​The Future of Secure Embedded Computing - Part 1



Smart thinking urgently required on Edge ‘things’ procurement and deployment 

Embedded Computing solutions are quickly becoming a core component of Edge Computing. With this, the ‘out of box’ mind-set of typical non-IT professionals is becoming a growing IT management challenge, as well as major potential threat to corporate security.  


Here’s the thing. OT clearly needs everything to work right away, no glitches. IT, however, insists devices of any kind must first be thoroughly checked and approved for connection or disconnection on the edge network, a prerequisite for secure computing.   


At the root of solving this problem is efficient edge device procurement and deployment. Get this part right and secure computing with ongoing systems monitoring and maintenance will flow more naturally. By the same token, poorly managed, unapproved edge network adds and changes will pose an ever growing threat to security and edge systems availability. But this is all easier said than done. Deployments often involve hundreds of ‘smart’ things. A challenge that’s as complex as it is time consuming for IT professionals to manage.  


So how can the IT and OT teams unite to tackle these ‘real world’ Edge challenges?      

What’s needed is a way to provide the level of control and security rightly demanded by IT, while still offering OT the operational efficiency and business agility they expect at the ‘sharp end’ out in the field. This calls for a whole new approach as there’s nothing out there right now that quite fits the bill. It’s got to be something which can simplify the otherwise lengthy procurement/deployment process for IT professionals. And it must appear familiar territory, trusted and secure, just like managing generic firewalls and routers. 


How about this for an idea? A central management platform for handling all the data needed to manage and maintain all the computers deployed in the fleet.

From an on premise console, IT personnel would be able to obtain and manage all firmware, network and software updates – all from a single point. Essentially, this platform would comprise a set of software tools, enabling the IT guys to quickly, easily and securely perform remote updates and settings management. 


All those ‘smart’ things required by OT could be easily vetted and rapidly deployed ‘en masse’ as required - subject to their meting pre-defined operating criteria.  Naturally, there’d have to be zero dependence on the cloud for connectivity bearing in mind the physical environments embedded edge systems often operate. However, cloud-based software containers – ‘think Docker’ - would be the ideal vessels for enabling fast, secure, mass procurement and continuous deployment of higher level software payloads such as business applications . Imagine, the click of a URL putting everything at IT’s fingertips with a ready-to-go toolset for the embedded machine or device concerned, including all the BIOS, BSP, OS, Security and IP Protection.       


In summary, solving the challenge of smart things procurement and deployment in Edge Computing could actually become the catalyst for uniting IT and OT teams - rather than risk driving them further apart. The first step to IT/OT unification must be empowering IT and Systems Integrators with the right tools for taking a more rapid, ‘pain-free’ and secure approach to this somewhat emotional subject.


Watch out for our next blog post which will discuss the vital continuous monitoring and maintenance aspects of the puzzle, for ensuring the ongoing availability and security of Edge Computing devices. In the meantime, just how effectively is your organization coping with smart things procurement and deployment for Edge Computing?   


For more information on Kontron’s Secure Computing Solutions visit  http://kfrlabs.kontron.com/secline.html



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