Microsoft Acquires GitHub and Other Big Company and Open Source Thoughts

Microsoft Acquires GitHub and Other Big Company and Open Source Thoughts

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.

Microsoft News

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.

IoT and OPC UA At Hannover Messe Along With Look At HPE

IoT and OPC UA At Hannover Messe Along With Look At HPE

I went from Germany to Las Vegas and the time change screwed with my posting schedule. So…I am finally finishing up my Hannover Messe reporting before I begin with my recent trip.

My last post detailed the first round of briefings with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Today I’ll finish up.

But first, a digression.

OPC

Misinformation about what exactly OPC UA is continues to circulate within the industry. I had at least three conversations where people referred to OPC as proprietary. Plus OPC and MQTT are mistakenly considered competitive rather than complementary. OPC Foundation still has some evangelizing to accomplish.

A few years ago it appeared that major automation vendors were ignoring OPC and its interoperability tending toward self-encased solutions. In fact, I got dissed by some dude on YouTube for a report I did on that subject.

Time has passed. More and more people and companies recognize the value of interoperability and OPC UA. No doubt the PubSub helps in some cases. And without a doubt the combination of OPC UA and TSN is enticing to many.

HPE

HPE has devised an application dubbed “Remote Visual Guidance.” It began with an eLearning application HPE MyRoom. Integrated with a hard hat, a camera, and glasses that project an image to the user, the system enables remote support from an expert who may not be able to fly to the site. Imagine working in a remote location such as an offshore oil rig where flying in an expert is both dangerous and expensive, for example. The system comes in three versions—wearable say integrated with a hard hat, smart phone app, or tablet app. Therefore, the three versions are No hands, 1 hand, and 2 hands). Try this for a potential use case for a value add from an OEM. The OEM bundles the app with its machine. This gives the customer direct contact with remote expert for the cost of perhaps a service contract.

I had a good conversation with HPE’s Christian Reichenbach on Blockchain technology. I believe this technology is quickly moving past hype into something we can use. The concepts of trusted transaction and ledger have immediate appeal for industries such as pharma manufacturing. We can think of many more.

Reichenbach identifies three waves of blockchain.

Wave One is personal exemplified by crypto currency—the Bitcoin that garners most of the press

Wave Two came with Enterprise to Enterprise transactions. For example, he pointed to the vision system QA demo at the HPE stand. It uses blockchain to send QA report as a secure, trusted transaction that includes a record.

Wave Three includes Things to Things. This means systems around products leading to systems of systems thinking. Things become autonomous actors. They contract with each other with no middle man. It includes ledger systems. Let’s take the example of an HPE Edge Gateway plus Etherium (an HPE partner). Perhaps it’s the same concept as loyalty card scanning and giving you value for using it. Let’s look at a car. Currently there are lots of sensors but no marketplace to exploit all that data. Say we take Edgeline device connected to CANbus of the car. Then, say, connect to the rain sensor or a sensor in the shock absorber. Previously the end user gave data away for free, but now maybe the car makes a smart contract with weather channel or Waze and sells the data.

One last item I gleaned from the Microsoft booth. HPE has a starter kit to help users  easily connect devices to the cloud using HPE Edgeline, Softing (OPC UA kit), and Microsoft Azure.

Overall analysis from HPE visit at Hannover was that IoT has matured in a sense from a department with a product to infusing into the entire manufacturing product and service portfolio.

OPC Foundation Cites Advancements at Recent ARC Forum

OPC Foundation Cites Advancements at Recent ARC Forum

The OPC Foundation was active during the recent ARC Industry Forum in Orlando as a Platinum Sponsor and presenting a press conference. With OPC UA released and in use and the publish/subscribe about to be release, OPC Foundation’s emphasis has been on companion specifications. It had a joint press conference with the FieldComm group to discuss its joint working group and then released news of a released companion specification with Ethernet Powerlink. The last release, something I was able to work on pre-release review, concerns a study with ARC Advisory Group on adoption of the UA specification.

Below are some details. More at the Foundation website.

