In the typical manufacturing plant, “maintenance” does not include attention to the electrical infrastructure. The focus of the typical maintenance department is on performing production equipment PMs and reacting to equipment failures. The assumption about the electrical infrastructure is once it works, it always works. The reality is different — and the consequences can be costly.
For example, a three-shift manufacturing plant in Alabama had an excellent equipment maintenance record. But this plant had a “time bomb” between one of its service entrances and the utility transformer. One of the cables had been spliced in a manner that wasn’t Code-compliant; the splice was improperly made and protected. The connection got hot, and the insulation around the spice melted, resulting in lots of acrid smoke. Despite heroic and costly efforts to repair the damage, this resulted in more than 24 hours of downtime for one-third of the plant.
Even correctly installed infrastructure will fail. Feeder cables subjected to repeated transient voltages, for example, begin to show evidence of insulation breakdown. That’s when they should be replaced, not when they fail unexpectedly. Their replacement should be planned and scheduled when this evidence of insulation breakdown is discovered; that’s how you keep costs down and uptime up. You discover this through one of many tests that should be performed regularly.
Among these are:
Additional testing beyond the basics listed above may be indicated. But it takes expertise in infrastructure maintenance to identify what that testing would be.
The typical maintenance department is not set up for infrastructure maintenance. It lacks the qualified persons and the specific equipment. Odds are that a thorough search for the IEEE Red Book (the one that provides the standards for maintaining the power distribution system for an industrial plant) would turn up nothing. It is almost guaranteed that if you asked the plant electrical engineer what to do with insulation resistance test results, that person would not be able to deliver the correct answer (trend over time and look for the hockey stick). And that’s assuming there even is a plant electrical engineer.
A cost-effective solution that works for plants of all sizes is:
That’s a simplification of the plan. You’ll also need to arrange for security, plant personnel to escort and assist the testing personnel, a staging area, a secure storage area, parking and access, lighting needs, temporary power needs, and a host of other things. An experienced testing firm already has a list of these needs. Take their list not as “nice to have” but as essential items to provide. Get this rolling well in advance.
Following the testing, there’s a findings review that must be conducted. Let the testing firm take the lead there, as well. Part of it will involve their recommendations for a follow-up testing session. Part of it will involve their identification of “fix this as soon as you can” recommendations. If this list is long or the needs are beyond in-house expertise, then you will need to contract with an electrical services firm to do that work. There may be long lead times involved, so begin the discussion right away. For example, if you have an oil-filled transformer going bad you will likely have to order one to be built for you and the building process can take months.
Pro tip: You can get a jump start on failure prevention by obtaining the lifespan numbers from the manufacturer. For example, if you have feeder breakers that are 30 years old, it is probably time to replace them. So, what you’d want to do is replace them during the testing shutdown and have the testing firm take baseline data. Doing this is expensive and a hard sell to management, which is why you need something from the manufacturer.
Another way you can get ahead of failure is with oil-filled transformers. You can use a combination of age and oil demo testing to assess whether a transformer is at risk for failure. Schedule the replacement such that baseline testing can be performed by a qualified firm.
There is no better time to test equipment than when it is new. A common misperception is that you should wait a year before testing. But if you do that, you have no way to establish what is normal for that equipment in new condition and thus you have no baseline from which to assess deterioration. You have to wait a full year just to get a pseudo baseline and a total of two years to assess deterioration from the time of installation. A lot can happen in two years.
Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT) devices represent a rapidly expanding, often unchecked, risk surface that is largely driven by the technology's pervasiveness, vulnerability, and cloud connectivity. This has left a wider array of industries and organizations vulnerable and opened the door for damaging infrastructure attacks.
Microsoft recently identified unpatched, high-severity vulnerabilities in 75% of the most common industrial controllers in customer OT networks. Keep memorizing to learn more about these cyber-risks to critical infrastructure and what you can do to mitigate them.
Over the past year, Microsoft has observed threats exploiting devices in almost every monitored and visible part of an organization. This includes traditional IT equipment, OT controllers, and IoT devices like sensors and cameras. Many organizations have adopted a converged, interconnected model of OT and IoT in latest years. This trend has caused attackers' presences in these environments and networks to grow exponentially.
