I have heard from friends (non-editors) who attended the Wonderware software conference. I have edited their news items into what I hope is a coherent post. This news includes some significant information that I have not seen elsewhere, yet. I should get my friends to report more. Getting the point of view of users is valuable. I hope you agree.
This also shows what I was talking about Monday where an industry leader under attack can push the envelop a different direction in order to remain fresh and offer customers more.
1) “It’s getting really cloudy.”
They showed off a number of tools, some old, some new that are all based around a cloud platform or at a minimum communication with the cloud. They are continuing to push really really hard the Wonderware Online and Smart Glance products. Talking with Saadi Kermani, the main evangelist for them, they are in continual release mode and have a long list of planned features that will be rolling out over the coming months designed to keep them up with, or exceed, competitive offerings.
“Also the new version of Smart Glance is really nice and very modern look and feel.” The best part about something like smart glance is that it’s a relatively simple product to get up and running for your org. And pretty cost effective to boot. “My personal analysis is that what will make Wonderware Online super valuable is an ecosystem of partners building sophisticated apps in cloud platforms like Azure and others.”
Some other big cloud stuff. They previewed Wonderware Development Studio online. Now you can log on with a web browser, stand up an environment picking and choosing which machines you want, what software is installed on each, how the redundancy is configured, etc. Hit go and in some amount of time..maybe an hour or so… the machines are ready for you to login via remote desktop running on Azure. This seems like a really awesome setup for integrators that don’t want to maintain a bunch of different environments and versions. Supposedly there was no cost to have then configured. “My only concern is the pricing and how easy it might be to run up a $1K bill before you know it. I did ask about the idea of buying the IP and underlying system that did the automation so you can run it on premise. If I remember right the person I was talking to said it might be possible but wasn’t on the current roadmap.”
2) Hello IOT
A guy from Microsoft had a nice presentation on Monday afternoon talking about Azure and how Azure fits into the IOT space. It was a bit high level but I think we need all the education we can get right now.
During the intro sessions on Tuesday John Krajewski discussed a little more about IOT and specifically talked about their new MQTT OI Server. OI Server is the new name they have given to IO drivers. They are doing some different things with packaging and scalability but that’s incidental to the IOT discussion. Back to IOT, they have written a server that can talk MQTT natively so you can seamlessly push and pull data to/from System Platform with other devices talking MQTT just like you would a PLC.
Alvaro Martiniez the product manager admitted it was early Alpha stage for the product but I hope it opened some people’s eyes to possibilities. “I can’t wait to get my hands on it.”
An integrator presentation to a standing room only crowd discussed multiple aspects of IOT. It was really broken into three parts. The first was an overview of 5 of the major protocols one might come across when getting into the IOT space. Next was a technical deep dive on one of the protocols, MQTT. [Gary’s note: At the Inductive conference, I attended a session by one of the developers of MQTT. This is an important protocol, riding atop TCP/IP stack, that can standardize IoT messaging.] Next were 4 or 5 demos showing the use of MQTT inside or integrated with System Platform and the Historian. “My personal favorite was showing how you could build a simple set of code that read MQTT data and sent it directly to the Historian… which in theory means you could have 100% cloud infrastructure for piping device data straight over to the Wonderware Online historian.”
3) Next Gen
They have been working on revamping the System Platform look, feel, and function for the last few years. The 2014 releases have made some pretty big shifts in the functionality space but nothing major expected until the next release. Tim Sowell’s comments about a unified operations center are dead on with the vision.
The biggest change you are going to see.. and they talked about this very publicly so I don’t think I’m giving anything away, is that InTouch is no longer the shell for visualization. It is now essentially a compiled stand-alone app that is build from many panes that you create and configure from within the System Platform Graphics platform. The visualization engine will use the context of the graphics and objects to make navigation easier. “But the bigger concept is that this is now an operations center, not a simple HMI.”
Longer term there should be a play for higher end integrators and pure software plays to develop Apps that plugin to the operations center and provide additional value and context.
Lots and lots of discussion of context. When these apps are run inside the operations center they will automatically know what’s being displayed on the screens and can automatically adjust. A simple example is that you pull up a graphic with a tank farm. Maybe you have a video feed app with live cameras on the tanks and it automatically swaps to the correct camera view. Or you have another pane with customers orders from the ERP so you know what tanker trucks you should be expecting in the next few hours. “While this has technically been possible before I think the key is that they are going to be adding a lot of functionality to make these otherwise standalone functions a first class citizen within the Operations view.”
They are also making big changes in the development environment trying to make the engineering experience more user friendly. To me this is a clear play to make System Platform look a lot less intimidating and make the 15 minute demo a lot easier and more obvious. For high end engineers and integrators this new layout and development method will probably be a turnoff but I think it will help Wonderware tell the System Platform story easier and get newer, less sophisticated, customers on board.