OPC and FieldComm

The OPC Foundation and FieldComm Group announced an alliance to advance process automation system multi-vendor interoperability and simplified integration by developing a standardized process automation device information model.

A joint working group between OPC Foundation and FieldComm Group, tasked with developing a protocol independent companion specification for process automation devices, was formed in late 2017. The goal of the working group is to leverage the extensive experience of FieldComm Group with the HART and FOUNDATION Fieldbus communication protocols to standardize data, information, and methods for all process automation devices through FDI using OPC UA. The OPC UA base information model and companion Device Information (DI) specification will be extended to include the generic definition and information associated with process automation devices.

The OPC Foundation and FieldComm Group have worked together for over a decade, initially working on the development of the EDDL specification and most recently on the creation of FDI technology.

“FDI provides the new standard for device integration to deliver a protocol independent path to configuration, diagnostics and runtime operation for process devices,” states Ted Masters, President and CEO of FieldComm Group. “The partnership between OPC Foundation and FieldComm Group further builds upon the common information model of both to deliver process automation data in context which is the key to enabling value from enterprise systems and analytics. The 350+ suppliers of devices and applications that are members of FieldComm Group have an opportunity to benefit from the key initiative to develop a standard process automation information model by their adoption of FDI and OPC UA technologies.”

“I’m excited that the OPC Foundation and FieldComm Group are working together on this important initiative, and will be partnering with other organizations, end-users and suppliers to make the dream of a standardized process automation device information model a reality. This is truly a breakthrough in our industry that will provide significant operational benefits across all points of the value chain,” states Thomas J. Burke, OPC Foundation President and Executive Director.

“This important collaboration will provide a solid foundation for standardization of devices that will serve as the base infrastructure for the numerous other collaborations that the OPC Foundation is doing across international boundaries,” says Stefan Hoppe, OPC Foundation Global Vice President.

The joint working group plans to release an extensible, future-proof process automation information model specification during the first quarter of 2019.

OPC and Powerlink

An OPC UA companion specification is now available for POWERLINK according to a joint announcement by the OPC Foundation and the Ethernet POWERLINK Standardization Group (EPSG). The companion specification describes how payload data is exchanged between POWERLINK and any OPC UA platform. The result is integrated communication from the sensor to the cloud.

“As technologies, OPC UA and POWERLINK complement each other perfectly,” emphasized Thomas Burke, President of the OPC Foundation, in his announcement. “POWERLINK is among the leading real-time bus systems used in plants and machinery. Together with OPC UA, POWERLINK networks can now communicate seamlessly and securely with the IT environment and into the cloud.”

“This specification allows OPC UA and POWERLINK to fuse into a single network,” added Stefan Schönegger, Managing Director of the EPSG. “We’re then able to join devices from different manufacturers and across different levels of the automation pyramid into a single, cohesive system.”

A joint working group between the OPC Foundation and the EPSG had been working on the specification since 2016. The document can be downloaded from the OPC Foundation website.

OPC UA Adoption

OPC Foundation announced today the release of an in-depth ARC Advisory Group report on the important role the OPC data connectivity standards play in control automation today and in future IIoT and Industrie4.0 based solutions.

Key ARC report findings confirmed that with an estimated global install base of over 45 million units, OPC is the de facto standard for open data connectivity and that OPC UA is well positioned to serve as the next data connectivity foundation for control automation applications in traditional industrial settings and new ones like building automation, transportation, and others. Key contributing factors to the continued success of OPC UA included the scalability, performance, and robustness of the technology and the large community of end-users, vendors, and other standards bodies actively working with the OPC Foundation to best utilize OPC UA in their applications.

According to Thomas Burke, OPC Foundation president, “the [ARC report] findings accurately reflect what we [OPC Foundation] have been seeing from an adoption and collaboration point of view. I highly recommend reading this ARC report for a high level perspective of what OPC UA is doing in the market and the future of data connectivity”

Commenting on the popularity of the OPC UA standard, Mr.Burke explained “OPC UA has something to offer for everyone from end-users and product vendors to other standards bodies. After people look at what is really out there as far as a single standard that has the scalability, performance, and flexibility to meet the challenges of modern data connectivity and interoperability and has the reputation and a large enough adoption base needed to make it a safe investment – they come to realize OPC UA is the real deal.”

