Mission-critical networks such as those used by power utilities, transportation authorities and critical industries such as oil and gas have been relying on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Many of these SCADA systems have been in use for more than 20 years, making them the definition of legacy equipment.
With the migration away from time division multiplexing (TDM) technology toward the newer IP/MPLS communications technology, however, these legacy SCADA systems are in jeopardy of being stranded during the organization’s IP/MPLS transformation.
One solution is having a reasoned migration capability for moving TDM traffic to IP/MPLS, as noted in a recent application note by Nokia (News - Alert) Networks, Transforming mission-critical networks. As the paper noted, however, this requires an IP/MPLS network with the adaptability and versatility to reliably carry legacy SCADA traffic as well as modern IP-based SCADA data and other new bandwidth-intensive applications.
There are three key challenges for organizations that don’t want to leave their SCADA servers stranded in the face of IP/MPLS transformation:
- Connecting to the SCADA equipment’s legacy interface
- Transporting and bridging SCADA traffic
- Securing that traffic
One example of how this can be achieved is illustrated in a Nokia video, Enabling Legacy SCADA Migration to IP/MPLS Networks.
To handle connecting to the SCADA equipment’s legacy interface, a good IP/MPLS solution will offer several ways to connect with SCADA servers, including both direct connection from the router to the SCADA server, as well as the option for connecting to the SCADA server via T1 or E1 interfaces on the existing TDM multiplex.
For transporting and bridging SCADA traffic, a good IP/MPLS solution will use packetization and label switching to bridge the gap between the legacy protocols used by the SCADA server under TDM and the more modern packet methods used by IP/MPLS.
As for security, IP/MPLS comes with built-in security such as label-switched path tunnels. But given the need for mission-critical networks, a good IP/MPLS solution also will use isolated VPNs and security in the form of built-in firewalls and encryption to additionally secure SCADA traffic.
IP/MPLS transformation can strand aging SCADA equipment. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
Edited by Peter Bernstein