PTC has had an interesting journey of moving from ERP to PLM to IoT through batches of acquisitions over the course of several years. When it announced a series of acquisitions including ThingWorx and Kepware (at premium prices from the looks of things) I had to wonder what was up.
Executives assured me that it was a comprehensive corporate plan for growth that included bringing the disparate elements of the company into a cohesive whole. I saw some things last year that told me it was on the right track. Then came this press release trumpeting 2016 results. Yes, PTC had a good year. And, yes Virginia, there is money to be made in IoT.
PTC expanded its year-over-year IoT bookings in 2016, added new customers and partners to its IoT ecosystem, enhanced its IoT technology portfolio, garnered industry recognition and validation, and substantially grew its IoT academic programs.
PTC ignited its IoT strategy in 2013 with the acquisition of ThingWorx, and, since that time, has developed one of the most robust IoT offerings in the market.
“When we embarked on our IoT journey, we didn’t set out to be a casual participant in this space. Instead, from day one, we committed ourselves to becoming the leading IoT platform company for the industrial market,” said Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO, PTC. “2016 was a banner year for PTC, as we further proved that our vision and offerings resonate with buyers around the world. As we enter 2017, many of the world’s largest, most successful companies are eager to work with us on new IoT projects.”
IoT Bookings Growth
PTC’s IoT business grew in calendar 2016, with total year-over-year bookings growth of 115%, including the contributions from Kepware and Vuforia, and organic bookings growth of 53%. PTC’s IoT business concluded calendar 2016 with revenue of approximately $100 million.
Key Customer and Partner Success
PTC continued to add to its expansive IoT customer base in 2016, surpassing 1,200 companies. Realizing that a vast ecosystem is needed to win in the era of the IoT, PTC has established a network of more than 250 partners that promote the company’s strategy and embrace its technology.
Fundamental to PTC’s growth was the selection of the ThingWorx platform by customers and partners of all sizes and specialties, including:
- GE Digital – PTC and GE Digital furthered their strategic relationship, with the aim to better optimize the combination of the ThingWorx and Predix platforms with a “ThingWorx for Predix” solution for the industrial space, as demonstrated at GE’s Minds Machines 2016.
Vodafone – Vodafone Group selected the ThingWorx platform in order to build additional Vodafone IoT applications that it can extend to its global footprint of operating companies.
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) – PTC and HPE are collaborating to develop new IoT solutions for industrial use cases. PTC’s ThingWorx software and HPE’s Edgeline Converged Edge System and the HPE Aruba ClearPass network access and security policy software were demonstrated together at HPE Discover 2016.
VMware – VMware joined the PTC ThingWorx Ready partner program, with a goal of pairing the ThingWorx platform with its own IoT solutions to create new offerings.
Additionally, as part of its expanding partner network, PTC continued to focus on working with the world’s leading systems integrators and professional services companies, which can be a valuable channel for extending PTC’s ThingWorx platform to a wider network of customers. Approximately 100 systems integrators are now part of the PTC Partner Network, including Cognizant, Deloitte, Kalypso, INFOSYS, ITC Infotech, and Tech Mahindra. In 2016, systems integrators developed new IoT solutions based on ThingWorx, including solutions for smart manufacturing, fleet management, smart energy management, and connected care.
ThingWorx Technology Innovations
To maintain and expand the robust functionality of its core IoT technology, PTC announced several enhancements to the ThingWorx platform during 2016. Highlights include:
- AR-Enhanced IoT – ThingWorx Studio (incorporating Vuforia technology) is the first enterprise augmented reality authoring tool of its kind, allowing companies to design, publish, and scale integrated AR and IoT experiences. Since mid-2016, 1,000 companies have piloted new augmented reality projects as part of the ThingWorx Studio Pilot Program.
Comprehensive Platform – PTC integrated its acquired Kepware industrial connectivity technology and ColdLight machine learning technology into the ThingWorx platform.
Flexible Cloud Options – PTC expanded cloud support for customers to now include leading device clouds.
- Product Insights – ThingWorx Utilities offers tools to help companies provision and manage their connected assets, to remotely access and interact with those connected assets, and to model and trigger business process flows that integrate with enterprise IT and business systems.
