large capital projects. In greenfield situations, the entire plant needs to be designed and constructed with the involvement of many contractors and suppliers. In large capital projects and greenfield projects, the supplier network needs to be managed and must be able to collaborate with a clear overview of the project tasks at hand. The more complex the installation and the more information and suppliers are involved, the more relevant the case is for collaboration in the cloud.
Which cloud to choose?
Public cloud deployment is the best known cloud model and offers the greatest cost savings – but also the highest level of risk. The initial investment is reduced since infrastructure need not be purchased, in-house IT costs are reduced and capital expenditure can be converted into operational expenditure. This cost saving is achieved through multi-tenancy (multiple users sharing resource and infrastructure costs) as services are delivered on demand, thereby creating an economy of scale.
Public cloud models also offer enhanced agility and tremendous scalability, both of which are attractive in a fast-changing market. However, the disadvantages of public cloud deployment include increasingly complex security when data is accessed by unrelated users, potential hacking of public servers, as well as technical asset data becoming unavailable if the local internet connection is broken or the cloud server loses connectivity.
Private cloud models offer a viable solution for asset owner operators who wish to leverage cloud technology, while at the same time retaining control over their technical asset information within a privately hosted environment. Private clouds are built for a single client (either on-premise or hosted), leading to higher infrastructure and management costs. However, this deployment model offers enhanced security and can be tailored to internal working procedures and standards. This model offers many of the benefits of public cloud deployment without requiring the ‘sharing’ of resources.
Hybrid cloud models combine two or more clouds to effect deployment. The greatest advantage of this model for managing engineering information is that technical asset data is controlled, highly secure and remains locally available at all times – regardless of internet connectivity. Hybrid cloud models combine the benefits of on-site storage of asset data with the scalability of cloud-based deployment.
Considering the cloud
Deployment models are not the only consideration that must be weighed when deciding whether or not to migrate to a cloud-based solution for engineering. For Engineering Information Management applications, data security, any-time access to data and a full audit trail are all essential requirements. The (cloud-based) solution also needs to offer sufficient functionality to support and optimize business processes, ensure up-to-date, as-built information and facilitate change management projects.
In addition, the solution must assure regulatory compliance to protect a company’s licence to operate. Attention should also be given to issues such as user training, password identification and logins, group filing systems and, of course, integration with existing enterprise, facility management and maintenance systems.
Collaboration in the cloud
BlueCielo started offering cloud-based solutions ten years ago. BlueCielo’s software can be deployed independently of the operating system, either in a hybrid cloud, a private cloud or hosted. The entire solution offering includes key capabilities such as master data and Asset Lifecycle Information Management, global collaboration and data exchange, transmittal management and trusted security protocols. In addition, BlueCielo’s solutions support a full audit trail and are compliant with governmental, environmental, safety and quality regulations.
BlueCielo’s sophisticated software solutions are backed by dedicated service and support teams offering user training, helpdesk support and customization to meet clients’ specific business needs, as well as the global BlueCielo Partner network, which assures local support in your language.
BlueCielo solutions are not only effective; they are also easy to use. User-friendly interfaces, advanced search options, customizable reports and workspace configuration combine with automated workflows and version control to ensure that engineering data drives all projects.
Benefits of BlueCielo software in the cloud
BlueCielo software offers the following business benefits:
- Independent of operating systems
- Integrated with mainstream systems
- Global accessibility through browser-based application
- Scalable to support the relevant number of users
- 24/7 global availability of engineering data
- Project documentation stored in a single, secure location
- Full proof of control and traceability of master documents
- Full audit trail for regulatory compliance
- Reduced IT overhead costs
- Quick implementation.
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