ODVA (originally the Open DeviceNet Vendors Association for historical context) has decidedly discrete manufacturing roots. As it migrated from an emphasis on DeviceNet to Ethernet (and its brand EtherNet/IP), it has also struggled mightily to develop protocols that exploit only commercial off-the-shelf Ethernet chips. It was able to conquer the challenges of Ethernet for real-time and deterministic communication (for example for motion control) without the need to bypass the TCP/UDP part of the stack only recently (CIP Sync and CIP Motion).

Now, as its most stalwart member, Rockwell Automation, has moved strongly into process automation, and as Endress + Hauser has joined, ODVA finds itself needing to work on a protocol for EtherNet/IP for process automation. E+H has already announced implementations of EtherNet/IP for some of its instrumentation.

Within that context, ODVA has announced the availability of a new white paper, Optimization of Process Integration, which outlines a strategic vision for manufacturers wishing to implement an Ethernet solution or, in the words of the marketers of ODVA, “looking to maintain cost-effective, sustainable production capacity in the process industries.” The white paper is designed to help business and technical leaders in these industries define their future network architecture and plan for the efficient integration of their plant’s network infrastructure into existing business applications.

In other words, the white paper is a document around which formation of an industry working group (SIG) can begin to develop the protocols.

From the press release, “ODVA envisions an approach to the optimization of process integration that is convergent, compatible, scalable and open for users and their suppliers. The approach will simplify the exchange of configuration, diagnostic and production data between field devices and higher-level systems, such as supervisory control and data acquisition systems.”

“The approach also will enable plant asset management (PAM) and secure remote access of field installations. This, together with the proven benefits and cost advantages of commercially available, off-the-shelf Ethernet and Internet technologies, will help businesses improve productivity and competitiveness.”

Katherine Voss, president and executive director, ODVA, says that industry will see a continued expansion of Ethernet and IP technologies in automation systems used in process industries. “The Optimization of Process Integration leverages the prevailing trend of convergence in information and communication technologies used in industry and in business applications. As EtherNet/IP is proven in hybrid and discrete industries, it is an ideal technology to provide process industries with a unified communication solution from the field to the enterprise.”

In this white paper, ODVA describes the opportunity for the optimization of process integration (OPI) and an overview of its vision for a comprehensive approach including:

  • OPI in the industrial ecosystem;
  • ODVA’s vision of OPI in the production domain;
  • Industrial use cases for OPI;
  • ODVA’s technical approach to OPI; and
  • OPI in practice.

Looking at the list of members of ODVA with a process industry emphasis, the only other company that I noticed was Schneider Electric (an ODVA member partly as the godfather of Modbus TCP, which fits nicely). But Schneider Electric had only a small process industry focus until last month. I wonder what the acquisition of Invensys (Foxboro, Triconex) might mean. Something to watch, I suppose.

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