Tridium Niagara 4 Updates. Do YOU need to update your system?

Staying on top of Tridium Niagara 4 Updates should be part of a regular maintenance program or the system owner may quickly become at risk from security vulnerabilities or other bugs that inhibit the systems capability to perform the task it was installed to do.

Well I’ll jump straight in and say unless you happen to have installed the newest version of Niagara 4 within the last week or so at the time of writing this, then the answer is yes… Yes you do and here is why…

It is important to understand that Niagara 4 is an extremely capable software package and that in certain deployments it will be in control of critical systems and has connectivity to the majority if not all subsystems within a buildings infrastructure. Niagara 4 is not a specialist piece of software designed to do a single job such as a BMS supervisory application for example. Rather it is a powerhouse integration framework designed to be flexible and allow the installer to shape/configure it how they need. Also consider that is has been designed around an ‘open’ ecosystem to allow for platform extensibility through development by Tridium and third parties alike.

The other equally important point to consider is the direction of the Smart Buildings industry and the IoT ‘boom’ that we are currently in the middle of….
Its all about connectivity, everything connects to everything, its vital that for a product to succeed in this market place it has TCP/IP networking at its heart and can co-operate in a fully managed enterprise network environment. This brings into the fold all your standard network security concerns in addition to the platform specific bugs that you already must stay on top of. When you look at the list of protocols that Niagara 4 supports, that’s a whole lot of ‘attack surface’ or things to malfunction.

You only need to be aware of the recent exploits that were discovered in SSL (Heartbleed), or the wildfire like spread of Ransomware to know that maintaining safe and secure software is a continuous investment and that leaving yourself out of date is the reason that problems like these effected so many. Its also worth noting that these exploits got mass media attention, however any IT security professional will be familiar with the weekly updates from CISA containing huge lists of known new vulnerabilities.

Thankfully however Tridium has made a commitment to its user base and is very proactive in resolving both security issues and bugs that have been identified. This is done through the release of minor & major build revisions. Where there is an emergency fix, a hotfix may be issued. Tridium Niagara 4 Updates can be found through Niagara Central/Community or via partner websites such as our own software downloads page HERE.

Not only does this update procedure help ensure that your system is secure from known security vulnerabilities, it also makes sure that any identified bugs are resolved as quickly as possible and of course offers new features to keep expanding its capability as an ‘integration toolbox’ as I like to call it.

For example, Niagara 4.8 advertises these excellent new features:

  • Client Certificate Authentication – Facilitates kiosk-style interfaces using a dedicated pre-configured browser client.
  • 802.1x Support – More IT administrators are demanding that building devices be network compliant. JACE® 8000 and Niagara Edge 10 are now compliant with IEEE standard for network authentication.
  • 3rd Party Module Signing – When utilizing the vast number of community-written Niagara extensions/modules, module signing improves the security posture of Niagara installations by making administrators aware of modules that may have been tampered with or introduced by untrustworthy sources.
  • Export Refresh – Have you created an insightful chart in Niagara? You can now easily share it from your browser using the improved historical data exporting functionality.
  • JACE 8000 Operating System Refresh – Keep your system current by applying the latest updates. This release includes updates to JACE 8000 to run the latest QNX release, as well as a new JVM to ensure future compatibility with new features and to continue ongoing support.
  • Analytics Data Filter – Data sets can be messy. Sometimes they have gaps, bad values, etc.  Now, the Niagara Analytics engine is smarter and can exclude bad data sets based on the data being tagged as faulty, overridden, in alarm state, etc.
  • ACE Deterministic Engine for Niagara Edge™10 – New control engine for Edge 10 that enables fast startup to control time and deterministic timing when servicing IO, enabling enhanced operations, analytics and optimization in new building applications.
  • Security Dashboard– Quickly assess the security posture of your Niagara network with an easy-to-read and actionable dashboard.

To summarise, Niagara 4 must be treated like any other core piece of software within an IT infrastructure, like a Windows or Linux operating system for example. By not updating it, you leave yourself open to security exploits, allow known bugs to effect the operation of the system and you miss out on performance/capability enhancing new features.

The last thing to mention is how access to Technical support for an out of date system rapidly becomes a problem. If you experience any issues with a system that is out of date, especially if its by a considerable margin, a lot of time may be wasted when engaging with technical support chasing ‘red herrings’ or other dead ends that were already resolved in newer versions of the product. There has been so many fixes in the last 3 major releases of Niagara 4 alone that supporting an older system is simply not time or cost effective on anyone’s part. I have attached release notes for the last few versions as supporting documentation:

Niagara 4.6 Release notes

Niagara 4.7 Release notes

Niagara 4.7u1 Release notes

Niagara 4.8 Release notes

I hope this gives an insight into why its so important to keep on top of Niagara 4 software updates in our modern connected world. I know there is an older mindset sometimes still evident in this industry where we ‘install and forget’ for the next 5 years… but i’m sure this is dying out at a good pace and we are becoming well aware of how important this subject is as the smart building industry converges rapidly with the mainstream technology/IT industries.

Please link/share/copy this post to help spread the word and make the Niagara 4 install base a much safer and capable place!

Tom Stephens
CTO – One Sightsolutions Ltd

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