HPE Acquires Cray Consolidating Supercomputer Market

HPE Acquires Cray Consolidating Supercomputer Market

Today’s big enterprise IT news concerns Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Cray entering into a definitive agreement under which HPE will acquire Cray for $35.00 per share in cash, in a transaction valued at approximately $1.3 billion, net of cash.

This is another example of technology industry consolidation. We’re seeing it with instrumentation, control, and automation companies. Enterprise IT is rapidly going that way. Both HPE and Dell Technologies have been scarfing up companies either matured and not growing or in need of capital to survive.

Signs of maturing industries mean one kind of shock waves for employment within them. But also this usually means preparing room in the market for new companies with disruptive new technologies and business models. It’s possible that we’re about to see a leap in quantum computing out of all this.

What does this mean for industrial users? We are seeing already companies like HPE moving their powerful compute platforms to the edge. With every advancement, we’ll see additional compute power bringing databases, analytics, AI, video and other applications to more remote installations.

Some additional details from the press release:

“Answers to some of society’s most pressing challenges are buried in massive amounts of data,” said Antonio Neri, President and CEO, HPE. “Only by processing and analyzing this data will we be able to unlock the answers to critical challenges across medicine, climate change, space and more. Cray is a global technology leader in supercomputing and shares our deep commitment to innovation. By combining our world-class teams and technology, we will have the opportunity to drive the next generation of high performance computing and play an important part in advancing the way people live and work.”

The Explosion of Data is Driving Strong HPC Growth

The explosion of data from artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics and evolving customer needs for data-intensive workloads are driving a significant expansion in HPC.

Over the next three years the HPC segment of the market and associated storage and services is expected to grow from approximately $28 billion in 2018 to approximately $35 billion in 2021, a compound annual growth rate of approximately 9 percent. Exascale is a growing segment of overall HPC opportunities and more than $4 billion of Exascale opportunities are expected to be awarded over the next five years.

“This is an amazing opportunity to bring together Cray’s leading-edge technology and HPE’s wide reach and deep product portfolio, providing customers of all sizes with integrated solutions and unique supercomputing technology to address the full spectrum of their data-intensive needs,” said Peter Ungaro, President and CEO of Cray. “HPE and Cray share a commitment to customer-centric innovation and a vision to create the global leader for the future of high performance computing and AI. On behalf of the Cray Board of Directors, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that we believe maximizes value and are excited for the opportunities that this unique combination will create for both our employees and our customers.”

High performance computing is a key component of HPE’s vision and growth strategy and the company currently offers world-class HPC solutions, including HPE Apollo and SGI, to customers worldwide. This portfolio will be further strengthened by leveraging Cray’s foundational technologies and adding complementary solutions. The combined company will also reach a broader set of end markets, offering enterprise, academic and government customers a broad range of solutions and deep expertise to solve their most complex problems. Together, HPE and Cray will have enhanced opportunities for growth and the integrated platform, scale and resources to lead the Exascale era of high performance computing.

Industrial, Cloud, AR, Subscriptions

Industrial, Cloud, AR, Subscriptions

I am often asked about what industrial digital transformation really means and about technologies such as cloud, edge, AR/VR, and so forth. This press release from AVEVA promised to answer much of that—until I sat down to parse it and figure out what to write. After editing out close to half of the document which was laced with buzz words—revolutionary, innovative, digital transformation, (BINGO), I think I have boiled it down to its essence. The essence is actually pretty good and didn’t need all the fluff to build it up. (I go here, because in my old age, I’m tired of fluff. Why not just tell us what you have? It’s probably pretty good!)

First, the cloud. AVEVA Connect, a cloud-based digital transformation hub, enables customers to seamlessly access AVEVA’s software portfolio, enabling digitalization of design, build, operations, and maintenance processes across a wide range of industries. Over the past year, AVEVA Connect has launched eight new cloud-enabled offers, more than 75 updates to its digital services including the launch of cloud Operator Training Solution (OTS), visualization, and condition management capabilities, and grown to support over 5,500 daily users.

Second, the AR/VR and OTS. Total OLEUM has implemented AVEVA’s cloud- based operator training systems. No real details were added by the PR people regarding benefits, but they worked in the words, revolutionary, innovative, benefitted. Evidently Total is happy with the training results. When I’m asked about AR/VR (augmented reality and virtual reality), my response is that it’s great for training.

Third is not a technology but a pricing plan. AVEVA’s new subscription program, AVEVA Flex, includes “advanced HMI visualization, operations control and information management, manufacturing execution, and asset performance capabilities. With subscription-based, feature-rich software tiers, AVEVA Flex offers a broad range of flexibility in the purchase, design, and utilization of industrial software solutions.” What this sounds like to me is a repackaging of Wonderware’s pricing modal to bring it in line with the latest industry trends. Without knowing pricing details, it sounds like the company is on the right track.

