Platform for Secure and Scalable Cloud-Native Edge Application Management

Platform for Secure and Scalable Cloud-Native Edge Application Management

The CEO of Zededa told me in an interview a few months ago that his mission was no less than to build the largest computing company on Earth without owning infrastructure. Its vision—create a new edge economy that allows applications to run anywhere.

When I wrote in April, the company was emerging from stealth mode. Its most recent announcement proclaims:

  • First demonstrable cloud-native platform for edge applications, early customer access to end-to-end app operations platform purpose built for the edge underway
  • Zero-touch infrastructure modernization for legacy embedded systems; simple to move legacy apps and OS from outdated systems to newer, cloud-native edge hardware
  • Zededa joins EdgeX Foundry to bolster the organization’s vision of an open and secure cloud-native future that enables all new IoT applications
  • Major edge system vendors turning to Zededa for operational automation, insights and protection of applications running on their systems

Zededa announced early access to its platform that provides real-time apps a simple “on-ramp” to the cloud-native edge. From legacy embedded systems to modern, AI-based IoT apps, the platform provides the scalability, security and visibility required to allow operations teams to unlock the power of real-time apps without concerns about bandwidth, latency or dependency on the cloud.

Operations technology teams have three primary situations to deal with when it comes to IoT applications: how to upgrade and secure a massive install base of legacy embedded systems, how to retrofit existing equipment with IoT sensors and applications to take advantage of real-time data, and how to deploy entirely new applications like AI-powered robots and self-driving fleets.

Closed, monolithic systems at the edge—either closed by design or closed because of legacy embedded device development workflows—are the last major impediment to solving these problems and enabling IoT to achieve its stated $1.3 trillion market potential. Zededa’s platform demonstrates how cloud-native edge solves the most urgent problem for organizations looking into digital transformation—upgrading and protecting legacy systems without truck-rolls—and gives solution providers a way to easily adopt IoT sensors and industrial gateways to provide real-time data to operational software. Initial natively-supported hardware partners include platforms built on ARM and Intel x86 processors from leading vendors including Advantech Corporation, Lanner, SuperMicro, and Scalys.

“Cloud-native edge computing will be a diverse universe unlike anything in cloud datacenters today,” said Roman Shaposhnik, VP of Product and Strategy at Zededa. “We are making the modernization of edge infrastructure secure, simple and automated in preparation for a fundamental shift away from legacy embedded systems. An open system that allows BYO hardware into a cloud-native platform is a start of the future: a computing environment that is distributed, autonomous and cooperative.”

To help drive entirely new applications and operational possibilities at the edge across a diverse universe of devices, Zededa has joined EdgeX Foundry, a vendor-neutral open source project hosted by The Linux Foundation with a goal to build a common open framework for IoT edge computing.

“Interoperability and convergence on common industry standards is vital for organizations deploying next-generation distributed computing solutions at the IoT Edge,” said Jason Shepherd, Chair of EdgeX Foundry Governing Board and Dell Technologies IoT CTO. “By joining EdgeX Foundry’s efforts Zededa will help promote the project’s important work of creating an open ecosystem of secure, interoperable edge applications that will change user experiences and drive the future of business.”

Currently providing early access to select customers, Zededa is accepting sign-ups for demonstrations and private briefings.

Founded in 2016, Zededa is pioneering a cloud-native approach to the deployment, management and security of real-time edge applications at hyperscale for solutions ranging from self-driving cars to industrial robots. Zededa is headquartered in Santa Clara, CA with engineering and market development teams based in India, UK, Germany and Korea.

EdgeX Foundry is an open source project hosted by The Linux Foundation building a common open framework for IoT edge computing and an ecosystem of interoperable components that unifies the marketplace and accelerates the deployment of IoT solutions. Designed to run on any hardware or operating system and with any combination of application environments, EdgeX enables developers to quickly create flexible IoT edge solutions that can easily adapt to changing business needs.

GE “All In” on Digital Strategy

GE “All In” on Digital Strategy

GE Digital continues to build out its platform and ecosystem of applications while new GE CEO John Flannery confirmed his commitment to the digitalization strategy begun under his predecessor.

The sixth Minds + Machines conference featured about 90% growth in attendance from last year. Begun five years ago not long after the company began assembling its digital strategy as a thought leadership gathering, the conference has evolved into a substantial user conference. Attendance was reported at about 3,700 filling much of Moscone Center West in San Francisco.

