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9 min read

SBA 262: Cloud for Building Automation

By Phil Zito on Jul 19, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Topics: Podcasts

In this episode of the Smart Buildings Academy Podcast we discuss cloud computing and cloud services for building automation systems.

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Phil Zito 0:00
This is the smart buildings Academy podcast with Phil Zito Episode 262. Hey folks, Phil Zito here and welcome to Episode 262 of the smart buildings Academy podcast. And in this episode we are going to be discussing cloud for building automation. Now what exactly does that mean? And why do we care about the cloud for the building automation system? Well, we'll be going through that in this episode. As always, everything can be found at podcast at smart buildings Academy com forward slash 262. Once again, that is podcast at smart buildings academy.com forward slash 262. Alright, so this episode is sponsored by our it for VA s professionals version two course there still is time to purchase that with the Early Access discount, although the price has increased a little bit, and it will continue to increase as we get closer to our upcoming price increase later this month for all of our courses. Ultimately, that being said, if you're looking to learn it, that is the course for you. It is one of our most popular courses and is used by companies across the globe to help scale up. They're building automation professionals in the area of it. So what is cloud? I like to say that cloud is just someone else's data center. I mean, that's all cloud is at the end of the day, it's just someone else's data center. And when you think about it, really, I like to equate it to timeshares. Right? So Cloud is more than just compute. Although a lot of people will equate cloud with compute, they'll equate cloud with storage. But there's much more to it, right? There's the ability to run micro services, there's the ability to run VPN, there's cloud networks, there's cloud load balancers, there's all sorts of things. When you break up cloud into categories, you break it up into really three categories. And those are software's of service. So those are software's that exist, typically within the cloud that are running on machines, and we access those services via the internet. So if you've ever used analytics, if you've ever used like, you know, we use, oh, what is it, I can picture it QuickBooks Online. That is a software as a service, it's hosted in the cloud. There's also platform as a service. Now platform is, you know, a little more than infrastructure but less than services. So let's say you wanted to run your VA s, in the cloud, you wanted a cloud platform, I know that there's a couple manufacturers that have like cloud backup services, they have all sorts of cloud platforms that can run in the background. So cloud platforms are something that we also use in building automation. And I'll go into each one of these in greater detail in just a second. And then we have infrastructure as a service. And so this is, you know, hosting of key infrastructure pieces, these may be supervisory devices, these may be servers, etc. So how do we use these? Well, cloud, SaaS based solutions has been the most popular. And I feel as if it's the most common for our industry and the one people are most comfortable with, because it exists to augment our building automation systems and not really replace that. Whereas platform, and Infrastructure as a Service seek to definitely augment, but also, in some cases, replace building automation systems. So SAS or software as a service, these may be things like analytics, these may be things like monitoring of equipment, these may be things like visualization suites, and there's really kind of whenever you look at Cloud, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that there is on prem and off Prem. So on prem is when you're hosted in a local data center that belongs to your company. And off Prem is a remote data center that is not under the purview of your company. So just because something's cloud does not necessarily mean that it has to be off Prem and it's sitting in one of the cloud providers like AWS or Azure. Okay. I want to be clear on that, because that was a, you know, little background, little history I used to sell well, I supported the sale of analytic solutions as a project development engineer. So I would support our regional sales managers as they would go throughout the region and help local branches communicate the analytic solution offerings that the company has to their customers. And a couple of the key objections were around the cloud and the off site data. So nowadays, a lot of solutions have on prem solutions. So just be cognizant of that. If you get too caught up in the quote unquote, security of the cloud, which hopefully, by the end of this episode, you'll be of the same mindset of me that cloud is probably more secure than your local environment. But if you get caught up in the security of cloud, and the internet access of cloud, do be cognizant that a lot of the services nowadays can be hosted on prem. Okay, so Software as a Service, right? Let me briefly segue into security of cloud and then we're going to come back to platform and infrastructure. So security of the cloud, you got to think about it this way, right? cloud providers have two points of what's the word, I'm looking for credibility, and that is the security of their cloud and the integrity of their cloud. So if the cloud is repeatedly going down, and isn't reliable, then people aren't going to use it. But also, if it's not secure, people aren't going to use it. So a lot of their money for these providers goes into the security and the integrity of their cloud environments. In my opinion, and this is my opinion, cloud providers have more of a concern and focus on cybersecurity as a business objective than a average company does. Because