Among the first to take up the new AVEVA Flex subscription program, Giovanni Borinelli – General Manager from Italian Steelmaker NLMK Verona, said: “For us to compete in today’s volatile market, we need a trusted partner who can help us master our digital transformation. The technical and commercial flexibility that AVEVA Flex provides is fundamental to that change and will help us remain agile and successful into the future.”

Don’t Be Replaced By AI

Don’t Be Replaced By AI

There are linchpins; and there are cogs.

I’m not talking mechanics. It’s about people.

Some people fit in. They find their place in an organization or team. They do the quiet, repetitious work. Work that can eventually be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI). Or by robots.

Humans have a brain. Organizations, teams, companies need people who use their brains. They become vital to the cause. They are linchpins.

I’ve had very few mentors in the flesh. But I’ve had many mentors through the books they wrote. Seth Godin has become one of my mentors. He wrote the book on Linchpins.

Go find a way to make yourself valuable. Make a difference wherever you are. Don’t be replaced by AI.

If you keep butting against walls where you are, leave. Find a place where you can make a difference.

Another of Seth’s phrases applies–Go raise a ruckus!

I bring this up by way of introducing a way that many of you can raise a ruckus and raise your value. It’s called contributing to open source projects. These project contribute greatly to the advancement of the state of the art in many areas. The poster child, of course, is Linux. But there are many more.

Last week I wrote about an open source project that was the subject of a press release from one of the contributing companies concerning OPC UA over TSN. From the news release, it sounded promising. I went to the Web sites of the company–a software firm in India–and also the sponsoring organization–Open Source Automation Development Lab.

It all looked interesting, even though I had not heard of either one before.

A twitter conversation ensued with a reader who really dives into these projects. Turns out to be not so hot. The OSADL does not use GitHub–today’s standard repository for open source development. It has a few projects, some of which have not been updated since 2008. Nothing appears usable at this point.

I reviewed the companies involved in this project and in the OSADL generally. None seem to be taking a deep dive.

I know that the OPC Foundation has a new working group for Field Device communication of OPC UA over TSN. It has just organized as of a few months ago. I’m waiting for response from the working group leader for an update.

I’m also on a Facebook group concerning open source OPC UA. It has occasional conversations.

Maybe someone can raise a ruckus by prodding this German group OSADL to move to GitHub and grow. OPC Foundation is OK, but groups like that take a long time for specifications given the jockeying of various member companies to assure that each does not lose any competitive advantage when the standard if finalized. (Sorry, I had personal experience on these things, including having been chair of one once.)

And, I apologize for taking the shortcut with the press release on OSADL rather than exploring a little more deeply. Thanks to my reader who did.

Let me know if you see anything on the horizon.

Open Source Automation Development Lab OPC UA and TSN Project

Open Source Automation Development Lab OPC UA and TSN Project

Kalycito, a software company in India and the Fraunhofer Institute announce Phase #2 of the Open Source Automation Development Lab (OSADL) Kalycito – Fraunhofer project. This project is to develop the standard for OPC UA pub/sub over TSN.

My interest in OPC UA and TSN (Time Sensitive Network) goes back a couple of years. I started writing about it in 2017 and continued throughout 2018. But I’ve noticed that the conversation on this subject has tapered off. There’s been very little news for a while. I wrote a preliminary white paper that needs to be updated. You can download it by clicking the square box ad on the right of the Webpage.

There is a working group within the OPC Foundation. I am attempting to get an update from it. If anyone wants to update me on either that or any other TSN news, hit comment on this post or DM me on Twitter @garymintchell.

Meanwhile, I did receive this news a couple of months ago and it got buried in my inbox. Kalycito announced the launch of 2nd edition of the Letter of Intent of Phase #2 of the OSADL project on OPC UA PubSub over TSN. Recalling the major announcement by several automation technology providers at SPS IPC Drives 2018 – who altogether account for more than 95 percent of the market – that they are now in favour of a unified real-time communication system, “it was noteworthy that these companies did not opt for any of the more than 50 different field buses or real-time communication methods used so far. Instead they agreed to unite behind the standard of OPC UA PubSub via TSN.”

The key driver behind this shift is that this OSADL project provides an OPC UA PubSub implementation under an Open Source license that permits integration into commercial software.

With products to be released in the market in mind, Phase #2 intends to work on these deliverables:

  • Configuration of TSN endpoints
  • Generic interface to TSN
  • Improvement of the real-time capabilities of OPC UA
  • Certification assistance and related code corrections of OPC UA and PubSub
  • Adding a security layer

The start of the new phase #2 project is scheduled on the first day of the Embedded World 2019. Following the successful phase #1 in which the first implementation of PubSub under an Open Source license was developed, there is great anticipation among industry members to join and continue the momentum in phase #2.