“OPC technology has become a de facto global standard for moving data from industrial controls to visualization up to MES/ERP and IT cloud levels”, according to Craig Resnick, Vice President, ARC Advisory Group. “The rapid expansion of OPC UA in automation, IIoT, and into new, non-industrial markets suggests that OPC will remain an important technology for multivendor secured interoperability, plant floor-to-enterprise information integration, and a host of other applications yet to be envisioned.”

Avnu Alliance Plus Partnerships Plus TSN Yields Internet of Things Advances

Avnu Alliance Plus Partnerships Plus TSN Yields Internet of Things Advances

2017 marks the year of Avnu Alliance, the consortium driving standards-based deterministic networking, making its name in the industrial Internet of Things space. I’ve caught up with news from other trips, now it’s news from SPS in Nuremberg that I missed this year.

  • Avnu Alliance and Edge Computing Consortium
  • Avnu Alliance and OPC Foundation
  • TSN Conformance Testing

Avnu Alliance and the Edge Computing Consortium

Avnu Alliance and the Edge Computing Consortium (ECC) announced a liaison agreement to partner on shared interests of advancing industrial networking and edge computing. Under the agreement, the consortia will work together with the shared goal for interoperability across the industrial control industry.

Joint activities between Avnu Alliance and the ECC will include:

  • Identifying and sharing IIoT best practices
  • Collaborating on test beds
  • Collaborating on standardization and conformance testing

“We are very excited about the cooperation between ECC and Avnu Alliance,” said Mr. Haibin Yu, Chairman of ECC. “We believe that Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) technology will enable edge computing to better meet the industrial customers end-to-end needs and promote the global industry digitization transformation.”

“Edge computing is a key enabling technology to the industrial IoT. The liaison with the Edge Computing Consortium enables Avnu to broaden the scope for creating an interoperable foundation of Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) for the industrial IoT in alignment with our organization’s goal to build coalitions within the networking space,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair.

Avnu Alliance and ECC conducted a joint presentation at the ECC Summit in Beijing on November 29, 2017 to announce their agreement and the opportunities ahead for Edge Computing and Time Sensitive Networking.

Avnu Alliance and OPC Foundation Combined IT-OT Leadership

Avnu Alliance (Avnu), Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), and OPC Foundation announce their collaboration with IT-OT industry leaders to advance industrial device interoperability and to show the progress made in bringing the open, unified communication standard OPC UA over Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) to market.

Leading companies active in these groups have pledged their commitment to ensuring the interoperability of deterministic industrial devices and have made significant investments in achieving this goal. Rapid developments of these technologies have been made over the last year.

“With the rapid adoption of TSN as a foundational technology for automation, the community is increasingly relying on an interoperable set of network services and infrastructure. Today, 17 market leaders are reinforcing their commitment to complete a unified communication technology,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair. “By leveraging the liaison agreements of Avnu, IIC and OPC Foundation, we’re creating a faster process for the creation of an open, interoperable ecosystem of devices that take advantage of secure, guaranteed latency and delivery for critical traffic. It is exciting to see the fruits of our labor in these milestones.”

The pillars of this announcement are:

Conformance testing advances: Avnu TSN conformance test plans for time synchronization of industrial devices are ready and available to test houses. At last month’s Avnu IIC Interoperability Workshop, more than 20 companies came together to demonstrate interoperability in the IIC TSN Testbed and to advance the conformance tests with the assistance of University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab, an Avnu-recognized test facility.

Standards evolved, more vendors, more devices: The Publish Subscribe extension for OPC UA is now available in release-candidate form, enabling the exchange of OPC UA over UDP connections. This is the prerequisite for running OPC UA TSN.

