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
- 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…
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.
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.”
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).
Microsoft acquiring GitHub, the repository of many open source projects, on the surface appears almost as an oxymoron. However, as I’ve written previously about big companies and OPC UA standard big companies now find open source and interoperability to be sound business decisions rather than threatening to their proprietary hold on technology.
OPC and Standards
Two years ago in my Podcast Gary on Manufacturing 149 also found on YouTube, I asked the question why major suppliers of automation technology for manufacturing/production hated OPC UA—an industry information model standard. That is by far the most viewed YouTube podcast I’ve ever done. I followed up with Gary on Manufacturing 175 and YouTube to update the situation to current situation.
It is still getting comments, some two years later. Some guy (probably works for a big company?) even dissed me about it.
However, the industry witnessed an almost tectonic shift in the approach of these automation suppliers toward standards. First Siemens went all in on OPC UA. Then last November and following Rockwell Automation has had several deep discussions with me about the adoption of OPC UA.
Why? Users demand more interoperability. And using standards is the easiest way forward for interoperability. Suppliers have discovered that standards allow them to continue to push development of their “black boxes” of technology while allowing themselves and their customers to assemble systems of technology.
In my favorite news site, Axios, Ina Fried writes:
Microsoft announced this morning it is acquiring GitHub, the social network for coders as well as home to millions of different software projects, for $7.5 billion.
“The era of the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge is upon us. Computing is becoming embedded in the world, with every part of our daily life and work and every aspect of our society and economy being transformed by digital technology. Developers are the builders of this new era, writing the world’s code. And GitHub is their home.”
— Satya Nadellla, CEO, Microsoft
Why it matters: This would further highlight the complete turnaround the company has already made in its stance toward source software.
Behind the scenes: While former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once called Linux a cancer, the company has steadily warmed to open source, with Nadella embracing it with open arms.
GitHub plays into that strategy as it’s used by developers of all stripes to store their code projects. The San Francisco-based company was founded in 2008 and is now home to 80 million software repositories. The company has been searching for a new CEO since last year.
Why it matters: Playing host to the world’s code doesn’t necessarily make Microsoft a more central player, but it could tightly integrate GitHub into its developer tools. Microsoft decided last year to shut down its own CodePlex software repository, bowing to GitHub’s popularity.
What about Windows? Though certainly a fan of its homegrown operating system, Microsoft’s main goal these days is to be in tight with developers and get them writing code that can live in its Azure cloud.
Microsoft even dropped the Windows name from Azure, reflecting the fact you don’t have to use Windows to work with Azure.
History lesson: Microsoft’s shift to embrace Linux is somewhat reminiscent of the earlier move IBM made to do so. Both companies are now seen as the mature veterans of the enterprise market, more interested in meeting corporate computing needs than pushing homegrown architectures.
This information was also posted on the Microsoft Blog.
Other Open Source Information
My other travels and interviews have yielded other companies who have invested heavily in open source.
Within the last two years I have had a few conversations with Microsoft about their open source code donations. While I am a little surprised at acquiring GitHub, perhaps this will lend financial stability to the platform (although we do have to note that large company investments do not always insure financial stability.
Dell Technologies and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, two companies I have more recently studied are both proud to be contributors to open source. A couple of years ago considerable time at one of the keynotes at Dell World to open source projects.
I think that some of these companies are realizing that they don’t have to invent everything themselves. Being good software citizens benefits them as well as the community.
Hannover Messe continues to reflect the trend of companies joining alliances to develop and promote standards and interoperability. While I did not have an interview with the Avnu Alliance while I was in Hannover, I talked with some members and obtained other information. Avnu Alliance promotes adoption of the Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) extension to Ethernet.
Specifically, Avnu Alliance is a community creating an interoperable ecosystem of low-latency, time-synchronized, highly reliable networked devices using open standards. Avnu creates comprehensive certification programs to ensure interoperability of networked devices. The foundational technology enables deterministic synchronized networking based on IEEE Audio Video Bridging (AVB) / Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) base standards. The Alliance, in conjunction with other complimentary standards bodies and alliances, provides a united network foundation for use in professional AV, automotive, industrial control and consumer segments.
The adoption pace of TSN from 2017 to 2018 was amazing.
I always drop by the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) area at Hannover and check out the TSN Testbed for Flexible Manufacturing. The testbed was developed with two major goals – to show TSN’s readiness to accelerate the marketplace; and to show the business value of TSN in converged, deterministic IIoT networks. Momentum is increasing for the testbed, with the IIC hosting its 10th plugfest in an 18-month timeframe at the Bosch Rexroth facility in Frankfurt, Germany and its 9th plugfest, which was held in Austin, TX in February at National Instruments (NI) headquarters following a joint workshop on interoperability with Avnu Alliance. The TSN Testbed recently integrated test tools from Avnu Alliance members, Calnex, Ixia and Spirent into plugfest activities, and demonstrated interoperability of TSN devices from more than 25 companies performing real-time automation and control automation functions over TSN.