- Data Insights – PTC incorporated ThingWorx Analytics Builder as an interactive user interface, enabling users to create and manage advanced analytics models in ThingWorx-powered solutions.
- IoT at the Edge – PTC introduced enhanced edge computing capabilities to ThingWorx, enabling more robust data collection and management from the site of a connected asset.
Widespread Industry Recognition
The ThingWorx technology enhancements throughout 2016 further elevated the positions of PTC and ThingWorx in the market, leading to third-party acknowledgement and validation. In its Forrester Wave report on IoT platforms, Forrester Research identified PTC as having the most complete IoT platform offering on the market. Research firms IoT Analytics and Experton Group identified PTC as the IoT platform provider market leader. To top it off, PTC was named Internet of Things Enablement Company of the Year by Compass Intelligence and Industrial IoT Company of the Year by the IoT Breakthrough organization.
Record Participation in Universities and Academic Settings
PTC has established a broad, IoT-focused academic program for students of all grades and levels, developed and implemented by the PTC Academic Program. Since the inception of the PTC IoT Academic Program, over 1,000 universities worldwide have registered. Many leading academic institutions, including 14 of the top 15 engineering colleges in the USA, have adopted the ThingWorx platform in the classroom. On average, a new university joined the PTC IoT Academic Program each day in 2016.
Also in 2016, PTC significantly increased the level of developer participation by delivering what is currently the highest rated IoT course on Udemy, the global online teaching and learning marketplace. The “Fundamentals of IoT Development with ThingWorx” course saw its student enrollment number eclipse 4,200 in just five months, while maintaining a 4.5/5 rating from those who have participated. Excerpts from student reviews of the course include: “This is one of the best online courses that I have ever seen,” and “This course is just what I needed to truly understand what IoT is about.”
“In 2016, PTC proved that it is more than just a force to be reckoned with in the IoT space. PTC solidified itself as one of the leading IoT companies, with an impressive combination of technology offerings through ThingWorx, considerable growth potential, and an expanding ecosystem of reputable customers and partners,” said Dan Shey, Managing Director and Vice President, ABI Research.
Kepware Technologies, a PTC business, announced the release of KEPServerEX Version 6 software for industrial automation data connectivity. A major release of its flagship industrial connectivity platform, Version 6 strengthens Kepware’s core product offering for global corporations requiring increased operational scalability, security, and support. Enhancements include a new method for remote configuration, additional languages that support critical industrial automation markets, and significant updates to the user interface and licensing experience.
“Since the launch of Version 5 in 2009, the need for industrial connectivity has grown tremendously. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to influence industrial architectures, companies require a comprehensive solution that can communicate and analyze a greater volume, variety, and velocity of data to a wider, more diverse set of client applications,” said John Harrington, Vice President of Product Management, Kepware. “We’ve incorporated important usability and architectural enhancements that support these evolving industry standards into KEPServerEX Version 6. Enterprise-ready, IT-friendly, and secure, Version 6 is a direct response to our customers’ expanding and evolving needs.”
KEPServerEX Version 6 features significant enhancements to the core server functionality and user experience that deliver an IoT-friendly industrial connectivity platform, including:
- Programmatic Changes via the Configuration API: The new REST-based API enables off-site users to remotely apply programmatic changes to the configuration via third-party client applications. Now customers can easily configure multiple KEPServerEX instances from their enterprise software, enabling improved security and collaboration between Operations and IT.
- Localization for Japanese and German Markets: Core features and top-tier drivers have been localized to improve the accessibility, productivity, and safety of KEPServerEX for local customers in Japan and Germany as well as global multinationals.
- Native Development of OPC UA Technology: Native development of core OPC UA technology provides improved performance, enhanced diagnostics, and a solid foundation for continued OPC UA functionality enhancements.
- Streamlined Licensing: Updates to KEPServerEX, the License Utility, and My Kepware improve the user experience and simplify license management—providing customers with more streamlined tools to deploy, manage, and update their servers.
- Improved User Interface (UI): An enhanced user interface streamlines project setup and deployment, enabling more effective and efficient interactions with KEPServerEX. The updates also promote a safe user experience, enable increased productivity, and improve accessibility.