IDC estimates there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices by 2025, a growth rate higher than traditional IT equipment. And although the security of IT equipment has strengthened in latest years, IoT and OT device security has not kept pace. Threat actors are exploiting these devices accordingly by compromising newly networked devices to gain access to sensitive critical infrastructure networks.
Take the latest Boa Web server vulnerabilities, for example. Microsoft discovered these vulnerabilities during an investigation of continued attacks on Indian power grid assets by Chinese state-sponsored groups. Despite being discontinued in 2005, the Boa Web server is still used by different vendors across a variety of IoT devices and popular software development kits. Data from the Microsoft Defender Threat Intelligence platform identified more than 1 million Internet-exposed Boa server components around the world over the span of a week. Without developers managing the Boa Web server, its known vulnerabilities create an opening for attackers to silently gain access to networks by collecting information from files.
It is important to remember that attackers can have varied motives. Russia's cyberattacks against Ukraine, as well as other state-sponsored cybercriminal activity, demonstrate that some nation-states will target critical infrastructure in order to achieve military and economic objectives.
Threat actors have more varied ways of mounting large-scale attacks as the cybercriminal economy expands and malicious software targeting OT systems becomes more prevalent and easier to use.
Ransomware attacks, previously perceived as an IT-focused attack vector, are today affecting OT environments. This can be seen in instances like the Colonial Pipeline attack, where OT systems and pipeline operations were temporarily shut down while incident responders worked to identify and contain the spread of ransomware on the company's IT network. Adversaries realize that the financial impact and extortion leverage of shutting down energy and other critical infrastructures is far greater than other industries.
Microsoft has observed Chinese-linked threat actors targeting vulnerable home and small-office routers in order to compromise these devices as footholds. This provides new address space that is less associated with their previous campaigns — giving them a new foothold from which to launch future attacks.
While the prevalence of IoT and OT vulnerabilities presents a challenge for all organizations, critical infrastructure is at increased risk. Disabling critical services, not even necessarily destroying them, is a powerful lever.
If organizations are to secure their IoT and OT systems, there are a number of recommendations that should be put in place.
Looking for more tips on how to secure your IoT and OT systems? Explore the full breadth of our cybersecurity research and recommendations with Microsoft's Security Insider.
Read more Partner Perspectives from Microsoft.
Executive Mosaic has included Rick Wagner, president of Microsoft’s federal business, in its 2023 Wash100 Award list for helping lead company efforts focused on delivering cloud capabilities to the government in support of national security missions.
The recognition marks the sixth consecutive time that Wagner was presented with Executive Mosaic’s most prestigious award in all of government contracting industry. Visit Wash100.com to cast a vote for him as one of your favorite leaders of consequence in the GovCon sector.
“As technology increases parabolically, this is a good time to be Microsoft and an even better time to be Rick Wagner. Rick’s ability to infuse his knowledge of government contracting into one of the most essential platform providers in the world promises a prodigious capability for Microsoft-based solutions for the U.S. government. Rick’s preparation and Microsoft’s opportunity mean we all win,” said Jim Garrettson, CEO of Executive Mosaic and founder of the esteemed Wash100 Award.
Wagner’s induction into the 2023 class further reflects his commitment to ensuring continued delivery of latest technology innovations meant to fit specific customer needs. In the previous award year, Executive Mosaic highlighted his mission cloud and security leadership as evidenced in his efforts to drive speedy integration of cloud platforms for public sector clients.
2022 saw Microsoft being named as one of the awardees of the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract. The potential $9 billion program of the Department of Defense is aimed at delivering secure cloud services to mission owners. The company, along with three other contractors, will provide advanced data analytics, centralized management and distributed control, computing, storage and network infrastructure, tactical edge devices and other capabilities over a period of five and a half years.
Commenting on Microsoft’s selection to be among DOD’s cloud service providers, Wagner said, “Our work on JWCC will build on the success of our industry-leading cloud capabilities to support national security missions that we have developed and deployed across the department and service branches.”
He also sees the department’s multi-cloud approach for JWCC as “the right one” considering the defense enterprise infrastructure. “Multi-cloud is already an established best practice in the commercial industry because it enables organizations to maximize flexibility, enhance resiliency and access the best technologies across providers,” he added.
Aside from DOD, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also tapped Microsoft to provide the agency with cloud computing capabilities under a cooperative research and development agreement.
The company will support NOAA in advancing climate, weather and ocean prediction initiatives through cloud applications.
