Open Source Faces Off Versus Proprietary Software

Open Source Faces Off Versus Proprietary Software

Two Polish software developers engage in conversation weekly on The Podcast. One wrote the original version of Nozbe the Getting Things Done app I use. Michael Sliwinski talked of using open source software to help him write his app and start his company. His Apple developer Radek Pietruszewski in episode 157 discussed how they wrote a piece of database code they dubbed WatermelonDB and released it into open source on GitHub.

I talk about the benefits of open source as an introduction to things I gleaned from last week’s annual trip to the Sacramento, CA area and the Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference. Community was the operative word as the gathering of several hundred (I never heard an exact count, but the rumor was there were more than 600) integrators and users crowded into the Harris Center in Folsom for conversation, training, and updates.

On a side note, I’ve been unusually swamped with my annual project of assigning referees to high school and US Soccer youth contests. It seems as if half of the preliminary work I put in assigning before the season were washed away in an unusually wet late summer. Rescheduling is hell. Referees are tired of hearing from me. But I have only 2.5 weeks left in the high school season and two weeks beyond that will close the club season. Then I take a six-month break. Therefore, my energy level for writing has been sapped and the frequency here and on my podcast have suffered.

Founder and CEO Steve Hechtman betrayed his usual laid back demeanor talking about company growth and especially the latest release—Ignition 8—to be released in a few months. I have few details, but developers solved many platform problems caused by integrators pushing the envelop of HMI SCADA software.

Chief Strategy Officer Don Pearson told how the company has always embodied the OT/IT convergence meme with Hechtman coming from an OT background as an integrator and co-developers and now co-directors of software engineering Carl Gould and Colby Clegg were trained in IT technologies.

Pearson began the discussion of open source that continued throughout the conference. While Inductive Automation has always been a proponent of open standards—it still fully supports OPC UA, for example—it is also an open source user and contributor. The technologies strongly promoted at the conference were MQTT (a transport protocol) and Sparkplug (an information carrier in this case used to communicate Ignition tag information from source to consumer). Developer Cirrus Link has placed Sparkplug in the open source Eclipse Foundation.

Speakers talked with assurance about open source, but there was a thread of defensiveness in the discussion, too. Pearson quoted Maeterlinck, “At every crossroad on the way that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.” Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich proclaimed, “Software is eating the world, and open source is eating software.”

I like both open source and open standards. They both have propelled industry enabling innovation and limiting lock-in. I remember downloading the first Java JDK in the 90s and trying out the eclipse platform in early 2002. All pretty cool stuff. The Inductive Automation adoption of open source is refreshing in the industry.

Here are a few bullet points from the Carl-Colby show introducing Ignition 8:

  • Building on the past, but with a new beginning
  • New platform:
  • Revamped tag system to reduce memory overload
  • New scripting app
  • Subscription and data model
  • Extensibility
  • Dynamic writable UDT parameters
  • Deployment architecture, true project inheritance
  • Project resource management
  • Ignition perspective, new mobile module, built up from ground new

I really should add that while Ignition is very good software, most of the people at the conference told me that they were enticed into the system by the pricing. From the beginning, Inductive Automation decided to upset the software pricing model prevalent in the industry. It is a growing company…

Sepasoft

Inductive had acquired an MES company, integrated with Ignition, and has now spun it off into a separate company run by Tom Hechtman, brother to Steve. Its modular software includes many typical MES applications such as track and trace, workflow, OEE, recipe management, and more. Hechtman discussed a Lean Six Sigma tool kit. He noted the staff has doubled in the nine years since acquisition. It is an ISA 95 and B2MML solution. And also now a MESA International member.

Other notes from the conference

Table top exhibits from the conference sponsors were always packed with curious engineers seeking solutions.

Opto 22’s VP Marketing Benson Hougland told me they can’t build the Groov EPIC PLC fast enough for demand. That product combined with Ignition is a powerful control and SCADA platform—as sales attest.

Albert Rooyakkers, founder/CEO of Bedrock Automation told me that his sub-$1000 controller is selling well. Bedrock specializes in secure and hardened controllers—ideal for power, pipeline, and other such applications. He told me, “Secure SCADA with Ignition is coming.” His key word is secure.