“OPC UA over TSN adds additional capability to the OPC Foundation portfolio, including enhancing controller-to-controller and machine-to-machine communication and information integration. OPC UA addresses the complex requirements of initiatives like Industrie 4.0 and the IIoT, providing information integration between devices, applications and the cloud, truly providing the foundation for the much-demanded seamless communication and information integration between IT and OT networks,” said Thomas Burke, OPC Foundation President.

Demonstrated interoperability between different vendors: Interoperability testing via the IIC TSN Testbed is rapidly progressing with eight hands-on plugfests taking place in the US and Europe over the past 18 months. More than 20 companies have participated in these face-to-face events to test and demonstrate interoperability between devices from various manufacturers and vendors – both collaborative and competitive.

“Our TSN Testbed stands as a showcase for the business value of TSN. The work coming out of the TSN Testbed is already having a direct impact on suppliers and manufacturers who see the technology as a value-add for their system structures,” said Paul Didier, IIC TSN Testbed Coordinator, Cisco Solution Architect. “Companies are invited to participate in our plugfests to test their own TSN devices for interoperability, including OPC UA Pub-Sub TSN devices.”

Avnu Alliance Delivers First TSN Conformance Tests for Industrial Devices

Avnu Alliance announced the first set of Avnu TSN conformance test plans for time synchronization of industrial devices are ready and available now for test houses to implement.

Avnu Alliance has built a rich set of conformance and interoperability tests with a defined procedure for certification in various markets. Leveraging that multi-industry experience, Avnu defined a baseline certification in the industrial market that consists of robust and comprehensive test requirements based on the market requirements for industrial automation devices and silicon. These conformance tests ensure that the device or silicon conforms to the relevant IEEE standards, as well as additional requirements that Avnu has selected as necessary for proper system interoperability.

“Time Synchronization, or 802.1AS, is the foundation for all TSN devices, hence it is the first set of conformance tests that are ready and available,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Chair. As the standards and networks continue to evolve, so does Avnu’s work to define and certify the standard foundation. In the future, Avnu will also be able to test and certify other traffic shaping mechanisms, frame preemption, redundancy, ingress policing, strict priority, and security. “Our work with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), OPC Foundation and other industry organizations drives the industry closer toward achieving an interoperable ecosystem,” added Walter.

Avnu is committed to speeding up the path to an interoperable foundation. To this end, Avnu members have made open source code available for 802.1AS timing and synchronization in the OpenAvnu repository on GitHub.

To encourage and enable multiple industry groups, vendors and protocols to share a TSN network, Avnu has outlined the system architecture and requirements for this industrial model built on an Avnu certified foundation in a document entitled “Theory of Operation for TSN-enabled Industrial Systems,” which is available for download. This document introduces the fundamental mechanisms needed for a system architecture to build on, including time synchronization, quality of service using scheduled transmission and network configuration and walks through the requirements of several industrial use cases including how to enable and integrate non-TSN technologies where needed.

Avnu Alliance members have created this document to help designers and engineers in the industry understand the real-world application context and build a TSN network that is configured for multiple vendor and industry groups. Avnu’s defined foundation will continue to support additional capabilities, including support for multiple IEEE 1588 profiles, guidelines for scaling to very large network architectures, centralized and distributed configuration for the network, and aggregation/composition of multiple networks into a single TSN-enabled network domain.

Testbeds provide real-world IIoT deliverables

Testbeds provide real-world IIoT deliverables

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has published the first results of its testbed program. A major focus and activity of the IIC and its members, testbeds provide platforms for IIC member organizations to think through innovations, test new applications, processes, products, services and business models to ascertain their usefulness and viability before taking them to market.

“IIC testbeds provide a feedback loop from concept to reality and back to innovation,” said Dr. Richard Soley, Executive Director, IIC. “They help uncover the technologies, techniques and opportunities that are essential to solving important problems that benefit business and society. This is the reason member companies agree to sponsor and own their testbeds but will also share progress reports.”

Howard Kradjel, director of Testbeds, told me in an interview this week that test beds are used to prove out business cases along with usability. This release is an attempt to pull together the results so that the general technical public can see what is happening. The results focused on standards, ecosystems, and/or business models.

