Exploring Integration Pt. 2: Expanding Visibility

Exploring Integration Pt. 2: Expanding Visibility

This is the second entry to our ‘Exploring Integration’ series. Welcome, and thank you for joining us. Part 1 of the series discussed the role of trust in the relationships between end users of a product, product developers, and integrators. 

Part 2 dives into situational details showcasing the flexibility an automation platform brings to the table for integrators. In particular, we will look at how OnPing can expand visibility to floor-level operations for those who need it most. 

The Scenario

A common scenario for Integrators utilizing Cloud systems begins something like this:

  • Integrator finds Consumer using an on-prem solution. Integrator says, “Cloud services are awesome, and relatively inexpensive!” 
  • Consumer responds, “We need to maintain control of our system if the network fails, so we need an on-site system.” 

An Integrator’s approach here can make or break the relationship with this Consumer for the foreseeable future. 

A Common Misstep – Stepping Out of Frame

Most automation solutions lock an integrator into a finite set of options. Knowing your limitations can be good, but the relationship between Consumer and Integrator assumes technical competence (sometimes unreasonably). When Integrators force solutions because of comfort and familiarity, quality of service suffers. 

In our scenario, the prospect has given the Integrator valuable information. 

  • Reliability is important
  • The Consumer believes an on-prem systems are reliable

With this information, the Integrator may construct a framework through which to present solutions. A common misstep here is to argue against this ‘Reliability Frame’ instead of through it. In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the vital role ‘trust’ plays in the business of automation. Part of building trust is displaying a deeper understanding of the Consumer’s needs. 

In our scenario the frame has been clearly defined as ‘reliability of on-prem solutions’.  A factual statement may be something like,  “Our cloud system is more reliable than this on-prem solution due to these factors.”  However, the argument is in direct conflict with the frame in place. 

So where do we go from here?

An Integrated Environment

The first duty of Integrators is to listen – then respond to the situation. The difficulty of responding in our scenario is due to compartmentalizing different types of automation solutions into ‘cloud’ or ‘on-prem’ categories.

An Incomplete System

At the end of the day, this prospect is looking for an automation solution. By choosing a single solution, they have locked themselves into a sub-optimal system. The Integrator in the scenario does not need to convince the Consumer that one product is better than the other. Instead, acknowledge that any one solution will never cover every need for every situation. The Cloud and Edge can act as supplements rather than replacements.

This ‘Incomplete System’ approach shows the prospect their needs and thoughts matter – and it helps them see a solution to a problem they were already likely aware of.

Integrating On-Prem and Cloud with a Platform

On-prem solutions can absolutely be part of a reliable system, but in the big picture any unsupported on-prem solution will be incomplete in relation to the needs of the larger automation system. The traits that make them ‘reliable’ also severely limit access to and utility of data.  This is no secret. People using these systems are fully aware of the limitations – revealing a way to reduce their troubles while maintaining the qualities they care most about is a great way to start building trust in the relationship.

Filling the Gaps with OnPing and the Cloud

Cloud tools are the ideal supplement to fill in what is needed. Many on-prem systems require purchasing additional modules, extensions, or add-ons to get a little more utility. OnPing, though, provides a method to fulfill all these needs within a single workspace. A few examples include:

  • Automated Report Generation
    • No extensive technical experience required
    • No Python scripting
  • Simplified Data Back-up Processes in One Place
    • Multi-Year historical data back-up
    • Back-up redundancy
    • Offsite data back-ups
      • Spread out the geographical storage area for data to mitigate the damage of catastrophe
  • Simplified Networking
    • Multi-site data integration
      • See the ‘bigger picture’ with OnPing’s robust Dashboarding capabilities
    • Proxy network management
  • Expanded System and Information Access
    • Remotely access data
    • Send data where it needs to be without complicated information management processes

The OnPing automation platform is a place to work at each level of an integrated automation environment. A platformed approach to automation means removing the limits inherent to any one cloud or on-prem solution, and embracing the need for a wide range of adaptable tools. 

How OnPing Expanded an On-prem Solution

OnPing was recently used in a situation very similar to the scenario we have been looking at. A production facility had just bought a brand new On-Prem SCADA system. The system was best-in-class for the intended use at the facility. An integrator involved in the project realized how important safety and reliability were to the operators and management at this facility and offered OnPing as a supplemental product to the controls system. 

If the integrator had pitched the job as a replacement for the system it would have been a lost cause. However, a solution to patch holes that were not considered previously was welcomed and received well. 

The Integrator proposed that OnPing be used to extend visibility of the floor-level operations to the cloud. All controls, device management, and data collection would continue to be handled by the new system, but now real-time information about how the facility was performing could be viewed and handled by relevant parties away from the production zone.

Instead of arguing about  flexibility, reliability, or pricing  the Integrator was responsive to the situation at hand, offering a platform solution. The on-prem solution was incomplete – people who needed information could not see it – and OnPing could fix that.  The cloud tools would  utilize data coming from the on-prem solution to ensure data integrity, and the facility managers would gain access to this valuable information without compromising their need for a reliable process control system. 

Integrating the Edge and Cloud environments of an automation system creates opportunites for Integrators, but it can only be achieved by looking at automation systems through a holistic lens of automation provided by a true automation platform. Our goal is to solve automation challenges, regardless of how or where they may present themselves – Onsite, in the Cloud, or whatever the next horizons of integration may be. 


The challenges of automation are too numerous and diverse to be handled by any one tool. Visibility is important to data-centric organizations. Instead of presenting Cloud or On-prem solutions as a one-size fits all option, Integrators ought to be responsive to the situation at hand. A platform like OnPing gives the Integrator access to many tools for many situations. Now, Integrators can focus on maintaining relationships with Consumers and remain confident that they can reach into the platform to find the right tool for the next job.