IIRA Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture (IIRA) Technical Report?

The IIRA is a standards-based architectural template and methodology enabling Industrial Internet of Things system architects to design their own systems based on a common framework and concepts.

Who developed this version of Industrial Internet Reference Architecture?

The IIC Architecture Task Group under the Technology Working Group is responsible for the IIRA. Its participants represent a broad spectrum of the IIC membership and include systems and software architects, business experts, security experts, and participants from many of the other IIC working and task groups.

Why a new version of the IIRA?

The IIRA, like all IIC deliverables, is a living document that will continually represent the latest thinking of the IIC and the IIoT community. The Industrial Internet of Things suite of deliverables from the IIC are addressing every aspect of the emerging IIoT and the IIC working groups are committed to delivering practical, implementable deliverables that reflect new technologies, new concepts, and new applications as they emerge.

How does the IIRA promote an interoperable Industrial Internet of Things?

The IIRA provides guidance for the development of interoperable IIoT systems, solution and application architectures through a carefully defined standard-based framework and common terminology that identifies and highlights important architectural concerns, concepts and patterns that can be applied to, within, and across industrial sectors.

What is the basis of the IIRA?

The representation of the content of the IIRA is based on the joint ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010:2011, Systems and software engineering — Architecture description standard. The content in the IIRA is based on the contributions of the IIC members. For more information on this standard, see: http://www.iso-architecture.org/ieee-1471

Who is the target audience for the IIRA?

The IIRA technical report is primarily for IIoT system architects familiar with general architecture concepts, architecture frameworks and reference architectures.

Can non-architects understand and use the IIRA?

This document can also be used by, and provides value for, business decision-makers, plant managers, IT managers, and others who want to better understand how to drive IIoT system development from business perspectives and how the convergence of Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) is an important part of achieving the promised benefits of IIoT.

Why is the IIRA important?

The Industrial Internet of Things core concepts and technologies are applicable to almost all industrial sectors, such as manufacturing, transportation, energy, agriculture, healthcare, public infrastructure, etc. Industrial Internet applications in each of these sectors are highly complex and unique in their usages. They therefore have highly diverse system and architecture requirements. A high-level abstraction of architecture patterns and descriptions that can be applied across the industrial sectors has obvious benefits:

  • Provides common and consistent definitions for IIoT systems, their decompositions and design patterns, and a common vocabulary with which to discuss the specification of implementations and compare options. It also facilitates easy sharing experience and know-how in designing, implementing and operating IIoT systems across industrial sectors.
  • Encourages re-use of common system building blocks. A widely accepted, open reference architecture provides guidance to technology vendors to build market-fitting system components and those that are interoperable and applicable to multiple industrial sectors.
  • Provides the guiding concepts for the development of IIoT system, solution and application architectures. System implementers can take the open reference architecture as a starting point for design and use it as a framework to choose reusable commercially-available or open-source system-building blocks to reduce project effort, risk, costs and time-to-market.

A successful open reference architecture for the industrial Internet is a first step towards an open, innovative and thriving common technology development ecosystem across industrial sectors. Similar ecosystems have been the bedrock of the Internet Revolution in the consumer, e-commerce and enterprise Information Technology environments.

What business advantages will IIRA adopters potentially reap?

Technology vendors can evaluate how their technology or solution offering fits with the consensus driven IIRA concepts and methodology and build market-fitting system components that are interoperable and applicable to multiple industrial sectors thereby enabling technology offerings addressing the broadest possible market.

System implementers can use the industry-consensus IIRA as a starting point for design to shorten their path in system development by deploying reusable, commercially available, or open source system building blocks to reduce project risk, associated costs, and time-to-market.

The IIC members and broader IIoT community will use the IIRA concepts to help realize an open and innovative ecosystem, which offers the opportunity to continuously evolve their design in a truly interoperable fashion thereby reducing their cost of design and operations and enabling plug and play with the totality of IIoT offerings.

How is the IIRA organized?

The IIRA first specifies an Industrial Internet Architecture Framework. It then uses the framework to identify and highlight the most important architectural concerns commonly found in IIoT systems across industrial sectors and classify them into viewpoints along with their respective stakeholders. These viewpoints include business, usage, functional and implementation. It describes, analyzes and, where appropriate, provides guiding concepts to resolve the concerns in these viewpoints, creating certain abstract architecture representations that can be used in concrete system designs.

What is new in this version of the IIRA?

This new version of the IIRA has the following major updates:

  • Improved and enhanced description of the architecture concepts and constructs derived from ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010 Architecture Description standard and their application in the IIRA (Chapter 3 Industrial Internet Architecture Framework).
  • A new section on IIRA viewpoints' Scope of Applicability and Relationship to System Lifecycle Process (Chapter 3 Industrial Internet Architecture Framework, Section 3.6).
  • A new section on Crosscutting Functions and Key System Characteristics (Chapter 6 Functional Viewpoint, Section 6.7).
  • A new section on Functional Domain and Compute Deployment Models (Chapter 6 Functional Viewpoint, Section 6.8).
  • Clarity that the architecture patterns are only representative and not intended to be all inclusive.
  • A new section on Layered Databus Architecture Pattern (Chapter 7 Implementation Viewpoint, Section 7.5).
  • A new appendix on Design Space Considerations (Appendix A) providing a broad view of possible design parameters and their constraints in identifying, describing and resolving IIoT system concerns.
What is the relationship between the IIRA and other IIC publications?

The IIC is committed to publishing technology specific frameworks – such as Industrial Internet Security Framework (IISF), Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework, Business Strategy and Innovation Framework (BSIF) – that collectively comprise the IIC Industrial Internet of Things suite. The IIRA is the foundation for this collective body of work and along with the IIC Vocabulary document ensures consistency across its breadth and depth.

How can you demonstrate the IIRA techniques?

The IIRA has been widely used in the IIC's testbeds that span verticals such as smart grid, transportation, smart cities, agriculture, industrial maintenance and others. The application of the IIRA in these testbeds assists in their system architecture design and provides validation and feedback to the IIRA for its continuing improvement and evolution.

Are there any tools available?

The IIC has been developing an IIRA Template walking the user through the steps necessary to apply and align with the IIRA. IIC members have created several documents which represent detailed analyses of the alignment between the IIRA and selected testbeds, one of which has been published as a whitepaper accessible to the public.

Where is the architecture?

This new version of the IIRA has the following major updates: As the IIRA is applicable to a broad spectrum of public sector operations and private sector industries, the IIRA does not define a specific architecture. It does however include several example architecture concepts and patterns to assist IIoT System architects in defining the optimal pattern for their specific set of requirements.

Will additional architecture patterns be defined?

Additional architecture patterns are being defined through the IIC testbed and technology frameworks processes and will be published as appropriate.

What is the intended long-term relationship between the IIRA and the various industrial standards in existence today?

The IIRA provides significant insight into, and identification of, the requirements for architecting a truly interoperable IIoT system. The IIC, through its formal liaisons with various open standards and industry consortia, collaborates through sharing and feedback during the deliverable development process thereby providing bi-lateral and unilateral sharing of requirements, building consensus, and resulting in complementary rather than competing guidance and standards.