- Robust Security: Now included as a complimentary core server component, the Security Policies advanced plug-in complements an industrial defense-in-depth strategy by enabling customers to assign security access permissions on individual objects based on user role.
“With the release of KEPServerEX Version 6, Kepware is able to provide a secure, truly enterprise-ready connectivity layer to the market,” said Tony Paine, Platform President, Kepware. “Our customers will benefit from an easy migration path that maximizes uptime—allowing them to meet productivity demands today while preparing for the requirements of tomorrow.”
KEPServerEX is an industrial connectivity platform that leverages OPC and IT-centric communication protocols to provide a single source of industrial automation data to enterprise applications. The platform offers a library of more than 150 device drivers, client drivers, and advanced plug-ins—enabling connectivity to thousands of devices and other data sources.
On Tuesday April 26 of the Hannover Fair, Dell and Intel gathered thought leaders from about ten partners into a “Think Tank.” We met in a conference room in the middle of the FairGrounds and discussed the Internet of Things for a solid two hours. It was my privilege to moderate the session.
Present IoT situation is robust
Was IoT relevant to each company or organization represented? As each person introduced himself and his company, it was clear that every company was deep into understanding what IoT meant for their business and for their customers. Or, as I stated, “I guess we can’t generate any debate on whether IoT is relevant, so we can move on to considering why anyone cares about IoT in manufacturing business.”
You can tell by some of the pictures that even though most of us were wearing conservative dark jackets each was passionate about the impact of IoT in our business. As we discussed the business drivers, we began with how connectivity enables this entire area. New database technologies were discussed.
The consensus of opinions focused on how IoT is a disruptive element in today’s manufacturing climate. Several noted that we can now build new models of doing business. The people in the room were each in their own domain working on models that disrupt what they’ve been doing and pointing toward new benefits for customers.
Organizational IT Challenges remain
But all is not sanguine in IoT land. Customers are confused about what the Internet of Things is. There are so many names and it comes in so many flavors that customers are beyond trying to figure it out on their own. Members of the panel agreed that it is incumbent upon them and their companies to be able to articulate the Internet of Things clearly and coherently to the market.
The problem of bringing the IT group and the OT group together into some form of meaningful collaboration, and even respect, has been discussed for probably 20 years. Yet, this predominantly European group identified IT/OT convergence and the need for collaboration as a key challenge facing IoT implementation. This group of technology suppliers and integrators acknowledged that in many of their customer’s sites, their meetings often are the first that bring the two groups together in the same room discussing a common problem. More of the same is needed.
Customers and suppliers face the challenge of identifying opportunities where IoT will be a benefit to operations and business. This will require collaboration among many partners and groups.
The challenge “elephant in the room” was security. The topic was brought up gingerly, and no solutions were proposed other than security measures already in place. In other words, we probably need to continue to work on this topic.
Not unlike implementing other manufacturing IT projects, panelists noted the need for customers to rationalize their operations and understand architectures before beginning a comprehensive IoT strategy.
IoT in the future
What about the future of IoT and manufacturing? Some threw out ideas such as wearables and augmented reality (AR). I’ve been enchanted with the Silicon Valley use of bots—from Siri and Cortana to notifications. Panelists jumped all over the idea of bots. This technology is seen as the hot thing for the near-term future.
Dr. Valentijn De Leeuw, Vice President and analyst at the ARC Advisory Group, brought up an initiative in the European Union—Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation.
“The Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) was initiated by the European Commission in order to develop and support the dialogue and interaction among the Internet of Things (IoT) various players in Europe. The overall goal of the AlOTI is the creation of a dynamic European IoT ecosystem to unleash the potentials of the IoT. This ecosystem is going to build on the work of the IoT Research Cluster (IERC) and spill over innovation across industries and business sectors of IoT transforming ideas into solutions and business models. The Alliance will also assist the European Commission in the preparation of future IoT research as well as innovation and standardisation policies.”
The US government, by the way, under the Obama administration has begun a few organizations working on digital manufacturing and smart manufacturing. I haven’t seen an equivalent of this one. Please point one to me if you know it.
Dell / Partner Ecosystem
Dell holds these think tanks in a number of areas to foster networking and collaboration among its various partners. I’m sure some companies do something similar behind closed doors. Dell records theirs for public consumption, also.
