After my first meeting with Don Bartusiak, then with ExxonMobil, at an ARC Forum, I thought this was an extremely ambitious idea thinking that an open, interoperable, relatively easily upgradable process automation system build upon industry standards was feasible. And the timeline was aggressive.

The Open Process Automation Forum, under the auspices of The Open Group, has persevered, grown, and has now released version 2.1 “into the wild” for comments from the broader process community before finishing and adopting early next year. So, please go to the Website and review. Your comments could be most helpful.

The marketing people sent a news release, but I realized there wasn’t a lot of “there” there, so I talked with Aneil Ali, Director of the OPAF since May a year ago to get a bit more detail. A key factor gleaned from our chat was that 105 members were involved in the development of this standard. Final release is slated for early 2022. 

I think the remarkable thing about 105 member companies is actually getting something done. All of us who have worked on this type of project know that there are companies (which I shall not name) who send engineers to join with the express purpose of asking lots of questions in order to delay the process or even (hopefully) entice everyone else to give up in despair. This committee worked through 22 recurring weekly meetings to bring this together. Remarkable.

And Ali does not expect the pace to slow.

To recap: Version 1.0 dealt with interoperability; Version 2.1 with information model; Version 3.0 (in process) will focus on application portability—system orchestration.

Some of the details of 2.1 include defining standard function blocks, addressing IEC61499, IEC61131, IEC62443 (security), and OPCUA. O-PAS is a “standard of standards”, an approach that greatly reduces detail work.

In addition to this standards development work, companies have been building ongoing prototype test beds and field trials which are underway proving this is more than mere paper. The Forum has also been conducting plug fests and developing certification testing partners and parameters.

The group has really come a long way.

From the press release:

The Open Group, the vendor-neutral technology consortium, has announced the publication of the O-PAS Version 2.1 Preliminary Standard. Developed by The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), this release represents a key milestone towards testing and field trials of the O-PAS Standard, enabling greater interoperability and portability in manufacturing control systems.

The O-PAS Standard defines a Reference Architecture and Information Model that will enable a distributed and heterogeneous ecosystem of industrial process automation resources to interoperate. The aim of the Standard is to stimulate innovation, lower system lifecycle costs, and provide end-users with more freedom when managing obsolescence within systems.

Created with the direct involvement of over 105 OPAF Member organizations, Version 2.1 progresses the overall Information Model of Version 2.0, while also adding new configuration portability capabilities.

“This latest advancement of the O-PAS Standard reflects the overall consensus of industry leaders: open, secure, and interoperable architectures are the irrefutable and inevitable future of industrial process automation systems,” commented Aneil Ali, Director of the Open Process Automation Forum. “The sense of urgency among product managers and sales teams to achieve this goal is therefore well-founded, with end-user test beds, prototypes, and field trials already up and running.”

Alongside Version 2.1, a certification program for the O-PAS Standard – due to launch in the first half of 2022 – is being developed against the various Profile-based requirements. As part of this work, test tools are currently being beta tested with suppliers.

“The updated version of the O-PAS Standard empowers end-users to look more closely at product roadmaps for O-PAS inclusion,” continued Ali.  “As suppliers work to adopt the Standard within these roadmaps, OPAF is open to as much industry collaboration and feedback as possible.”

Following a finalized Version 2.1 Standard, scheduled for publication in Q1 2022, OPAF will work towards Version 3.0, which will address system orchestration, application portability, and further detail the physical distributed control platform.

About The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum

The Open Process Automation Forum is an international forum of end-users, system integrators, suppliers, academia, and other standards organizations working together to develop a standards-based, open, secure, and interoperable process control architecture. Open Process Automation is a trademark of The Open Group.

About The Open Group

The Open Group is a global consortium that enables the achievement of business objectives through technology standards. Our diverse membership of more than 800 organizations includes customers, systems and solutions suppliers, tool vendors, integrators, academics, and consultants across multiple industries.

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