I’ve summarized the announcements from the event below. My initial takeaway for the biggest news of the day was GE’s emphasis on building a partner ecosystem. As the company built out its Predix platform, it seemed to be on a track for keeping everything close to home. Saying that they could move more quickly to market, they talked about working more with partners. One executive told me that the partnership with Microsoft for Predix on Azure was the most significant announcement of the week.

This is my first time here and reinforces the idea that GE Digital is a major player in the industry segment begging comparison with Siemens. Some thought also ABB (they should not have forgotten Schneider) also.

Most of my discussions involved Asset Performance Management, the new Operations Performance Management (see below), and helping me understand Predix.

Following is a summary of announcements:

Flannery touched on some statistics from a survey concerning the “digital gap” of perceived importance of a digital transformation and how far along companies are.

GE Digital Industrial Evolution Index
The inaugural Index reflects a total score of 63 on a scale of 100 and indicates that while outlook for the Industrial Internet is very strong, scoring 78.3 (out of 100), company readiness significantly lags, scoring 55.2 (out of 100). This disconnect – between outlook and company readiness – presents both a challenge and opportunity for companies seeking to benefit from the IIoT. 86% believe digital industrial transformation is important to the competitiveness of their companies, with the majority (76%) rating the ability to provide higher quality services as the foremost outcome of digital industrial transformation.

GE unveiled expansions to its suite of edge-to-cloud technologies and industrial applications.

Edge-to-Cloud Intelligence on Any Industrial Asset, Anywhere
GE Digital is expanding its Predix Edge capabilities to help run analytics as close to the source of data as possible. Predix Edge gives customers with limited connectivity, latency limitations, regulatory or other constraints a way to deploy applications closer to the originating data.

Enhancements include:
• Predix Edge Manager allows customers to support large fleets of edge devices – up to 200,000 connected devices from a single console.
• Predix Machine enables microservice-based applications to run at the edge on customers’ virtualized data center infrastructure or on server-class hardware from GE or its partners. This also supports Predix Edge Manager, which was previously available only as a cloud service.
• Predix complex event processing (CEP) allows for faster and more efficient analytics and other event processing at extreme low latency, available at the edge in Q1 2018.

Predix Platform on Microsoft Azure
Announced last year and available generally in 2018, GE Digital and Microsoft partnership extends the accessibility of Predix to Microsoft’s global cloud footprint, including data sovereignty, hybrid capabilities and advanced developer and data services, enabling customers around the world to capture intelligence from their industrial assets.

Operations Performance
Alongside its Asset Performance Management (APM) software, the core application, GE Digital introduced Operations Performance Management (OPM), a solution helps industrials optimize the throughput of industrial processes.

OPM uses real-time and historical data – along with advanced analytics – to help customers make better operational decisions. The solution provides an early warning if industrial processes deviate from plan, arms operators with the information and time to troubleshoot operational issues and helps them take preventative actions to meet business goals. GE Digital’s OPM software initially targets the mining industry and will expand to additional industries early next year.

Enhanced Field Service Management Solutions
With service technicians looking to embrace technology to improve their productivity and deliver a better experience for customers, ServiceMax from GE Digital announced several enhancements to its FSM suite – enabling even greater efficiencies and bringing advanced analytics to service operations.

• Artificial intelligence-enabled predictive service times now integrate the Apache Spark AI engine to improve service time estimates.
• Additionally, a new application integration solution enables service providers to launch and share FSM data with third-party mobile applications installed on the same device.
• New capabilities in schedule optimization allow for dependent job scheduling between work orders for multiple visits aimed at improving first-time fix rates.

Predix Studio
GE Digital also introduced Predix Studio to help companies build and scale their own industrial applications and extend its Asset Performance Management (APM) suite. Available in Q1 2018, Predix Studio simplifies the development process by giving customers the ability to extend applications and empower industrial subject matters experts to build apps in a low-code, high-productivity environment.

Digital Twin Analytics Workbench
A solution that applies a library of algorithms and templates to make it faster and easier for companies to build their own digital twins on Predix. The Analytics Workbench, currently a technology preview from GE Power, can be used to augment existing digital twins with new data streams. For example, power producers using drones to inspect wind turbine blades, pipelines or fuel reserves can integrate visual inspection data into the digital twins they already use to manage generation assets and grid infrastructure.