IMTS 2018 Features Variety of Manufacturing Technologies

IMTS 2018 Features Variety of Manufacturing Technologies

IMTS has been a huge show for many years. As you might expect from a trade show, the theme is broad. Exhibitors are a diverse lot. Things I saw indicating a new wave of technologies including machines designed to work with humans (so-called “cobots”) and various aspects of Industrial Internet of Things. Following are a few specifics.

Formerly the International Machine Tool Show and now the International Manufacturing Technology Show, the South Hall of Chicago’s McCormick Place is still filled with huge machining centers. The North Hall was packed with robotics, components, and other automation products. Much of this flows over to the East Hall where several aisles were devoted to Hannover Messe automation companies—my sweet spot. Even the West Hall was packed.

Beckhoff proclaimed, “Solve the IoT hardware, software and networking puzzle.”

The company introduced ultra-compact Industrial PCs (IPCs). These IPCs are Microsoft Azure Certified and can work just as easily with other major cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and SAP HANA.

Significant updates will span three key areas of the TwinCAT software suite: new HTML5-enabled TwinCAT HMI for industrial displays and mobile devices, important data processing expansions in the TwinCAT Analytics offering, and TwinCAT 3 Motion Designer, which adds a deep set of valuable tools to commission entire motor, drive and mechanical systems in software. Motion Designer can be integrated into the standard TwinCAT 3 software platform or it can be used as a stand-alone motion system engineering tool.

EK1000 EtherCAT TSN Coupler expands the industrial Ethernet capabilities of the EtherCAT I/O system to utilize TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) technology. The EK1000 enables communication among high-performance EtherCAT segments with remote EtherCAT controllers via heterogeneous Ethernet networks.

Ideagen plc, the UK-based software firm, announced the acquisition of American quality inspection software provider, InspectionXpert. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, InspectionXpert currently generates $2.8 million in revenue and will bring more than 1,000 clients including Boeing, Kohler and Pratt & Whitney to Ideagen’s existing customer base.

Speaking at IMTS, Chicago, Ideagen CEO, Ben Dorks, said: “As well as significantly enhancing our manufacturing supply chain product suite, the acquisition of InspectionXpert provides Ideagen with a fantastic opportunity for growth by broadening upsell and cross-selling opportunities, increasing our customer footprint and expanding our geographical reach.”

InspectionXpert’s products, InspectionXpert and QualityXpert, enable organizations in the precision manufacturing industry and associated supply chains to simplify inspection planning, execution and reporting and general quality through digitalization of paper-based processes.

InspectionXpert and QualityXpert will be integrated into Ideagen’s existing software suite, which will enhance Software as a Service (SaaS) revenues and provide excellent opportunities for future growth.

Energid released Actin 5, an update to its robot software development kit (SDK). Called the industry’s only real-time adaptive motion control software, it allows robotic system developers to focus on the robot’s task rather than joint movement and paths. It responds in real time to sensory input and directs the robot on the most efficient path while avoiding collisions. The robot motion is updated dynamically without requiring reprogramming, even in dynamic, mission-critical environments.

Forcam develops software solutions in the area of MES, IIoT, and OEE. It leans into the trend of developing platforms. Its platform is built with open APIs with the latest programming languages and tools. It supports Microsoft Azure Cloud, SAP ERP, Maximo maintenance/asset applications, and Apple iPads for input. The platform helps reduce integration time and expense.

I came across the Dell Technologies booth in the automation hall. The big news was a collaboration with Tridium and Intel for IIoT solutions.

The IIoT solution is built on the Niagara Framework, Tridium’s open technology platform, and combines software and consulting services to help customers begin the digital transformation of their businesses.

The Niagara-based IIoT solution built with Dell and Intel technology will comprise a complete hardware and software stack delivered as a finished solution for ease of adoption, and will encompass consulting services from subject matter experts to support implementation. The application layer of the IIoT solution is being developed and supported by Tridium and will expand over time with solutions designed for the telecom and energy sectors.

