Thinking Through Rockwell Automation’s Edge Analytics Platform

The product Rockwell Automation executives most wanted to talk to me about at the last Automation Fair event was its new analytics platform.

Immediately following the Rockwell event was Thanksgiving, then a trip to Madrid for a Hewlett Packard Enterprise event followed by catching up and Christmas. But I grabbed moments to contemplate the “Project Scio Edge Analytics Platform” (see image) and tried to place it in a context amongst all the platforms I saw this year. Which were many.

Executives including SVP and CTO Sujeet Chand and VP of Information Software John Genovesi were enthused over the new product. I wrote about it here.

I liked much of what I heard. There were many overtures to open connectivity that I have not heard at a Rockwell event—maybe ever. I even got an hour to discuss OPC UA and how Rockwell now intends to implement it. The demo during media days was also powerful.

I drew a mind map and exported an outline. Here is the list of positive things.

Positives

  • Developed analytics from acquihire
  • Good UX
  • Platforms
  • Open connectivity including OPC UA
  • Should provide customers with insights into control systems and machine performance

However, I’m left with some questions—some of the same ones I often feel about Rockwell Automation. Check out the architecture diagram. It stops with machine level. I always expect to see more, but Rockwell always stops at the machine. Perhaps GE and Siemens have overreached with Predix and Mindsphere (and Schneider Electric with EcoStruxure?), so Rockwell stays closer to its roots on the plant floor? Is it more profitable and manageable that way?

I don’t know the answers. But I’m left thinking that with the rise of platforms [see for example Platform Revolution by Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary] and open ecosystems, Rockwell seems to have a much smaller vision. It talks of “Connected Enterprise”, but in the end I don’t see a lot of “enterprise” in the offerings.

Questions

  • Is it platform or a piece of the Rockwell software stack that stops short of plantwide views?
  • Is it anything that others (SIs and users?) can add to?
  • Is there more coming?
  • Is there a way to integrate supply chain and customer chain?
  • Seems a natural to integrate with an asset management application–which Rockwell does not have.

I think they’ve done well for what they evidently set out to do. I also think there remains more to do to help customers leverage the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation. Interesting to see what next November brings.

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