AI Module Provides Predictive Analytics

AI Module Provides Predictive Analytics

Don’t get all worked up over the hype of a dystopian future about Artificial Intelligence (AI). We’ve been using pieces of it for many years. I had a junior programmer in the late 80s who was going off to become an expert in AI as our company was shutting down.

Much of AI we’re using falls into the voice assistant category. We’re seeing this pop up in the industrial space. I don’t want an always listening (and recording?) device in my house. Not sure if we want one in manufacturing. But, there are uses. Users had best figure out security, though.

The other pieces of AI usually involve some sort of machine learning. The program brings new data in, upgrades its algorithms, and provides better outputs—whether predictive analytics or alerts or process improvements.

Rockwell Automation has had a project for several years code named Project Sherlock. I’ve written previously here. It combines voice assistant along with predictive analytics. Engineers first showed it off with a smart phone. Now the company has added it as a module to its PLC line in classic Rockwell Automation fashion.

The new FactoryTalk Analytics LogixAI module, formerly known as Project Sherlock, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect production anomalies and alert workers so they can investigate or intervene, as necessary.

Many existing analytics technologies require deep expertise in both data science and industrial processes. But this add-on module for ControlLogix controllers reduces that burden by doing the job of a data scientist. It fits directly into a control chassis and streams controller data over the backplane to build predictive models. It can continuously monitor a production operation, detecting anomalies against its derived understanding.

“The FactoryTalk Analytics LogixAI module makes predictive analytics more accessible to help more workers make better production decisions,” said Jonathan Wise, product manager, Rockwell Automation. “The module learns your ControlLogix application and tells operators and technicians when things are changing in unexpected ways. This can help them get ahead of product quality issues and protect process integrity.”

For example, the module can help operators spot performance deviations in equipment like mixers that could affect product quality or lead to downtime. It can also be used as a virtual sensor. Instead of workers taking a reading, like the humidity of a packaged food product, the module can analyze variables from line assets like sprayers, dryers and burners to predict a measurement, virtually.

Workers can then be notified of problems by configuring alarms on a human machine interface (HMI) or dashboard. Future features of the module will go further, helping workers focus their problem-solving or automate the optimization of a process.

The FactoryTalk Analytics LogixAI module is the newest addition to the FactoryTalk Analytics portfolio from Rockwell Automation. The portfolio includes FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices, which learns about an automation system’s structure to tell workers about problems with individual devices. The LogixAI module expands on this by learning about an automation system’s application and helping identify anomalies with its overall function.

Both products work individually, but each will benefit the other in future iterations. The FactoryTalk Analytics platform aggregates multiple sources of data, so workers can discover new insights. FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices and the LogixAI module will both be data sources for the platform going forward.

Trend Analytics Added To Wireless Sensing System

Trend Analytics Added To Wireless Sensing System

Industrial Internet of Things begins with “things”, of course. But it really needs to end with a decision by either a human or a control. In between the thing and the human is software that takes data input from the thing, analyses the data, and provides information in a digestible form.

Swift Sensors not only manufactures wireless sensor systems, it provides a Manufacturing Analytics Dashboard. Newly released are eleven new predictive maintenance tools for the Dashboard.

These new tools add trend analytics to key manufacturing metrics of compliance, utilization, maximum, minimum and average measured values monitored by the wireless sensor system. Eleven new dashboard panels have been added for measuring analytic trends across multiple shifts.

”We have deployed more than 100 Swift Sensors in our manufacturing facility to improve operational efficiency,” said Jackson Minear, Continuous Improvement Engineer at Meggitt Airframe Systems. “We use just about every feature in the Analytics Dashboards to track utilization of our equipment as well as critical trends across multiple shifts over time. Conservatively, we’ve improved our machine utilization by 20% while saving six figures in capital equipment expenditures.”

“Our manufacturing customers, particularly those using our wireless temperature and vibration sensors, frequently ask for advanced analytics tools to improve operational efficiency through higher overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and lower maintenance costs,” said Sam Cece, founder and CEO of Swift Sensors. “With the access to data from our wireless sensor system, Predictive Maintenance (PdM) programs can be easily created using our Manufacturing Analytics tools, which is included in the new Trend Analytics Dashboards.”

With the new dashboard panels, a trend line is calculated using the best fit line algorithm for the measurement data across each shift. The slope of the trend line represents the trend per shift, which indicates the overall tendency of the analytics value to increase or decrease by a specific amount from one shift to the next.

The trend analytics include a confidence percentage to indicate how well the trend line correlates with the historical data. A high confidence level indicates the trend is more likely to continue. Conversely, a low confidence level indicates the trend is not a reliable predictor of future values because the historical data is too chaotic.