Siemens and Bentley Systems strengthen strategic alliance expanding digital enterprise

Siemens and Bentley Systems strengthen strategic alliance expanding digital enterprise

Developing digitalization using standards from plant design engineering through the entire production process and extending to the supply chain remains core to my interests. My past work with MIMOSA pointed to this. Siemens strategic moves are fascinating in this regard.

I started this post just when my project sucked all of my energy and then I went to IMTS. This is significant. Especially competitively. I see Rockwell Automation doing nothing like this—only the investment with PTC gaining a seat on the board and a connection to ThingWorx and Kepware within the company. Meanwhile I just interviewed Gary Freburger and Peter Martin from Schneider Electric process business, and they talked some about the integration with AVEVA along these same lines.

Siemens and Bentley Systems Announcement

In the companies’ latest Alliance Board meeting, Bentley Systems and Siemens decided to further strengthen their strategic alliance. The two companies have decided to extend their existing agreement, to further develop their joint business cooperation and commercial initiatives. Therefore, the joint innovation investment program will be increased from the initial €50 million funding to €100 million. In addition, as a result of the continuous investment of Siemens into secondary shares of Bentley’s common stock the Siemens stake in Bentley Systems now exceeds 9%.

Klaus Helmrich, member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG, said: “I’m very pleased with how strong our alliance started. Now we are investing in the next collaboration level with Bentley, where for instance we will strengthen their engineering and project management tools with Siemens enterprise wide collaboration platform Teamcenter to create a full Digital Twin for the engineering and construction world.”

He added: “Integrated company-wide data handling and IoT connectivity via MindSphere will enable our mutual customers to benefit from the holistic Digital Twins.”

Greg Bentley, Bentley Systems CEO, said: “In our joint investment activities with Siemens to date, we have progressed worthwhile opportunities together with virtually every Siemens business for ‘going digital’ in infrastructure and industrial advancement. As our new jointly offered products and cloud services now come to market, we are enthusiastically prioritizing further digital co-ventures. We have also welcomed Siemens’ recurring purchases of non-voting Bentley Systems stock on the NASDAQ Private Market, which we facilitate in order to enhance liquidity, primarily for our retiring colleagues.”

Project Work and IMTS Update

I haven’t been here for a while. I do project work (when I can get it), and every late summer/early fall my for 30 years has been assigning referees to soccer matches. This year western Ohio has witnessed more rain than I remember. My rain gauge showed 11 inches from last Wednesday evening until early Sunday. (I know compared to the hurricane coming, that’s nothing. But if the rain from the hurricane hits us as it often does, then we will have standing water everywhere.)

Since Thursday, I’ve spent 8 hours or more a day reassigning referees to rescheduled games. Looks like things are calming down.

I drove up to IMTS in Chicago Monday morning. Walked 10 miles Monday and Tuesday, saw lots of people, got some industry gossip…and saw some cool technology.

In brief:

  • Sat in an OPC Foundation briefing—many good things are happing with the Foundation and OPC UA adoption and extension.
  • 3D printing has really come of age already as a production-ready technology. I saw many cool demonstrations. If you are manufacturing piece parts with complex geometries, you had better check this out.
  • Collaborative robots (Universal was everywhere) including Universal and Rethink Robotics are gaining acceptance and broadening the idea of applications.
  • Intelligent end of arm tooling for these robots is growing—I talked with OnRobot among others.
  • Marrying robotic technology to factory autonomous vehicles is a growing category. I’ve interviewed MiR a few times.
  • I talked with a developer with Energid who sells a SDK for robotics. If you need to design multi-axis motion coordinated motion, check it out.

I will do more in-depth later. Just taking a lunch break on the way back home.

Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication White Paper

Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication White Paper

Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication white paper

Working consortia of companies and individuals researching a technology provide great guidance for users of the technology—usually in the form of white papers. The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has been especially prolific lately. This means many companies and individuals see the importance of donating time and expertise to the cause.

The IIC has announced the IIC Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication white paper. The paper serves as an introductory guide on industrial networking for IIoT system designers and network engineers, and offers practical solutions based on key usage scenarios.