From the Dell point of view one of the main take aways identified was the need to collaborate across a partner ecosystem of vendors and service providers to address customers’ appetite for more efficient and higher quality solutions. Customer centricity and customization of solutions was another point that received general agreement. The group also identified data utilization, edge analytics, standardization and workforce changes as opportunities for collaboration within the full ecosystem of IoT solutions partners.
The future is already here. As this market continues to evolve, staying on top of collaboration opportunities for advancements in IIoT, smart manufacturing and industry 4.0 and collaboration is key. The group agreed that better analytics will provide greater visibility to new revenue streams.
One last comment of mine regarding edge analytics. There was often an unstated assumption about the value Dell brings to the table with its IoT solutions. Not only is the IoT Gateway an adaptation of its PC technology, but Dell also brings such extras as embedded analytics and applications not to mention bringing to larger partners its global service and support network.
Participants include representatives from: · Azeti · Dell · Intel · Knapp · Kepware Microsoft · MPDV Mikrolab · OSIsoft · Relayr · SAP · The Manufacturing Connection, Gary Mintchell (MODERATOR)
Several of the participants recorded interviews. I’ve linked to several here.
Here are summaries:
Ole Borgbjerg, Kepware, “IT and OT have different roles and agendas, get inside that and talk to both, we are getting more IT experience, we are company working on factory floor, but need to take benefit of devices on the edge. It will take some time to take off. curious but holding back but will take off.”
Oliver Niedung, Microsoft, “We operate in all areas of the integration, hybrid solutions, devices/software, cloud subsystems. Dell is a valued partner.”
Joseph Brunner, Relayr, “There exists a skills gap. We need to make abusiness case (save money or make money). We need hardware providers to unleash data, middleware company like us to mix and send up to business. It’s an infrastructure sale, and a strategic decision changing the way companies do business.”
Tim Kaufman, SAP, “Importance is in getting end-to-end data. There are configuration issues, we need more plug-and-play. Potential exists in the horizontal supply chain including track and trace.”
Dirk Sommerfeld, Azeti, “Need to bring many different companies together for project. We found out that many companies are working on IoT from many different directions.”
Dell, Fog IoT Alliance
I’ve been writing about Dell’s entrance into the manufacturing/industrial space since last October. It introduced its Internet of Things products, Edge Gateway, at Dell World. Recently its embedded computing line was announced. (Disclaimer: Dell is a client.) Several people wrote to me after that last announcement to say something like, “About time.”
Internet of Things Partners
Further expanding its efforts, Dell is launching the Dell IoT Solutions Partner Program for the advancement of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and solutions. The program builds an ecosystem of partners to help customers navigate the fragmented IoT landscape and identify the right technologies to develop their IoT solutions. Dell will offer participating partners access to its robust and reliable product portfolio, world-class support and increased opportunities for incremental business growth.
The program will combine a global, multi-tiered (Executive, Associate, Registered) network of experienced Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) with Dell’s broad portfolio of IoT assets, including purpose-built intelligent gateways, embedded PCs, security and manageability tools, data center and cloud infrastructure, and data integration and analytics software like Boomi and Statistica. These assets will help organizations develop, deploy and maintain leading-edge IoT solutions.
“Dell believes that opportunities increase when you help others win,” said Andy Rhodes, executive director, Commercial IoT Solutions, Dell. “We are passionate about collaborating with this strong group of companies and believe ISVs are critical in building the bridge between the exciting industry potential of IoT and profitable market reality.”
Dell works with Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) organizations to create a unifying IoT strategy for bridging their differing business approaches. The IoT Partner Program will include companies across a wide range of industries that further strengthen Dell’s expertise in areas such as industrial and building automation and transportation. It launches with more than 25 partners including GE, SAP, Software AG, Microsoft, OSIsoft and others, many of which are utilizing the Dell Edge Gateway 5000 Series to power their own IoT solutions. Dell also continues to build relationships with systems integrators (SIs) with vertical expertise and deployment scale.
Additional partners include Azeti, Blue Pillar, Datawatch, Eigen Innovations, Flowthings, Flutura, GE, Kepware, Lynx Software, Microsoft Azure, OSIsoft, Relayr, SAP, Software AG, and Thingworx.
