What is cloud computing? How can it help chemical producers access the capacity, technology and expertise they need easily now? And how does Navigance build on proven, secure cloud platforms to provide a tailored solution to optimize your operation?
In a recent study by Navigance of the chemical manufacturing sector, the challenges producers face, and the part digital technologies can play in addressing them, half of all experts we interviewed said they see significant benefits in putting their plant data in the cloud.
Many are already considering doing so, either now or in the near term, and forecasts predict adoption in the industry is set to rise. Only 19% of those we asked had serious concerns about doing so, mostly due to an unfounded perception that all cloud services are inherently insecure.
Of the proportion that remain, perhaps some are still unsure of what cloud computing is, how it works, the benefits it can bring and, more specifically, its potential for the chemical production. So let’s take a quick look at each of those points in turn.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is a way of accessing IT resources such as processing power, storage and data analytics on demand via the web. It’s used by many different industries for many different purposes, ranging from email and virtual desktops to data backup and disaster recovery, customer-facing web applications to software development and testing.
You pay only for what you need when you need it, rather than having your own servers, data centers, and software on site (with all the complex installation, maintenance and security demands that come with them). You can also scale up at speed to add the capacity and capabilities you need cost efficiently.
In this article we’ll look at different types of service that can be layered on top of each other to help you realize such benefits, and how Navigance then goes further to add tools and expertise that help increase plant availability and optimize your chemical process. And, in a future post, we’ll further explore the benefits of cloud services in more detail, including security far more robust than can be achieved on premise.
The three types of cloud computing
With cloud computing, you can access three different types of service, each of which builds on top of the others to enhance it further.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): this is the cloud equivalent of a traditional server on your company premises, providing computing power and data storage. With IaaS, you still need to install and operate applications yourself, but you do it in the cloud – there’s no longer a physical box on your site.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): the next layer involves adding additional services on top, such as a software application. This might be a database or search engine, development and testing tools, data analytics tools or other interfaces. Again, you install and manage them yourself but they sit on a cloud server.
Well-known providers of IaaS and PaaS include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
- Software as a Service (SaaS): in this third layer, the entire application – server and software – is consumed as a cloud service you pay for as you go and grow. There’s no need to install or operate the application yourself as the underlying infrastructure it needs is all taken care of within the service. The application still needs configuring to meet your specific business needs, but a cloud provider with the right expertise can take care of that too.
Some common examples of SaaS providers you may have heard of are Salesforce.com and Dotmatics’ Electronic Lab Notebook.
This collection of cloud services enables you to adapt and innovate to meet changing demands quickly. You can deploy consistently and at pace anywhere in the world, in minutes or hours rather than days, weeks or months. And you can adjust capacity up or down to cope with peaks and troughs in activity and avoid over-provisioning resources.
They also offer a way to avoid the expense of having your own physical infrastructure, which might often sit idle, while benefiting from the economies of scale that come with accessing shared online resources.
How Navigance fits in: on tap tools and expertise
Using cloud-based SaaS offerings enables you to access technologies and expertise that might otherwise be out of reach, due to either budget or resource constraints.
One example is machine learning and other types of artificial intelligence, which most chemical producers recognize has a key role to play in efficiency gains but either don’t know where to start, can’t spare the personnel needed to do so, or both.
Navigance is a SaaS solution that is built on top of the IaaS and PaaS layers from Amazon Web Services, one of the world’s most recognized and widely deployed cloud providers. We combine AWS’ tools, computational, and data storage cloud with our own chemical process and data science expertise to provide comprehensive chemical production analytics.
Depending on what you need, you can quickly and easily visualize your plant data for easier and more informed analysis, introduce 24/7 monitoring and proactive alerting to prevent downtime in your plant, or get round-the-clock recommendations to help optimize process efficiency.
As the Navigance services are deployed on the already firm foundation of AWS, they can be easily configured to meet your specific needs and priorities and scaled up fast.
What’s more, you also benefit from the many proven data security and privacy features that come with the AWS platform. And, for complete end to end protection, we also provide tools to safeguard your data in transit to and from the cloud servers. We’ll manage the complex task of setting up the secure data feeds required, leaving your own team free to add value elsewhere.
If you’re already considering calling on expert support to make the most of cloud computing and the possibilities it helps unlock, you’re not alone.
Most of over 100 chemical companies surveyed by Strategy& said they planned to use a mix of in-house and partner expertise for some of their most pressing technology objectives. And well over half said machine learning and other types of AI application were likely to be a shared venture or entirely outsourced to partners.
For those already embracing the cloud, according to research by Accenture, the benefit that had surpassed their upfront expectations was the ability to share information with partners, suppliers and customers, and the collaborative advance this made possible.
If you’re ready to experience such benefits for your chemical plant operation yourself, talk to Navigance today. Or if you want to know more about the benefits of cloud computing and its robust security you can count on, read our blog on the subject.