Secure network foundation needed for maintenance analytics

Sept. 27, 2018
Tom Walker discusses the similarities between university campuses and industrial facilities.

University campuses have many challenges in common with large industrial facilities: aging infrastructure, far-flung assets, limited resources and continuous uptime expectations. Sound familiar? At Penn State University (PSU), leadership in the Office of the Physical Plant sought to deploy data analytics to optimize the predictive maintenance of assets spread across its vast campus network of more than 600 buildings. But they realized the effort would have been compromised without first establishing a resilient network to connect and protect those systems and data. Connectivity costs, slow provisioning times, and lack of segmentation exposed their critical systems to downtime due to broadcast storms, and accidental or intentional exploit.

In a recent interview with Smart Industry, Tom Walker, systems design specialist for Penn State University and Smart Industry event presenter, explains how he and his small facilities team quickly and cost-effectively created peer-to-peer encrypted overlay networks that allowed them to securely integrate PSU’s vast campus network.

Smart Industry: How is a managing a university campus similar to running an industrial facility? How is it different?

Tom: Manufacturing and industrial facilities have the same plants (power, cooling, heating, steam, water, waste water) as a university. These plants can be for single building or a campus of multiple buildings. Both can have very restrictive or specific design requirements depending on the type of facility and its purpose. The main difference is time/execution; though controls are similar, facilities don't operate in the seconds or milliseconds. For our purposes, 15 minutes is near real-time.

Smart Industry: Describe your Office of the Physical Plant. Is this a common setup at large university?

Tom: The Office of Physical Plant (OPP) is made up of several departments that together provide facility services for the university. This includes Buildings & Grounds, Campus Planning & Design, Design & Construction, Energy & Engineering, Environmental Health & Safety, Facilities & Resource Planning, and Work Control. OPP manages and maintains the 22,000 acres of land and the 32 million square feet of buildings at University Park.

Most large universities have similar setups with a central-facilities group managing the land, buildings and utilities on campus. Some have large groups that do most things in-house, while others have small groups and much of the work is outsourced via contracts.

To learn more, read "Overseeing a smart university" from Smart Industry.

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