PICMG InterEdge and OPAF Partnership to Advance Open Process Control Technology

I wrote a couple of times when some press releases noted support for a new PICMG InterEdge interface for open process automation applications. They’ve announced a formal agreement with OPAF to provide an “official” OPAF edge controller connectivity.


  • Partnership seeks to reduce technology integration, maintenance, and upgrade costs in the process automation industry.
  • Work supports the Open Process Automation Standard (O-PAS), a standard of The Open Group, that defines resilient and scalable process automation system architectures.
  • Collaboration establishes a multi-vendor ecosystem for interoperable, interchangeable edge hardware via specifications like InterEdge.

An explanation from the press release explains, “The partnership fills a gap in edge controller hardware that exists in the O-PAS Standard—an open architectural framework for developing industrial process automation systems, currently being defined by OPAF initiatives.”

To complete and standardize work on an edge controller performed by OPAF member Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), The Open Group Forum evaluated several hardware standards development organizations. The OPAF Members selected PICMG to develop a new open edge hardware technology specification that defines electromechanical interoperability, interchangeability, hot plug capabilities, and compatibility with existing standards such as IEC 61499 and IEC 61131.

The result was the recently ratified InterEdge specification.

I should mention that I saw a similar PICMG computer put forward as a solution for a previous open controller standard. Unfortunately, the vendor selected made a few tweaks in its use of the standard such that its “open” controller actually would not accept cards from competitors. I am certain that OPAF and PICMG will vet suppliers more carefully.

The InterEdge specification introduces a modular open architecture that delivers state-of-the-art I/O abstraction and flexibility and in a common physical form factor. It supports the OPAF and O-PAS goals of reducing integration, maintenance, and upgrade costs in the highly fragmented and largely proprietary process control technology market.

The OPAF and PICMG relationship is ongoing, with work on new versions of the InterEdge specification already underway. Meanwhile, the Open Process Automation Forum has introduced InterEdge to its physical platform subcommittee, who plan to include the specification in an upcoming revision of the O-PAS Standard and devise a set of tests that evaluate conformance to the InterEdge specification.

The InterEdge specification is available now and can be purchased from the PICMG website for $750. 

PICMG Announces Release of New InterEdge Standard

  • Targeted at Open, Modular Process Control Systems
  • Modular compute, switch, and I/O architecture enables interoperable standard for industrial PCs, PLCs, and distributed control systems.
  • Supports IEC 61499 and IEC 61131 for compatibility with a wide range of automation systems.
  • Hot-swappable modules can be replaced or upgraded while the system is running, minimizing downtime and maintenance costs.

I am trying to understand this one. Reading it for the third time, I guess the Open Process Automation Forum decided that one of its defined components among its “standard of standards” needed to be a standard. Although this “open, modular process control system” sounds eerily familiar. I hope it does help move the industry forward.

­­PICMG, the consortium for open hardware specifications, announced the release of InterEdge, a modular architecture for process control systems (PCS). The IEC 61499 and IEC 61131-compatible InterEdge specification promises to revolutionize the industry with an interoperable, multi-vendor alternative to proprietary Industrial PCs (IPCs), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), and Distributed Control Systems (DCSs).

Given that the OPAF initiative was begun by ExxonMobil engineering leaders, this quote is informative:

“Business needs evolve at an ever-increasing rate,” said Francisco Garcia, Americas Regional Instrument Lead at ExxonMobil Technology & Engineering Company and member of the InterEdge technical working group. “InterEdge delivers an interchangeable base hardware standard for industrial manufacturers looking to adapt to changing business needs. As a result, providers can deploy and scale dedicated physical assets and focus on value-added software and services.”

And from the press release:

InterEdge defines a vendor-neutral, open standard for edge computing and I/O module hardware. It segments hardware into Compute Modules, Switch Modules, and I/O Modules. All of these modules are connected via a common backplane, enabling easy customization and expansion of industrial automation functions.

An overview of the specification and an architecture diagram are available here. The full specification is available to purchase. 

And the reason for the standard:

By replacing proprietary edge devices, InterEdge eliminates vendor lock-in, simplifies integration and maintenance, and enables online upgrades, all of which contribute to significant cost savings.

The Open Group Welcomes Shell as Its Latest Platinum Member

I just released a podcast where I thought about standards, interoperability, and open technologies. This news came my way, speaking of open, that Shell Information Technology International has become a platinum member of The Open Group.

Shell has been a Member of The Open Group since 1997, and has contributed to its numerous Forums which enable collaboration to develop open technology standards and certifications. The company played a critical role in the foundation of The Open Group OSDU Forum that facilitates the development of transformational technology for the world’s changing Energy needs, and donated important intellectual property that formed the basis of the OSDU Data Platform. Shell also contributed to the inception of The Open Group Open Footprint Forum that focuses on creating an environmental footprint data model standard applicable to all industries.

The Open Group is a global consortium that enables the achievement of business objectives through technology standards. Its diverse membership of more than 900 organizations includes customers, systems and solutions suppliers, tool vendors, integrators, academics, and consultants across multiple industries.

Glad to see end user companies taking an active part in openness. Their support is the only way open technologies will grow.

Podcast Standards Standards Everywhere

I have published a new podcast thinking about standards and interoperability.

I’ve seen successes of industry standards. I’ve also seen industrial standards struggle to break through the logjam of large companies drive to lock customers into their ecosystem. What is the latest of OPAF and what is the meaning of Schneider Electric’s announcement of a product built with with Red Hat and IBM and development of a new computer communication standard?