The following IIC testbeds have shared these important first results:

  • Track & Trace Testbed – Initially formed to trace process tools, the team deployed sensors that provided information about the location of tools and assets in use. It was expanded from tools to logistics equipment, specifically forklifts. Results: The testbed identified standardization opportunities in localization-technology interfaces, tightening-tool interfaces, enterprise-system interfaces, data models, data communications and device management. It also identified reusable interfaces that opened the solution to components from different vendors.
  • Time Sensitive Networking Testbed – Time-sensitive networking (TSN) enhances Ethernet to bring more deterministic capabilities to the network, including time synchronization, which schedules traffic flows and manages central automated system configuration. This testbed applies TSN technology in a manufacturing system with a wide range of automation and control vendors. Results: The testbed deployed early-phase IEEE 802.1 and IEEE 802 Ethernet standards. The testbed will improve upon those standards, making the use of TSN more prevalent in industries where it can improve efficiency, such as manufacturing and energy.
  • Manufacturing Quality Management Testbed –This testbed will improve manufacturing quality by retrofitting outdated factories using modern sensory networks and analytic technologies. The initial success was shown using the welding section of the air conditioner production line in a factory. Prior to the process, the quality control was based on the noise detection by an experienced examiner. Results: In March 2017, an optimized noise detection analytic engine was proven to help reduce the false detection rate by 45%. In June 2017, the analytic engine for noise detection was integrated into the production line and the accuracy of pass/fail detection was dramatically improved.
  • Communication and Control for Microgrid Applications Testbed – A microgrid combines generation and storage into a local power system. It allows more reliable use of renewable sources like solar or wind power in conjunction with, or even isolated from, the rest of the power grid. Near-term uses are for limited areas, such as a campus, corporation, hospital, factory or residential area. Someday, the microgrid architecture will enable deeper use of renewables throughout the main grid. Results: This testbed proves the viability of a real-time, securely distributed control architecture for real-world microgrid applications. It leverages an Industrial Internet Reference Architecture (IIRA) pattern called the “layered databus” that federates multiple connectivity domains into a larger system. The testbed implemented the pattern with the Data Distribution Service (DDS) standard as explained in the Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework (IICF) guidance. The testbed thus validated both the pattern and its implementation, showing both efficacy and acceleration. This testbed is also contributing to the Open Field Message Bus (OpenFMB) design, now a power industry standard
  • INFINITE Testbed – The INternational Future INdustrial Internet TEstbed (INFINITE) uses software-defined networking to create virtual domains so that multiple virtual domains can run securely on a single physical network. Results: This testbed enabled intelligent route planning for ambulances to improve response times, leading to better pre-hospital emergency care experiences and outcomes for patients. It also led to the improved safety and effectiveness of first responders in emergency situations, especially in harsh environments. A third use case enabled the detection of anomalies or fraudulent behavior within the power grid through machine learning algorithms, which can also be applied to other types of Operation Technology (OT).
  • Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance Testbed – This testbed provides insight into the health of critical assets. It leverages advanced sensors that automatically predict equipment failure and notifies a person or system so that pro-active steps can be taken to avoid equipment damage and unscheduled downtime. Results: This testbed demonstrated how to make older assets smart, collecting asset health data from four pump/motor skids used to pump chilled water from an HVAC system.
  • Smart Factory Web Testbed – This testbed networks a web of smart factories to improve order fulfillment by aligning capacity across production sites. Results: Factories and their assets can be registered and searched for in the Smart Factory Web (SFW) portal. IEC standards OPC UA and AutomationML are used to achieve semantic interoperability and are applied to exchange information between engineering tools.

The IIC reviews testbed proposals to identify goals, value, potential partners and commercial viability of each testbed. The testbeds must offer a solid business case for global economic impact; have relevance to IIC IIoT frameworks to help members develop IIoT systems more rapidly; pass a security review to ensure a secure industrial Internet; and provide tangible deliverables such as technologies or best practices requirements for standards. There are currently 26 approved IIC testbeds.

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