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A New Distributed Control System?

The undercurrent talk of the ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum this week in Orlando was how ARC’s Andy Chatha promoted the ExxonMobil/Lockheed Martin initiative to develop a new type of distributed control system.

I have to dash this initial thought off since I have about 20 minutes to get to my plane home. My week has been non-stop meetings from 7 am until at least 11 pm all week. This morning was a bit of a breather. Lots of stuff going on.

However, the ExxonMobil initiative provoked much discussion, rumors, speculation, whatever.

Part of the problem is that the program has just been announced and therefore is not defined.

The basic problem seems to be that Exxon is operating with very old DCS technology and has a great need to upgrade. But “ripping and replacing” would be very expensive. From conversations that I can report without naming names, I gather that they are looking for a software-defined distributed control residing above the current hardware control layer. The further wish is that the hardware layer would include parts interchangeable from supplier to supplier.

It hopes that this would be an industry-wide consortium that would drive standards for the software and the hardware. It has requested cooperation from technology suppliers as well as its peers in the oil & gas industry.

There are pieces of this that look very interesting. And, of course pieces that stand probably the proverbial snowball’s chance.

“Software defined” is of course developing in several industries (think Ethernet switches?).

My experience is that this sort of industry-wide standards development takes so much time that the technology it envisions is obsolete.

I’ll have more later after giving the idea more thought.

Meanwhile, I have announcements from Inductive Automation, Honeywell, Bentley Systems, Yokogawa, ABB, Bedrock Automation, and more coming tomorrow when I get a chance to think and write.

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