Using Docker on the SecureEdge Pro gateway

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Docker is a proven platform that makes it easy to create, deploy, and run software applications in an isolated environment. It’s quickly gaining ground in the manufacturing industry because of its unique features of being lightweight, portable and ability to run in any environment. With the new SecureEdge Pro gateway, IXON enables machine builders and manufacturers to run Docker applications directly on the edge gateway.

What is Docker?

Docker is a platform that automates the deployment of software applications using so-called containers, so that applications can work efficiently in different environments in isolation1. To do so, software developers first need to package applications, libraries, config files plus any dependencies into a Docker image. A runtime process of this image is called a Docker container. docker-transparant

A benefit of Docker containers is that they run in a “sandbox”, which means they can’t interfere with other containers. This improves the security and stability of applications deployed on shared environments. Another characteristic is that containers are very resource-efficient (lightweight) since they run directly on top of the operating system2, and do not require a lot of RAM or disk space.

Benefits of Docker for machine builders

Being portable and lightweight, Docker apps are a great way to run inside a factory on an edge device. One of the huge benefits of running applications locally - inside the factory or near the machine - is that it enables you to add “intelligence” close to the machine. This allows manufacturers to e.g. run data-heavy provide real-time insights and recommendations to optimize the production process. 

Executing these applications locally on an edge device improves runtime performance, reduces network latency, eliminates the need to share sensitive data with servers outside the factory boundaries, and improves network scalability.

However, this does not imply that running applications centrally in the cloud is a bad thing.. Cloud applications have their own distinct benefits, like ease of deployment, openness towards integrations with other IT applications, central accessibility and lower cost of maintenance. That’s why in practice, you will often see a hybrid approach where some applications are run locally, and others in the cloud. In the end, how you organize this is both an architectural & business decision.

Introducing the SecureEdge Pro gateway

Recently, IXON introduced3 its new edge gateway called SecureEdge Pro, which offers similar connectivity and VPN router functionalities as the IXrouter3, with on top of that a number of advanced features. The SecureEdge Pro offers enhanced security thanks to an extra OT port for isolating the factory network from the internet, and has an integrated TPM chip for secure boot purposes. The new edge gateway also incorporates an easy-to-use touchscreen to quickly access common settings and monitor the machine connections in real time. And, it also lets you run Docker applications.

SecureEdge Pro meets Docker

With the SecureEdge Pro gateway, IXON offers machine builders and manufacturers the flexibility to deploy and run Docker apps locally in the factory, directly on the edge gateway. This means that with the SecureEdge Pro you basically get a “2-in-1 device”: a secure VPN router for remote access, plus an equivalent to an industrial mini-PC to run (IoT) software applications locally.

Running apps locally on the SecureEdge Pro is ideal for automating large processes that need more computing power and memory resources. Think about real-time monitoring of processes, data collection, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and running complex machinery. But also enhanced network security and network surveillance are typical use cases for edge computing in a manufacturing environment.

Docker apps on the IXON Marketplacedocker-marketplace

You have the flexibility to build and deploy your own Docker apps, or install pre-built Docker apps via the IXON Marketplace. The Marketplace offers many functional extensions for IXON Cloud and for the SecureEdge Pro gateway. You can find here over 40 free apps and connectors that were developed by IXON and its partners, including Dockers apps for:

  • Network intrusion detection: Based on Suricata, detect possible intrusions based on suspicious network traffic.
  • Pre-failure snapshot: Watch a video recorded by an IP camera of the moment just before an error occured.
  • Machine learning (AI) modeling: Train and deploy machine learning models on edge devices using TensorFlow.
  • Edge dashboard: Based on Grafana, metrics from machines and sensors can easily be stored, visualized and analyzed on-site.
  • PLC configuration backups: Connect to a PLC at fixed intervals via FTP and download the settings or recipes, and store these locally on the edge gateway as a backup file.


If you are interested to learn more about the SecureEdge Pro gateway, please get in touch with one of our experts.

 

Sources:
1) Wikipedia (2024, June 19). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docker_(software)
2) Senington, Richard & Pataki, Balazs & Wang, Xi. (2018). Using docker for factory system software management: Experience report.
3) IXON (2024, June 4). https://www.ixon.cloud/news/secure-edge-pro-launch