Creating use case blueprints is one of the many ways Dell is working with partners to help customers speed up their Internet of Things projects and make sense of the vast ISV landscape. Dell, Kepware, and Software AG are collaborating to develop IoT enabled predictive maintenance models utilizing distributed analytics to address the industry’s biggest operational challenges, such as unplanned downtime, overall equipment effectiveness, maintenance cost and return on assets.
Specifically looking at Kepware’s role with the Partner Program and the Predictive Maintenance model, I had the opportunity to interview Eric Dellinger, Kepware’s IoT manager. We’ve met several times, most recently at the Industry of Things conference in San Diego last February. We caught up by phone this time.
Dellinger told me he had been talking with Dell for six or seven months about various partnership and collaboration opportunities. “One great benefit,” he said, “is getting access to hardware and being part of marketing initiatives. Another great thing with program has been ease of working with them. Sometimes companies hold you at more of an arm’s length. Dell is dealing in a more strategic manner. For example, our work with Dell on the predictive maintenance model where it outlines how to go to market. And it shows how various vendors can go together to create a solution. This is a really nice approach to collaborate on an initiative.”
There are other benefits to Dell’s approach such as sharing go-to-market strategies, leveraging training, and leveraging each other’s channel, continued Dellinger. “Then there is what it looks like to embed a solution in the IoT box. Maybe we can include ThingWorx (another PTC company) app development platform. Or we can go off-the-shelf with Software AG and SAP on a solution. This open program offers a way of thinking from customer’s perspective, bringing innovative solutions. There is less pushing products specifically and more on finding solutions.”
Part of joining the partner program is certifying products run on the platform. Dellinger said, “So on the certification process, we installed our product on the Dell IoT Gateway connecting to a Rockwell Automation PLC using the MQTT protocol to send data to the cloud and had it up and running in 10 minutes.
Following on to last week’s quick post of PTC’s Internet of Things acquisition of Kepware, I’ve gone a little deeper into the build up to and the strategy of the acquisition.
First off, the Internet of Things is a strategy. It isn’t a “thing.” PTC management seems to “get it.” As you’ll read further down, PTC is not pursuing a simple bolt-on strategy such as what several companies have come to me to help justify. This appears to be a serious attempt to assemble a complete ecosystem / platform going beyond a simple IoT play to offer a business solution to customers.
Warning note. PTC is acquiring software companies and attempting to blend their technologies into a coherent whole. We’ve witnessed many of these seemingly simple processes go south quickly. But PTC has done this before in its core market, then again in the services market. I have confidence the company will show the way in a complete solution.
PTC is paying a large premium for Kepware–Up to $120 million for a company with about $20 million in annual sales. It obviously thinks there is a tremendous upside to its IoT business.
From the press release: PTC announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Kepware, a software development company that provides communications connectivity to industrial automation environments, for approximately $100 million, plus up to an additional $18 million based on achievement of certain strategic initiatives and financial results. The acquisition will enhance PTC’s portfolio of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, and accelerate the company’s entry into the factory setting and Industrial IoT (IIoT).
Founded in 1995 and located in Portland, Maine, Kepware serves customers in more than 120 countries in such industries as manufacturing, oil and gas, building automation, and power and utilities. The company’s flagship product, KEPServerEX, connects disparate devices and control systems, providing users with a single source of industrial data.
Kepware’s KEPServerEX will become a strategic component of the PTC ThingWorx IoT technology platform. Once the companies’ products are integrated, machine data will be able to be aggregated into the PTC ThingWorx platform, integrated with a wide array of internal and external information, and then automatically analyzed using ThingWorx machine learning capabilities. The integration will allow organizations to gain enterprise-wide insight and to proactively optimize mission-critical processes – enabling them to improve operational performance, quality, and time to market.
In its June 2015 research report, entitled The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype, the McKinsey Global Institute identified the factory as one of the largest sources of potential value to be realized from the adoption of the Internet of Things. PTC has established a dedicated business segment and has formed a strategic alliance with GE to pursue this brilliant factory opportunity. The acquisition of Kepware is intended to complement the alliance with GE.
