This week saw the annual incarnation of the Ignition Community Conference from Inductive Automation in Folsom, CA focused on application of manufacturing software. The level of user conversations and idea exchanges is higher than anywhere else I attend.

I entered the building walking down the hallway amongst the exhibits of partner companies. Immediately the strength of MQTT, Sparkplug, and embedded Ignition stood out. The stands of OEMs Opto 22, Wago, EZAutomation, Moxa, Bedrock Automation, and Stratus Technologies swarmed with curious engineers.

MQTT is a light-weight messaging protocol that is now an open standard. Originally developed jointly by IBM and Arlen Nipper, now CTO of Inductive Automation partner Cirrus Link, MQTT is also widely deployed in IT applications.

Family obligations cut my stay, but I got a sense of what is important. Last year’s focus was Ignition 8, a major update to the core product. This year’s focus included the various aspects of the ecosystem that has sprung up through some patient nurturing by Inductive Automation executives.

Free training has been a hallmark. Examples cited included college student interns at customer sites taking the online class and then developing a significant application–all during their summer internship. It’s that easy to learn and develop.

Inductive has expanded its university partnerships for additional training and has also greatly expanded its international presence. Partnerships include a growing number of OEMs who package Ignition within products and systems integrators out solving interesting problems for their customers.

This is called the “Community Conference” because of the intense community of users.

By the way, customers often tell me that the product is rock solid, but what convinced them to change software suppliers–not an easy undertaking–is the innovative pricing model originally developed by founder (and president/CEO) Steve Hechtman. The model drives cost of ownership down for customers, and, while Inductive Automation is a private company and does not release financials, when I pump Steve for information, he smiles broadly.

Oh, and competitors are trying to find a way to compete with their pricing. That should be interesting.

Many, if not most, companies I cover are earnestly trying to build an ecosystem of partners. Inductive Automation patiently assembled an impressive one.

[Disclaimer: Inductive Automation is my major sponsor, but I’m not paid to be anything but my usual objective, analytical self observing the industry.]

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