Any Avnu Alliance member is welcome to join the IIC TSN Testbed or to participate in a plugfest. Upcoming plugfests will be held in Austin, TX from June 26-29, 2018 and in Stuttgart from July 24-27, 2018.
The Edge Computing Consortium (ECC) along with members and Avnu Alliance, hosted a press conference to announce new developments surrounding the newly created OPC UA TSN testbed. The testbed demonstrates six major IIoT scenarios mimicking processes found in smart manufacturing settings and utilizing products across different TSN vendors. Avnu Alliance is a key partner supporting the development of the testbed with the ECC in the shared goal of enabling manufacturers to test their products for interoperability and conduct trials of real-world systems as an early check for problems.
Tom Weingartner, Avnu Alliance member and Analog Devices’ marketing director for Deterministic Ethernet Technology Group, represented the Alliance at an announcement ceremony.
Paul Didier, Avnu Alliance member and IoT solutions architect, Cisco delivered a talk at the Industrie 4.0 meet the Industrial Internet Forum, in a presentation titled “Time Sensitive Networks – Where does the technology stand and what to expect”. He will provide an update on TSN and how manufacturers, alliances and liaison groups are working together to advance the technology and its implementation in the IIoT.
Paul will present an additional lecture for the Forum on “Modernizing Your Industrial Manufacturing Network”. The presentation will follow the findings coming out of the IIC TSN Testbed and its capabilities, including information on how manufacturing automation and control infrastructure vendors and key decision-makers can leverage TSN for a variety of operational benefits, including increased connectivity between devices and the ability to extract and analyze valuable information through interconnectivity.
“HANNOVER continues to be a key industry event for both Avnu Alliance members and liaison groups that we work with to educate and increase awareness of TSN as a solution for the growing IIoT,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Leader and Chief Marketing Manager at NI. “Whether through the developments coming from the TSN testbeds, speaking engagements or product demonstrations, our members and partners are committed to creating an interoperable TSN network that gives all industrial devices a more streamlined path to participating in the TSN ecosystem.
“Digital Transformation is so last year. While many legacy companies around the world are still grappling with “transforming” their digital ecosystems, the true leaders are already on to next hot topic: Digital Transformation 2.0. We’ll call it ‘Digital Reinvention.’ ” Media relations agencies, aka PR agencies, must be under constant pressure to get messages published however they can. I’m flooded with teasers such as this one. And few, if any, take the time to know if their target is a good place for the news. It’s almost like there is no strategy other than send out as many promos as possible and hope some land.
Most I just delete. Then I get the inevitable follow up, when are you going to run my news (that probably doesn’t apply to your coverage but I need numbers)?
I bit on this one. Is Digital Reinvention an attempt to coin a new marketing phrase? Is it a real thing with a real definition? Dr. Google told me that the phrase has been around for several years, but it has not caught on. Maybe Rick Bullotta will catch on with Industry 4.5? (Search on LinkedIn)
The press release introduced me to Alfresco co-founder John Newton. He was quoted, “the whole notion of infinite computing, infinite storage, and resilience is just completely different.” Those changes are having a profound impact on how companies think about their future. Cloud adoption is happening at the speed of light as companies embrace the idea that they are no longer limited by server space. Responsive design and responsive applications are driving not just apps, but the entire business model. Companies like Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit and the behemoth, Amazon, are taking those words to heart and constantly reinventing each day.
So, I talked with Newton. He mentioned they had done a survey on what companies were achieving with Digital Transformation, how fast they were growing—innovative, size, etc. That formed the foundation for his thoughts. He told me to look at platform, design, and business operations. How open are they to connecting to customers and suppliers. Innovators looked at Digital Transformation not as technology only but also as business operations stretching to customers and supply chain.
Newton called out ‘design thinking’ that looks from the users point of view to make technology human. Another type of today’s thinking is ‘open’—open source, open standards, open architecture. “This will trump all other forms. It is naturally attractive to customers. The more profound is platform thinking. This is dominating in the stock market. Five of the top 10 value companies are platform plays, including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon. They have a long term relationship with customers. In manufacturing think after-service care, maintenance and service relationships. Product is almost a loss leader. Digital twin is part of the platform play, for example, using it to predict failures.
Twenty-five minutes into the conversation, Newton had not tried to sell me on Alfresco. I had looked him up and noted he had founded Documentuum before founding Alfresco. So, I had to ask. Always need to learn about new companies. “We help create and manage documents and processes,” he told me. “We have a different way of thinking—open, open source, architecture, cloud friendly, AWS templates, manage in a matter of minutes.” Sounds interesting. All of my favorite concepts.