I wrote a piece yesterday about software defined control with a new German company called Software Defined Automation. I mentioned the Open Process Automation Forum in the piece. I have followed the developments of OPAF since its inception. It has made a lot of progress pushing the industry to accept a decoupling of software and hardware for control and automation. This effort is not unlike that undertaken years ago in the IT industry.

This effort was initiated within ExxonMobil, who remains a leader in the effort. You can check my latest updates here and here.

I recently ran across this piece by Harry Forbes, an ARC Advisory Group analyst, where he interviews some people from ExxonMobil.

At the November 2021 NAMUR General Assembly, ExxonMobil announced that they have internally approved progressing a field trial of an Open Process Automation system. The project will be engineered and started up during 2022-23. Previously, ExxonMobil has shared this decision only with the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), a forum of the Open Group that is developing the related standards and compliance processes. The NAMUR event was the first time ExxonMobil had shared this decision at an industry event.

In discussing with ARC, ExxonMobil emphasized that the O-PAS standard (Rev 2.1) was sufficiently close even if the standard does not address all of the objectives articulated for an Open Process Automation system.

ARC: Explain how the ExxonMobil OPA Proof-of-Concept, OPA prototype, and OPA Test Bed fitted in with this ExxonMobil qualification process.

ExxonMobil: The Proof-of-Concept work demonstrated the art of the possible as well as began the process of understanding the important requirements for products fulfilling the roles in the OPA Architecture. The Prototype project continued to push the usage of the open, standards-based technologies and further refined the feature requirements and implementation methods along with testing industrial product usage in these new ways. The Test Bed serves as a return to more basic R&D in the beginning, progressing to qualification of candidate technologies and products in preparation for the Field Trial project in the later stages.

The Prototype system was capable of being operated and beneficial to the Operators running a pilot unit and supportable (in the short term) by our R&D partners in that project yet was not a complete solution for a system that would be fielded for years of service. The Test Bed completes the supportable technology set and provides confidence that the system can be successful in the Field Trial, as this requires components and integration that meet the ExxonMobil quality and performance requirements for an automation system.

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