Tech Trends: IT and OT – The Next Convergence

April 17, 2024
Software companies are uniting information technology and operational technology, bringing integrators, security executives and IT directors together.

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Security Business magazine. Don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter if you share it.

“We are fully converged” is a statement that security industry veteran Jeff Slotnick has famously said regarding the analog-to-IP conversion. Although a few security industry stragglers admittedly missed that memo, we are now amid a new convergence – one that hits at the very heart of the digital transformation buzzword: IT-and-OT convergence.

This convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) is being driven by the influx of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. IT refers to any networked system that can store and communicate data electronically, and OT is any physical system that can gather data for actionable insight. The convergence occurs when these physical systems are connected to the networked systems.

For years, these technologies have been siloed, because of lack of communication, lack of innovation, lack of trust, etc. Now, through the convergence of these traditionally siloed technologies, these data-rich systems can provide valuable information regarding business processes and digital transformation. The outcomes of this convergence consist of business intelligence to provide the combination of multiple OT and IT systems into actionable data repositories and integrations to create new intelligence for business stakeholders.

One problem is that OT and IT do not by nature play nicely. IT wants to put controls, virus scanners, end-point monitors, and cybersecurity tools. This is great, and they are absolutely needed – but often there is no easy location to put that agent. For example, on a camera, there is no operating system that allows that agent to be added. On an IoT device, there is no common communications infrastructure.

OT has simply been in another sandbox for a long time, and now that the sandboxes are being merged, IT and OT naturally have to play nice together. To help with this, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in September 2023 to guide how OT is being secured, released NIST SP 800-82r3, Guide to Operational Technology (OT) Security.

IT/OT convergence...will ensure that IT and the security director are not just friendly with each other, but attached at the hip moving forward.

What it Means for Security and Integrators

Now that we understand what IT/OT convergence is and why it is important to so many companies, what does that mean for the security industry? For one thing, it will ensure that IT and the security director are not just friendly with each other, but attached at the hip moving forward. This is going to affect every part of organizations and every part of the design and implementation of new security solutions moving forward.

This is a tech trend, but more importantly, it is at the center of being able to do almost anything going forward.

Integrators and security executives have had to deal with IT for years – ever since analog-to-IP convergence was just beginning. Unlike then, when security just had to follow IT’s rules, today’s convergence is much different. Now, security is building the tools that IT and OT providers are going to implement.

As an example, two companies – Serverli and EyeOTMonitor – have built platforms that tackle this problem in different ways. Both are similar, yet very different; however, the primary application is to provide full IT and OT monitoring capabilities.

IT has had network monitoring tools for years, with varying degrees of success and costs. Specifically, though, the IT tools did not monitor anything OT-related. They did not incorporate what security needed, and more importantly, were priced out of the security market. Serverli and EyeOTMonitor – definitely not the only two companies in the market – are priced for security administration. Each allows either the end-user and/or the security integrator to fully manage the networked OT system with in-depth visibility and management of all connected technologies.

Serverli MD – still in the beta testing phase – is a central hub that combines all the monitoring and alerting for an entire physical security setup. "At Serverli, we're all about making things easier and more modern for organizations,” says COO Elijah Rosenberg. “As the worlds of IT, IoT, and OT blend, physical security teams need a way to pull all their data together for better insight. Serverli MD not only boosts uptime but also lays down a solid foundation for data-driven decisions, meaning physical security teams can be more proactive and stay ahead of the game."  

According to the company, EyeOTMonitor’s system is not just about keeping an eye on switches, routers, or cameras – it is about bringing a new level of insight and control.

“The shift towards IT and OT convergence, highlighted by the integration of analog and non-IP devices into networks, has not only unified operational and information systems but also opened the door to data analytics as a key outcome,” explains Kirill Sokolinsky, COO of EyeOTMonitor. “This evolution enriches the potential for insight-driven decision-making and operational optimization across industries. Through detailed visualizations using topology/geospatial mapping and the ability to manage devices directly, we empower users to not only fix problems when they arise, but also to anticipate and prevent them.”

IT and OT convergence is being brought to the security industry whether we want it or not, as it is being mandated by corporations globally. These changes will affect how systems connect, who monitors them, and who supports them.

These are just a couple of examples of how the security industry is beginning to handle this convergence. Expect this trend to continue for a while, garnering new technologies to support the convergence along the way.

Jon Polly is the Chief Solutions Officer for ProTecht Solutions Partners, a security technology consulting firm that works with smart cities and corporations to bring business intelligence and public safety through security IoT applications. • (704) 759-6837