Platform for Secure and Scalable Cloud-Native Edge Application Management

Siemens User Conference Highlights Connectivity, Visibility

Siemens Automation held its annual Users Conference the end of June at the Boca Raton Resort in Florida. Digitalization comprised the underlying theme, however connectivity technologies highlighted the important announcements and discussions.

MindSphere holds the top place as the most important Siemens technology at this time. Users and Siemens professionals highlighted two use cases at the conference both centering on condition monitoring / predictive maintenance.

The other connectivity announcement concerned PCS 7, the Siemens DCS. The company unveiled new I/O featuring Profinet connectivity. The new, denser I/O includes a user-configurable product, as well as traditional digital and analog modules. Ethernet connectivity featuring Profinet held center stage in the press announcement.

Siemens introduced MindSphere to me at Hannover 2016. Its evolution has been swift. Now dubbed an Internet of Things platform, it includes a set of APIs and libraries. It includes an “App Store” open to 3rd party developers in addition to Siemens apps. If you are a developer, just register and app and pay a royalty based on data or connections.

MindSphere placed in context is similar to what I’ve seen from Cisco, Dell EMC, GE, Microsoft, and SAP. I’m sure there are more and that we’ll see more in the future. Dell EMC’s platform is open source. MIMOSA, an industry standards organization provides a similar platform called the OIIE based on standards containing no proprietary components.

All of these platforms are important for maintenance and reliability professionals, as well as for plant management, engineering, and operations because of the increased data and visibility into operations and assets. This will result in improved planning, more efficient operations, and increased percentage of uptime.

Components of the platform include:
• MindSphere Apps – Siemens and 3rd party ; data analytics
• MindSphere Sphere – Azure, SAP, AWS, etc.
• MindSphere Connect – open standards, right now OPC UA, gateway, integrated with S7, build your own connectivity



Platform for Secure and Scalable Cloud-Native Edge Application Management

Software Startup Within Rockwell Automation Leverages Chat Bot

This is “TechED” week for Rockwell Automation with “Shelby” the chat bot collaboration tool featured prominently at the opening keynote presentations–a software startup within the organization.

TeamONE was one of two new products featured this week. The other an appliance to help manage an EtherNet/IP network.

More than 2,000 people gathered in Orlando for the 20th edition of this distributor and customer learning event. Most of the sessions were deep dives into product and technology. I’ve sat in a few sessions, and they reminded me of how much I miss the deep dives into how to use products and technology instead of the usual marketing overviews that I receive.

The goals seem to be offering new workforce additions tools that they’ll be familiar with, enabling quicker setup and troubleshooting, and supporting teams.

One other maintenance-oriented product I’ll touch on is a support service for predictive maintenance.

The new products are FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance and a FactoryTalk TeamONE Standard Edition app. These off-the-shelf offerings require minimal configuration and can help solve common maintenance problems faster, which keeps unplanned downtime at a minimum. The appliance and app quickly help improve reaction time for maintenance teams and assist decision makers with health and diagnostics analytics for industrial devices and systems.

“These offerings were built with ease-of-use as a primary goal,” said Michael Pantaleano, global business manager, Rockwell Automation. “We’ve worked closely with our customers on these solutions, proving that an instantly available app and a scalable analytical appliance that work out-of-the-box can deliver immediate value. At Rockwell Automation, we are committed to building tools that are approachable for our customers’ current teams. These two new offerings help maintenance teams easily discover the health of their devices and better collaborate in context with insightful information.”

These offerings are some of the first subscription offerings from Rockwell Automation. To further streamline the adoption process, a new e-commerce portal is used to manage the new offerings. All subscriptions and management can take place within a single, self-service portal.

FactoryTalk TeamONE App

Focused on reducing mean time to repair, Rockwell Automation is releasing a new edition, dubbed the Standard Edition, of the FactoryTalk TeamONE app. The new edition adds an alarm module, enabling teams to collaborate with live alarm details. This gives users the ability to easily view all active alarms. They can also view, share and post new details, delivering better team collaboration by adding context with alarm information. Alarms requiring immediate action can be shared with specific team members or posted to the entire team for group management and resolution.

As a smart node, the FactoryTalk TeamONE app requires no server, device to cloud gateways, or IT setup for manufacturers to realize value, which expands as they go through their digital transformation. The app is currently available on the Apple App Store and Google Play store, and a new user account takes just minutes to set up.

