Missed a couple of days. Trying to get the December issue of Automation World put to bed, then drove up to the Chicago office for a meeting with Baldor (among other things, which included dinner with my daughter and a surprise visit from my son who picked up a flight to Chicago as FO on a 737 and he joined us–nice birthday dinner).

After the last OPC post, I quickly received a bunch of calls and emails. Rather than edit the last post, I just thought I’d post some additional thoughts.

First–no, this isn’t a conspiracy by Emerson, as one writer suggested. Many companies were behind the effort–including Iconics, one of OPC’s staunchest supporters. Emerson just took the initiative. (I sometimes think there are more conspiracy theories in the automation market than espoused on Fox News.)

Second–there really is no relationship between Xi and UA. Only that UA is going down a path of platform independance and is ambitious to the extent of not only lower-level data exchange, but also extending to enterprise level data exchange. Because of the platform independence, new tools will be required to program and configure it. But, technology suppliers typically are all on Microsoft platforms, have migrated to the .Net platform and are writing in C#. (Side note: I recently was listening to a high tech podcast where the programmers were extolling the improved speed of execution of code written in C#, pronounced c-sharp, by the way, for you non-music majors.) So, companies were looking for a way to replace DCOM–a technology no longer supported by Microsoft, and one that never worked all that well anyway. The .Net (pronounced dot-net) platform includes Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) which includes enhanced security provisions and allows for tunnelling through corporate firewalls.

Third–OPC Foundation views Xi as a DCOM replacement. In its view, this is a step on the way to total implementation of UA. We’ll just have to see how that plays out. But in the short term, this technology should be a major improvement on the basic OPC that you’ve all come to know and love. But this technology extends the current OPC and probably will eventually help in UA implementation (I hope).

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