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SCADA and MTBH [Jun. 10th, 2006|08:44 am]
From a systems design book written in 1995:

Operations can no longer afford the luxury of dedicated stand-alone systems. Hardware and software of the modern SCADA system myst be incorporated into the enterprise-wide, management information systems strategy to maximize the benefits.

Translating from PHB speak: Run your SCADA system over your enterprise network, rather than have an independent out-of-band means of communication.

From a systems design document from BART, written slightly more recently:

The station computer itself is divided into two systems. First is the Non-Vital Station Computer (NVSC). ("Vital" in the context of railroad safety can be interpreted to mean that the function is critical to the safety of the system.) The NVSC is a fast, flexible computer. The hardware is reliable enough to meet performance-driven Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) and Mean Time Between System Shutdown (MTBSSD) goals but not safety-related Mean Time Between Hazard (MTBH) goals. These goals are defined precisely below. Second is the Vital Station Computer (VSC), which is slower but reliable enough to meet safety-related MTBH goals.

Now, I realize I'm comparing apples to oranges here. The first quote is referring to SCADA controls for power distribution, designed to keep the power flowing, while the second quote is talking about SCADA controls for people-moving and keeping people-movers from becoming airborne or hitting eachother. Clearly the risks involved in a failure of SCADA controls in these two examples, be it via computer virus or lightning strike, are not equivalent. Still, the thought of running what we term as "safety sensitive" systems over your typical enterprise network[1] makes every one of our controllers blood run cold. And yet, that's where things are moving to. Some SCADA salesman: "Yeah, the PLC just has a rj-45 jack on it, plug it in and it'll get a dhcp address..."

I need a bigger cluebat.

[1] Well, maybe your enterprise network can meet a MTBH goal of no hardware faults in 10^9 hours. Mine certainly can't.

[User Picture]From: jgp
2006-06-10 08:58 pm (UTC)
Ack. In more ways than one.
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