The new Standard Edition is a paid yearly subscription and expands the features available in the free edition of the app. Released in 2016, the FactoryTalk TeamONE Free Edition app provides near-instantaneous incident and device data to plant-floor maintenance teams that include engineering, trades and IT workers. The free edition removes the barriers for industrial teams to collaborate and quickly solve issues with contextualized plant-floor data like trends and device status. Modules in this free edition include Incident, Device Status, Teamboard, Knowledgebase, Pinboard, Chat and Trend modules. Within the FactoryTalk TeamONE app, customers can even have a mix of free and subscription users on their teams.

FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices Appliance

FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices is a hardened appliance that helps avoid costly downtime and improve productivity by proactively identifying device health. With just a connection to power and a local control system network, the appliance begins providing analytics within minutes.

After the connections are made, the application detects automation devices on the network without disrupting performance. Plant-floor teams then gain access to specific calls-to-action, instant device displays and an advanced machine-learning-based chat bot, which are all available from within the appliance. The appliance learns what is important to users by continuously analyzing the devices on the network and delivering recommendations to help maintenance and engineering teams prevent unplanned downtime and repair systems more quickly.

“Our customers are trying to figure out how to take their first steps toward analytics and the industrial Internet of Things,” said Pantaleano. “This appliance is an excellent start to their journey, with tangible results that can help our customers within minutes.”

The FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance can detect and perform a basic analysis on any EtherNet/IP device. The appliance also has detailed analytics for over 2,000 Allen-Bradley devices. The first year’s subscription is included for each appliance. Subsequent subscriptions are encouraged for customers to progressively receive updated analytics, features and device support, including third-party devices.

Predictive Maintenance

I attended a session on predictive maintenance. The topic was a support service from Rockwell Automation–some of which is ready to go now and some still under development. It combines software tools and human experts.

Research has revealed that about 74% of total downtime is figuring out what the problem is and developing a workflow to fix it. The goal of this service by Rockwell Automation is to shorten this time through application of predictive analytics combined with expert analysis.

They have set up a system to collect device data into a Microsoft Azure cloud–aka FactoryTalk Cloud–where analytics apps reside and then port the information into the services organization.

The team has been developing a series of software agents to look at a variety of situations from pattern recognition to anomaly detection to machine learning to help customers get their predictive program up and running “in weeks, not years.”

Hannover Messe Was All About Internet of Things Platforms

Hannover Messe Was All About Internet of Things Platforms

Internet of Things platforms were all over Hannover Fair last week as I put on more than five miles a day walking checking out as much as I could see.

A few years ago, Industrie 4.0 was unveiled. Last year it was Digitalization. This year Industry 4.o is assumed. Internet of Things is assumed. The race is on for the platform for Internet of Things this year.

One consistent technology, though, that almost all platforms tout–OPC UA. You saw that logo everywhere. [Note: OPC Foundation paid most of my expenses to attend.]

What do I mean by platform? It is the central technology by which everything connects. Most of the time it is what we call proprietary, that is, controlled by one company. It builds a database with connectors to the world. All protocols (they encourage everyone to participate in their own system) bring in data. Sometimes the provider does all the analysis and provides all the applications. Sometimes the provider allows connection to other apps, as well.

I’ve written about the Dell / Linux Foundation effort–after I got through the hype and found the meat. This effort is all open source allowing tie ins with individual company applications.

Microsoft also has an ecosystem or platform that is open with some open source. It relies heavily on OPC UA for data input. Microsoft has its Internet of Things applications but can allow connection to others.

Siemens has its platform called Mindsphere. Siemens is a major proponent of OPC UA.

GE Digital has Predix. It likes OPC UA, too.

SAP is building a platform entirely within its umbrella but encouraging other companies to join it and allows the other apps to run. It also employs OPC UA.

A company I just got a deep dive with for the first time is Exosite. It is a database/analytics developer. At present it is not as broad as the others, but it has the desire to grow to that status.

And then there is Cisco. Yes, the company that builds the network components and OS that control the flow of all your data. Since they know where your data is, it can tap into it and it also has an IoT platform, database, and analytics engine.

By comparison, Rockwell Automation’s Connected Enterprise is totally inbred to Rockwell. I’m sure that in places such as North America where it has huge market share the connectivity works well. It will use some OPC UA next year, so a spokesman told me.

If this is any indication, the Internet of Things has become a “real” thing. Many of these platforms more or less existed before. But Internet of Things adoption obviously is attracting such good things as competition and innovation.

More from Hannover the rest of the week. I’m still compiling notes.

Follow this blog

Get a weekly email of all new posts.