“Microsoft Azure Artificial Intelligence and high performance computing capabilities can help NOAA accelerate critical research and foster innovative approaches to mitigate the risk of climate change,” noted Wagner.
Microsoft is also in partnership with industry players working on cloud projects. In December 2022, it collaborated with Leidos to demonstrate the pairing of the latter’s Edge to Cloud platform with the Azure Cloud Infrastructure.
“By partnering with Leidos, we are demonstrating how commercial capabilities in a classified cloud can enable improved situational awareness and decision dominance for the DOD through global connectivity, data aggregation and advanced analytics that support decision making,” said Wagner.
The technological collaboration was during the U.S. Army’s Project Convergence 22 experimentation exercises and marked a milestone in the Joint All-Domain Command and Control program of the DOD.
As cloud continues to become relevant in advancing DOD’s missions, Wagner underscores Microsoft’s commitment as a key partner helping the department navigate the multi-cloud environment and ensuring seamless interoperability of systems and services.
Executive Mosaic congratulates Rick Wagner and Microsoft Federal for their selection to receive the 2023 Wash100 Award. Visit Wash100.com to cast a vote for him as one of your favorite leaders of consequence in the GovCon sector.
It was a rough quarter for the cloud infrastructure market as companies looked for ways to cut back on spending in an uncertain economy. When you combine that with the strong dollar and a weak Chinese market, the market slowed to 21% growth, a precipitous drop from the 36% growth we had seen the year prior.
While we aren’t seeing the gaudy growth of years past, Synergy Research still found the market exceeded $61 billion for the quarter with the 12 month trailing revenues of over $212 billion, a hefty sum by any measure, even with the slowdown.
Also of note was that while each of The Big Three saw growth slow in Q4 2022 from the previous quarter, Microsoft still managed to gain market share ground on Amazon. Microsoft increased its share from 23%, up from 21% the prior quarter, while Amazon fell from 34% to 33% and Google remained steady at 11%. The Big Three cloud providers accounted for 66% of worldwide cloud revenue.
That comes out to approximately $20 billion for Amazon, $14 billion for Microsoft and $7 billion for Google. Per usual, this is looking at IaaS, PaaS and hosted private cloud services. It doesn’t include SaaS, which is measured separately.
Amazon cloud revenue grew a modest 20% over the prior year, and the company acknowledged in the earnings call that growth dropped even further to the mid-teens in the first month of the year. Meanwhile Microsoft reported cloud growth of 22%, down from 24% the prior quarter and Google Cloud revenue grew 32%, down from the 38% growth the previous quarter.
Amazon was first to market and has had a long head start, but it seems as the market slows after years of steady growth, it’s giving its chief competitor, Microsoft, a bit of an opening to gain on them. It could be partly due at least to the fact that Amazon’s market maturity is finally catching up to it, and Microsoft is able to gain some advantage in spite of spending slowing overall.
John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy says there were three key reasons for this quarter’s drop-off, which he believes are short-term issues, and he remains optimistic for the future. “There are three main factors. The strengthened US dollar diminishes the apparent growth rate of many non-US markets; the large Chinese market remains constrained by pandemic issues and local policies; and the worsened economy has caused some enterprises to more closely review spending on cloud services. These factors should be primarily short term in nature and Synergy forecasts that growth rates will remain strong over the next few years,” he said in a statement.
It will be interesting to watch the market in 2023 and see how the macro economic environment affects revenue, and if the slower growth we’ve been seeing continues to work in favor of Amazon’s competitors by enabling them to gain more ground.
Microsoft has increased its global market share in global cloud infrastructure services for the fourth quarter of 2022.
According to analyst firm Synergy, the worldwide cloud infrastructure services exceeded US$61 billion worldwide in Q4, with Microsoft Azure claiming 23 per cent of the pie.
Although Synergy noted that the global rise was US$10 billion from the fourth quarter of last year, it reflected a reduction in the market growth rate.
In its report, Synergy stated that cloud infrastructure services grew by 21 per cent compared to Q4 of 2021.
This, however, was “substantially hampered” by the historically strong US dollar and a severely restricted Chinese market, the analyst firm said.
Global market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) stayed within its long-standing market share band of 32-34 per cent.
In third place, Google’s share stood at 11 per cent in line with the previous quarter but a percentage point up from a year ago.