“Industrial networking is the foundation of IIoT,” said David Zhe Lou, Chief Researcher, Huawei Technologies. “There are many choices of networking technologies depending on the application, the industrial network, deployment situation and conditions, but there is no universal or preferred industrial networking solution.”

Industrial networking infrastructure and technologies reside at the IP layer and below, and enable industrial assets, such as machines, sites and environments, to connect to the business professionals supporting applications across a wide range of industry sectors. Industrial networking technologies provide the foundation for applications that enable manufacturing productivity and profitability.

“IIoT applications have different needs depending on the industrial application and therefore demand robust, flexible and secure networks,” said Cliff Whitehead, Business Development Manager, Rockwell Automation. “This white paper will help IIoT system designers and network engineers understand the tradeoffs they can consider when designing an industrial network architecture that will be a strong foundation for current and future IIoT scenarios.”

Industrial networking is different from networking for the enterprise or networking for consumers. For example, IIoT system designers and network engineers need to make decisions about using wired or wireless communications. They have to figure out how to support mobility applications such as vehicles, equipment, robots and workers. They must also consider the lifecycle of deployments, physical conditions, such as those found in mining and agriculture, and technical requirements, which can vary from relaxed to highly demanding.

“Networking technologies range from industry-specific to universal, such as the emerging 5G, which meets diverse industrial needs,” continued Jan Höller, Research Fellow at Ericsson. “Industrial developers need guidance when devising solutions to select the right networking technologies, and this white paper is the first step to providing the missing methods and tools.”

The Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication white paper sets the stage for the Industrial Internet Network Framework (IINF), which will complement the Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework (IICF) by detailing requirements and best available technologies for the lower three layers of the industrial internet communication stack.

The full IIC Industrial Networking Enabling IIoT Communication white paper and a list of IIC members who contributed can be found on the IIC website:

The Industrial Internet Consortium is a program of the Object Management Group (OMG).

Dell Edge and IoT Solutions Extend to Video Surveillance

Dell Edge and IoT Solutions Extend to Video Surveillance

Dell’s Edge and IoT Solutions bring new live to streaming video applications. Dell also expands portfolio of VMware solutions.

VMWorld presented by VMWare brought a crowd to Las Vegas this week—but not me. I know of bunch of Dell people there, but I’m not tapped in to VMWare. Know the company, though, and important technology for IT.

Last week Dell held a virtual conference for analysts and bloggers previewing some of the announcements that would be coming from the event.

This one reminds me of the history of video surveillance technology I’ve followed for at least 10 years. Maybe more. As I listened to the presentations, I thought about how all this IoT stuff we hear about is actually a confluence of technologies enabling realization of many dreams.

Dell Technologies’ Edge and IoT Solutions Division announced solutions and bundles to simplify deployment of secure, scalable solutions for edge computing and IoT use cases. This will drive workloads for computer vision – enabled by imaging sensors – and machine intelligence – characterized by structured telemetry from sensors and control systems. Dell Technologies has collaborated with Intel, who has helped advance these solutions with their computer vision and analytics technologies.

Cameras provide rich information about the physical world, but the deluge of video data creates too much data for humans to cost-effectively monitor for real-time decision making. Applying analytics, such as Artificial Intelligence, to these data streams automates powerful, actionable insights. Events driven by computer vision and analyzed together with telemetry from machines – including data that imaging sensors cannot provide, such as voltage, current and pressure – results in even more powerful insights.

By enabling computer vision with Dell Technologies IoT solutions, customers can more accurately, efficiently and effectively “see” relevant information pertaining to areas such as public safety, customer experience, and product inventory and quality. Surveillance is the first use case to which Dell Technologies has applied computer vision, so customers can more cost-effectively monitor events in the physical world and automate decision‐making.

The IoT Solution for Surveillance is specifically built to transform and simplify how surveillance technology is delivered with an easy to deploy and manage hyper-converged, software-defined solution. Available later this year to purchase as a package, the engineered, pre-integrated solution will provide a consistent foundation from edge to distributed core to cloud. It will also be ready to run on day one with customer data to speed the return on investment. The solution is currently available as a reference architecture to align systems and build a framework for computer vision learning and adoption for other use cases.