if you think about it, right, the hospital, a school, an office building, their primary mission objective is not cybersecurity, it's running a business, it's running a hospital or running a school. And cybersecurity is a side effect of that to address risks to that business. Whereas a cloud provider, their primary purpose is secure, and reliable cloud services, which means that cybersecurity and reliability from an infrastructure and an availability perspective, are prime concerns. And so they are going to invest as such, that's not to say that clouds can't be compromised. But usually when they are, that has more to do with the user settings than it does to have than it has to do with the cloud environment itself. So I just want to be clear on that, because a lot of people think, Oh, just because it accesses the internet, because they're told by consultants that Oh, if anything accesses the internet, it's going to be bad. That is not necessarily the case. Alright, so now let's move on the platform as a service. This is the next area that I think will really start to expand. And we're starting to see this with things like digital twins, data vaults, etc. Where it's a full platform, it's no longer just a service. It's a platform that consists of several services. So let's look at data vault as a simple example. Data vaults are going to contain data, right, so you've got a storage component, they're going to process data. So you've got a processing service, and they're going to visualize data. So you have a visualization service, you have multiple services, as well as a couple key functions, visual infrastructure, that's all brought together in a platform. And so this is the next area, I see VA s expanding to augment on site VA s. So you would essentially, if I had a magic wand to wave, what I would like to see happen is each contractor have a platform for the supervisory and server level functionality of their costs, or at least the server level and visualization level functionality of their customers VA s and they pull everything in there. And then they do remote monitoring, and they do support. I think that would lower the total cost of ownership for customers from a first cost perspective. And I think for customers who do not want to develop internal teams and talent, it would really help augment them and kind of keep them running at a high level. So that would be something I would like to see. And I believe platform, as a service will deliver that infrastructure as a service. I'm really not sure if this is ever going to take off because there's just First off, I'm I'm a realist, right. So while I firmly believe that with how we've developed building automation systems, nowadays, the controllers mainly can run on their own without a supervisory device. So if we put supervisory devices and servers in the cloud, or you know, in an on prem data center, I think we could do that. I think we could virtualize supervisory devices and servers and host them in, you know, large data centers, and I think that would be fine. I think the internet is way fast enough. I mean, we could do a K 12k video across the internet. I saw something crazy like Japan did 370 terabytes of data second, that's like insane. That's crazy fast. So we can communicate right? And we can have reliability between our devices. I just don't know if people are comfortable with not necessarily being able to touch their devices. Because with infrastructures of service, you start to see services models instead of capital models for procurement of devices. And with that, like what happens when someone doesn't pay their bill? Do they go and turn off the services? I asked this to a platform provider the other day, and they said, everything still runs, they just lose the visualization aspect. And how do you run a facility without visualization? I don't know. So, I mean, on one hand, it's attractive to shift those costs, operational costs, and then be able to sub build those to customers or tenants, and not have to absorb it as a capital cost. So you don't have all that sunk cost that you can't recover. That's nice. But is our industry willing to tolerate that? I mean, we tolerated and so many things, right? You know, my organization uses SharePoint in office 365, though, those are all platforms, right? And services. And we're using that and a lot of our infrastructure, our LMS, our video management, they're all remotely hosted by infrastructure providers. So in the business world, we're using Infrastructure as a Service. But are we willing to do that in the building automation world? I'm not sure.

But my hope is that we will find some balance, at least we could do server infrastructure as a service. I think that is reasonable. I don't think we need to have on site servers. I think virtualization load balancing, and you know, just the recovery abilities of cloud is more than enough to satisfy our server requirements. Okay, so my hope is that through this discussion, you have a greater familiarity with cloud, you kind of understand some of the terms if you hear SAS or is or pass. So right service, Software as a Service, infrastructure as a service platform as a service. If you hear those terms, you're going to be more confident you're going to feel more aware of what those terms mean and how they impact you as a building automation professional. If you have any questions do not hesitate to reach out and as I mentioned, if you really want to learn this stuff in great detail, you want a online learning experience that self paced with instructor support, where you are learning about it from the perspective of a building automation professional, then I encourage you to check out our it for be as professional as version two course which will be linked at podcast dot smart buildings academy.com forward slash 262. Thanks a ton for listening. And I hope you have a great rest of your week. Take care

Phil Zito

Written by Phil Zito

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