Notably, the leading trio held 73 per cent of the public cloud market. Geographically, the cloud market continues to grow strongly in all regions of the world, Synergy added.
The analyst firm also claimed that quarterly cloud infrastructure service revenues, including infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and hosted private cloud services, were US$61.6 billion, while annual revenue reached US$227 billion.
Public IaaS and PaaS services grew by 22 per cent in Q4 and account for the lion’s share of the market.
Synergy added that as economies Improve and the foreign exchange market stabilises, the worldwide cloud market will continue to grow strongly over the coming years.
Microsoft has been slowly creeping up on AWS' cloud dominance for some time. Last year, Canalys claimed that an "interesting battle remains right at the top between AWS and Microsoft”, with both companies aggressively building out capacity.
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Despite the economic downturn, a crowded market and high valuations, there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity upon us. We don’t mean the buzzy concepts like the metaverse or NFTs or Web3. Instead, we’re talking about data infrastructure.
The term infrastructure doesn’t typically generate a lot of excitement. But it’s nevertheless one of the most interesting investment sectors, now thanks in part to the pandemic.
The prize for a startup that becomes an integral part of the data stack is massive. There is an opportunity for a winner-takes-all outcome, as well as the potential to build a decacorn, or a startup with a market capitalization of $100 billion.
And even if that doesn’t pan out, startups could still be acquired by one of the existing data infrastructure mainstays like Snowflake, Fivetran, DBT, Tableau or Looker. For example, Streamlit, the three-year-old startup that developed an open-source project for building data-based apps, was acquired by Snowflake for $800 million in March 2022. That’s not a shabby outcome.
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Let’s revisit 2020. The pandemic accelerated a shift to remote work, telehealth, zoom calls and Netflix streaming. It also skyrocketed demand for last-mile delivery of Amazon packages. Combined with supply-chain constraints, consumer behavior was forever altered.
From a business perspective, the COVID-19 crisis rapidly accelerated the adoption of analytics and AI. More than half (52%) of businesses accelerated their AI adoption plans to help alleviate skills shortages, boost productivity, deliver new products and services and address supply chain issues.
For example, snack giant Frito-Lay ramped up its digital and data-driven initiatives, compressing five years’ worth of digital plans into six months. They delivered an ecommerce platform, Snacks.com, in just 30 days and leveraged shopper data to predict store openings, shifts in demand and changes in tastes to reset product offerings all the way down to the store level within a particular zip code.
But when pivoting quickly to meet new needs, many businesses realized their existing data stacks couldn’t cut it. They faced challenges with long turnaround times to untangle and set up infrastructure, as well as slow response times to new information — not to mention incredibly expensive journeys to insights.
Businesses now need to move to a sustainable operating model, replace long-term commitments with plug-and-play flexibility, evolve from one-off analytics to operational business intelligence and lead with data governance rather than considering it an afterthought. In other words, businesses need a modern data stack.
And data infrastructure is here to stay for a simple reason: Companies will always need data and consumers and businesses will only generate more of it. The amount of data created and consumed worldwide in 2022 will be in the range of 97 zettabytes, or 97 billion terabytes, and it is growing more than 19% year over year. In addition, the power of data in determining a company’s success will only increase moving forward — as will the number of tools for aggregating, connecting, storing, transforming, querying, analyzing and visualizing that data.
Pitchbook reported that the top 30 data infrastructure startups have “raised over $8 billion in venture capital in the last five years at an aggregate value of $35 billion.“ Data infrastructure is unique in the sense that there’s a data pipeline, where data moves throughout the various parts of an organization. This involves aggregating and connecting data, storing it and making computations, transforming it and ultimately visualizing it.
This means investments in data infrastructure companies remain intriguing despite an overall slowdown in VC investments — and, as a result, startups are uniquely positioned to weather the economic downturn.
According to Hansae Catlett, VP at Bessemer Venture Partners: “Many data infrastructure startups have an opportunity to become part of the modern data stack. There will always be room for a startup that can fill in a key technical hole of the stack that remains open or solves a key business problem. As re-platforming continues to unfold, opportunities exist to even unseat recently established players like Snowflake and Looker as part of the canonical data stack. Data infrastructure advancements are driven by secular trends — cloud adoption, growth in data — so despite the downturn, we believe this momentum will persist.”
That’s why VCs are placing their bets on both sides: data infrastructure technology and business applications.