I have arranged a special deal with energy drink makers Magic Mind. Listeners can click here and get up to 56% off your subscription for the next 10 days with my code GARYM20. After 10 days, you can still get 20% off for one time purchases and subscriptions. That’s magicmind.com/garym with the code GARYM20.

This podcast is sponsored by Inductive Automation.

FDT Group Certifies First FDT 3.0 DTM From Flowserve Corporation

Modern flow control software driver based on FDT/DTM technology extends standardized device management to mobile and OPC UA applications.

Glad to see movement with the latest technology from the FDT Group. It certified the first Device Specific DTM based on FDT 3.0 standard supporting the HART protocol from Flowserve Corp. The newest certified Logix 3820 Series DTM is deployable using their positioners supporting HART 6 / 7, tackling flow control challenges designed for modern IIoT architectures. 

FDT DTM certification to the FDT 3.0 specification and webUI is a process whereby rigorous compliance testing using dtmINSPECTOR5 ensures the viability of the states of the DTM; its correct installation, de-installation, and multi-user environment capability; mandatory and optional user interface functionality and robustness; network scanning communication performance and the ability to import and export the topology; and the audit trail capability.

FDT 3.0 DTMs are crucial to unlocking universal device integration with essential advantages such as platform independence, mobility solutions, and a contemporary development environment to reduce costs and expedite the DTM certification process. Users can use secure and seamless data exchange/interrogation from the sensor to the cloud and achieve new levels of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) integration. 

“This certification is a milestone in market penetration and technology development,” says Steve Biegacki, FDT Group managing director. “Flowserve has always been a leader in flow control using DTM technology and now offers the first flow control management DTM standardized for IIoT architectures based on FDT 3.0 for HART applications. HART users can deploy this new DTM and reap the benefits by using an FDT 3.0-based device management tool, such as PACTware 6.1, and can enjoy an IT/OT data-centric model by deploying an FDT Server, extending the data reach to mobile applications and the enterprise.”

The Sparkplug Specification Is Now an ISO/IEC Standard 

I’ve had many conversations with Arlen Nipper of Cirrus Link, co-developer of MQTT, and Benson Hougland of Opto 22, early adopter of MQTT and Sparkplug, at the Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference over several years about the demand for lightweight communications. OPC UA has a place in the toolbox, but many engineers desired a lightweight alternative. MQTT is a fast and lightweight transport protocol, but using it required engineers to specify their own payload technology. Enter Sparkplug. I call it a sort-of OPC-light (but people get mad at me for saying that). 

Sparkplug has been developed as open source way for engineers to standardize their messages from IIoT devices to databases.

The Eclipse Foundation, one of the world’s largest open source software foundations, in collaboration with the Eclipse Sparkplug Working Group, announced that the Sparkplug 3.0 specification has been published as an International Standard. This publication is the outcome of a transposition of the specification through the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) transposition process offered by the ISO and IEC Joint Technical Committee (JTC 1) for information technology, a consensus-based, voluntary international standards group. 

The International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) are global organisations that facilitate the development of International Standards that support innovation, sustainability, and global trade. Sparkplug is an open software specification that enables mission-critical operational technology (OT) clients to use industry standards, including OASIS MQTT, to seamlessly integrate data from their applications, sensors, devices, and gateways with most Industrial Internet Of Things (IIoT) infrastructure. As a result, Sparkplug enables businesses to easily deploy complex, mission-critical IIoT systems in record time.  

The PAS transposition process for reviewing and approving externally developed specifications at JTC 1 is neutral to all contributors and includes industry-wide participation. Going forward, the Sparkplug specification will also be known as ISO/IEC 20237. The Eclipse Foundation retains stewardship of the specification and intends to submit future revisions through the PAS transposition process. 

The Sparkplug Working Group is simultaneously launching a product compatibility program for Sparkplug implementers. The program will ensure that Sparkplug-compatible products and implementations demonstrate a high degree of compatibility and interoperability. 

Sparkplug provides an open and freely available specification for how Edge of Network (EoN) gateways or native MQTT-enabled end devices and MQTT Applications communicate bi-directionally within an MQTT Infrastructure. It is recognized that OASIS MQTT is used across a broad spectrum of application solution use cases and an almost indefinable variation of network topologies. 

By design, the MQTT specification does not dictate a Topic Namespace or any payload encoding. However, as the IIoT and other architectures leveraging the publisher/subscriber model are adopted by device OEMs in the industrial sector, having different Topic Namespace and payload encoding can inhibit interoperability for the end customer. To that end, the Sparkplug specification addresses the following components within an MQTT infrastructure: 

  • Sparkplug defines an OT-centric Topic Namespace 
  • Sparkplug defines an OT-centric Payload definition optimised for industrial process variables. 
  • Sparkplug defines MQTT Session State management required by real-time OT SCADA systems.

The Eclipse Foundation provides our global community of individuals and organisations with a business-friendly environment for open source software collaboration and innovation. We host the Eclipse IDE, Adoptium, Software Defined Vehicle, Jakarta EE, and over 425 open source projects, including runtimes, tools, specifications, and frameworks for cloud and edge applications, IoT, AI, automotive, systems engineering, open processor designs, and many others. Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, the Eclipse Foundation is an international non-profit association supported by over 350 members.

Follow this blog

Get a weekly email of all new posts.