One of the meetings I look forward to these days at the ARC Forum in Orlando concerns updates from The Open Process Automation Forum, a working group of The Open Group.
This year I met with OPAF leaders Mohan Kalyanaraman and Ryan Smeltzer for a private briefing and then attended one of the OPAF sessions in the general forum. Widespread interest in their work was evidenced by the turnout of more than 200 people.
The OPAS 2.1 version of the standard is considered to be stable and suppliers can build products to it. Conformance requirements and testing are in process and due this year. Security guidelines and adoption guides are due to be completed this year.
Test beds and a pilot project have been completed. A few companies have scheduled test beds to their requirements. ExxonMobil is proceeding with a field trial that includes DCS/PLC that are commercially available compliant with OPAS 2.1. The project includes a single operator, single console, 2,500 I/O, and 100 control loops.
Further, OPAF is working with OPC Foundation for joint standard for Field Exchange and is also working with NAMUR ZVEI in Europe.
A little history and context
This work was instigated by ExxonMobil made public in 2016. That company faced upgrading its automation platforms at considerable expense. Other end user companies faced the same challenge. Schneider Electric, Yokogawa, and ABB were early boosters from the technology provider side of the equation.
I have followed a few of these initiatives. I can see the value of open systems. They have worked well in the IT market. However, gaining adoption is exceedingly difficult. Many suppliers may talk open systems, but in the end they want to keep everything tied together in house. To the outside world, they’ll say that they can assure all the parts will work together better because they are all designed by the same company. On the other hand, they really want to establish a long-term relationship with a large customer that is difficult to break. Lots of conflicting desires and business needs.
This project is gaining traction. It will only work in the end if enough end users specify the products and enforce procurement and application. Another project I once followed stumbled at this stage. One corporate engineering staff approved the open standard, but they could not enforce procurement at the plant level. We’ll see where this one goes.