Data infrastructure technologies include next-generation Snowflakes, real-time processing for analytical and operational needs and machine learning (ML) toolkits. Business applications encompass data analytics that empower business users to act like data scientists and data analytics for specific verticals.
Given the massive opportunity for a winner-takes-all outcome in data infrastructure, valuations will continue to be high. That’s because those startups that become locked into this new ecosystem early—even if they are just a small piece of the overall whole — will inevitably become the go-to provider for everyone else who uses the data stack. That also means there’s ample potential for a return, even at the unicorn valuations we’re seeing now.
Data infrastructure will also likely see more M&A in early 2023 because this economic climate will create a do-or-die situation for many companies. There’s a lot of great technology being built, but not all of today’s startups can mature into standalone companies.
Meanwhile, there are many niche problems across the data stack and those problems might not be large enough for a top data infrastructure company. But, they can still present exciting opportunities for new companies to incorporate into their products.
According to Noel Yuhanna, a Forrester VP and principal analyst, Snowflake originally started with supporting tools presenting data to non-data specialists.
But recently, the platform has expanded to support broader-use cases, including data science, data engineering, and other forms of analytics.
Yuhanna adds: “We find that organizations don’t want 10 different platforms to support various initiatives, but an integrated data platform that can support multiple use cases across multiple personas.”
It’s only going to get hotter and hotter. Those who have placed early bets on infrastructure are going to see huge returns, especially as M&A heats up now through 2023.
Rekha Ravindra is a principal with Rsquared Acceleration.
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SpaceX’s massive Starship performed a static engine fire test on Thursday at the rocket company’s facility in Texas.All but two of the 33 Merlin engines fired. Elon Musk tweeted that with 31 firing, Starship would have still made it into orbit if this were a launch.Amid a large cloud of dust, it was an amazing sight of technology and a critical step forward for SpaceX.“The reality is to take the company to the next level, to actually fully expand the Starlink constellation to be part of the Artemis program and begin taking steps to put humans on Mars, you’ve got to get Starship going. And Starship does not get going until you start regular test flights,” said Eric Berger of Ars Technica.Part of what is going to be evaluated after Thursday’s test is how those engines performed and why two did not, but also the impact on the Texas launch facility itself.It’s critical in the testing phase as it’s the base for Starship.“Remember, this is not the Kennedy Space Center where you have existing infrastructure. SpaceX had to build everything down there, so they’ve invested a lot of money in what’s known as the tank farm and the launch tower. If there was significant damage there, it would be very costly and take many months to rebuild,” Berger said.Once the smoke cleared at the launchpad, it appeared that there was no major impact on the ground infrastructure, but close inspections will need to be made.So the next step will be for SpaceX engineers to release the details of how all aspects of the test went and for the data to be digested.But regardless, this was a big step leading to the orbital test mission for Starship that is expected to take place next month.Below: Watch the full video from SpaceX of the engine test
SpaceX’s massive Starship performed a static engine fire test on Thursday at the rocket company’s facility in Texas.
All but two of the 33 Merlin engines fired. Elon Musk tweeted that with 31 firing, Starship would have still made it into orbit if this were a launch.
Amid a large cloud of dust, it was an amazing sight of technology and a critical step forward for SpaceX.
“The reality is to take the company to the next level, to actually fully expand the Starlink constellation to be part of the Artemis program and begin taking steps to put humans on Mars, you’ve got to get Starship going. And Starship does not get going until you start regular test flights,” said Eric Berger of Ars Technica.
Part of what is going to be evaluated after Thursday’s test is how those engines performed and why two did not, but also the impact on the Texas launch facility itself.
It’s critical in the testing phase as it’s the base for Starship.
“Remember, this is not the Kennedy Space Center where you have existing infrastructure. SpaceX had to build everything down there, so they’ve invested a lot of money in what’s known as the tank farm and the launch tower. If there was significant damage there, it would be very costly and take many months to rebuild,” Berger said.
Once the smoke cleared at the launchpad, it appeared that there was no major impact on the ground infrastructure, but close inspections will need to be made.
So the next step will be for SpaceX engineers to release the details of how all aspects of the test went and for the data to be digested.
But regardless, this was a big step leading to the orbital test mission for Starship that is expected to take place next month.
Below: Watch the full video from SpaceX of the engine test
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NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / February 7, 2023 / CBRE Group, Inc.
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