Dell Technologies IoT Solutions Partner Program

Through this program, Dell Technologies has identified several partners demonstrating strong use case focus and clear return on investment to create the new Dell Technologies IoT Connected Bundles. The bundles include sensors and licensed software from partners tailored for specific customer use cases, together with various combinations of Dell Technologies infrastructure spanning edge gateway, embedded PC and server hardware. This is in addition to complimentary software like VMware Pulse IoT Center for securing, managing and monitoring these solutions at scale.

Dell Technologies continues its commitment to openness and standardization in IoT. It actively participates in EdgeX Foundry, a vendor-neutral open source project focusing on building a common interoperability framework to facilitate an ecosystem for edge computing. The project, which has grown to more than 60 member organizations, recently announced the ‘California’ code release, a major step in evolving the EdgeX framework to support developer requirements for deployment in business-critical IoT applications. Dell Technologies Capital recently invested in IOTech Systems, a startup offering a commercially packaged version of this framework that enables customers to focus on their preferred value-add instead of supporting the open source code.

Dell Technologies also participates in the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), the OpenFog Consortium and the Automotive Edge Computing Consortium (AECC).

Other VMWorld News

At many companies, the time it takes for a product or service to go from concept to general availability depends on where a company is on its IT transformation journey. A more responsive IT department allows the business to respond more quickly to evolving external customer demands.

The benefits of the enhancements to Dell’s portfolio of VMware-based solutions include:

At the Edge:

  • A ready-to-work experience enabling employees to boot up, log in, and be productive in minutes. Preconfigured apps and settings reduce time and resources associated with manual device imaging, repackaging and shipment. The Dell Provisioning for VMware Workspace ONE service enables automatic device setup and extends the efficiencies of cloud management to configuration and deployment.
  • Simplified PC lifecycle management with expanded Dell PC-as-a-Service offerings for more customers and regions, including PCaaS for Business (20 to 300 units) and PCaaS for Enterprise (more than 300 units). Dell offers the latest PCs, deployment options – including Dell Provisioning for VMware Workspace ONE, software, peripherals, lifecycle services and financing – at a single, predictable price per seat per month.
  • Scalability and stability with a consistent foundation from edge to distributed core to cloud with the new Dell IoT Solution for Surveillance, which automates scaling enterprises on day one with customer data, speeding up return on investment.

To the Core:

  • Increase workload capacity, performance, scalability and control with the new Dell EMC VxRail G560, which delivers greater density in a 2U form factor. The Dell EMC VxRail G560 outperforms the previous Dell EMC VxRail G Series with 1.75X more cores; 2X increase in processing power; 4X more memory; and 3X capacity increase improvement in the boot device.
  • Save time and lower operational expenses with synchronized Dell EMC VxRail Appliance and VMware vSAN update releases, so customers get the latest technology features as quickly as possible to rapidly address changing business needs.
  • Continuous innovation and reduction of risk with Dell EMC VxRack SDDC engineered with Dell EMC VxRail E, P, V and now S Series models, all based on 14th generation PowerEdge servers.
  • Faster time to production with the Dell EMC Networking Fabric Design Center, now including Dell EMC VxRail. The Fabric Design Center, an intuitive online tool, helps ensure the most efficient and effective networking design for deployment success.
  • Investment protection with Dell EMC’s Future-Proof Loyalty Program protects customers’ core, edge and cloud investments, now including first-time HCI solution support with Dell EMC VxRail, for a set of advanced technology capabilities and programs that enable Dell EMC solutions to offer value for the entire lifetime of customers’ applications.
  • Software-defined storage environment flexibility is further extended with Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes support on the new Dell EMC PowerEdge MX, which provides a highly flexible platform for vSAN Ready Nodes as HCI building blocks. The PowerEdge MX can hold up to eight vSAN Ready Nodes and help create a foundation for a self-sustained VMware Cloud Foundation cluster. It offers right-sized compute, storage and top-of-rack switching all in one high-density package, with the infrastructure managed through a single interface. The PowerEdge MX also supports SATA, SAS and NVMe storage devices, offering the cost benefits of storage tiering with VMware vSAN.
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