Kepware and PTC share many common customers that will be able to realize value from the acquisition. Industrial environments already leveraging Kepware technology will be able to benefit from the added breadth of capabilities available in the PTC ThingWorx IoT technology platform. The acquisition of Kepware will also provide a fast-to-value connectivity option for PTC customers to gain visibility into data from a vast range of industrial controls and production equipment, enabling them to kick-start their smart, connected factory initiatives.
“PTC is committed to helping manufacturers, infrastructure operators, and others realize the enormous value inherent in the Internet of Things,” said Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO, PTC. “With this acquisition, we will gain entry into heterogeneous factory and operating environments with robust technology, an impressive list of customers, and a high-quality, profitable company with incredibly talented employees.”
“Kepware and PTC share a common vision of helping organizations realize the potential of the Industrial Internet of Things,” said, Tony Paine, CEO, Kepware. “We believe this acquisition will benefit our customers, partners, and employees – and ultimately drive software innovation for industrial automation markets. We are excited for the opportunity to become part of PTC.”
Over the past 12 months, privately-held Kepware generated approximately $20 million in revenue. PTC expects to draw on its credit facility to finance this transaction and expects Kepware to be neutral to its FY’16 non-GAAP EPS. The transaction is expected to close in early 2016, subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval. PTC intends to maintain the Kepware partner ecosystem and to continue developing and enhancing the Kepware technology, once acquired.
PTC Internet of Things Acquisitions
The acquisition of ThingWorx positions PTC as a major player in the emerging Internet of Things era.
The acquisition of Axeda allows PTC to leverage its core IoT technology to enable companies to establish secure connectivity and remotely monitor and manage a wide range of machines, sensors, and devices.
The acquisition of ColdLight’s Neuron automated predictive analytics platform will enrich PTC’s technology portfolio and extend PTC’s position as a leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) market.
GE and PTC announced that the two companies are partnering to deliver an innovative manufacturing solution that will be available within GE’s Brilliant Manufacturing Suite. This new GE-branded manufacturing solution leverages the capabilities of PTC’s ThingWorx Industrial Internet of Things application enablement environment. The result is an industry-hardened solution that features flexible dashboards and powerful data analytics integrated with GE’s software capabilities on the manufacturing plant floor.
ThingWorx IoT Platform
- ThingWorx Composer
ThingWorx Composer is an end-to-end application modeling environment designed to help you easily build the unique applications of today’s connected world. ThingWorx Composer makes it easy to model the things, business logic, visualization, data storage, collaboration, and security required for a connected application.
- Codeless Mashup Builder
ThingWorx “drag and drop” Mashup Builder empowers developers and business users to rapidly create rich, interactive applications, real-time dashboards, collaborative workspaces, and mobile interfaces without the need for coding. This next-generation application builder reduces development time and produces high quality, scalable, smart connected applications which allows companies to accelerate the pace at which they can deliver value-add solutions, resulting in greater market share against new and existing competitors.
- Actionable, Correlated Data from People, Systems and Things
ThingWorx is the only platform that can store and correlate data from three dimensions: people, systems, and connected things. This capability allows companies to make business sense of the massive amounts of data from those three dimensions – making the data useful and actionable. The platform supports scale requirements for millions of devices, and provides connectivity, storage, analysis, execution, and collaboration capabilities required for applications in today’s connected world. It also features a data collection engine that provides unified, semantic storage for time-series, structured, and social data at rates 10X faster than traditional relational databases.
- Search-Based Intelligence
ThingWorx SQUEAL (Search, Query, and Analysis) brings search to the world of smart connected devices and distributed data. With ThingWorx SQUEAL’s interactive search capabilities, users can now correlate data that delivers answers to key business questions. Pertinent and related collaboration data, line-of-business system records, and equipment data get returned in a single search, speeding problem resolution and enabling innovation.
ThingWorx dynamically and virtually brings together people, systems, and connected equipment, and utilizes live collaboration sessions that help individuals or teams solve problems faster. The ThingWorx data store becomes the basis of context aware collaboration and interaction among the systems users, further enhancing its value. Additionally, the tribal knowledge exposed during the process is automatically captured and indexed for use in future troubleshooting activities.
- Flexible Connectivity Options
ThingWorx “inclusive” connectivity strategy maximizes market opportunity and minimizes integration efforts. ThingWorx supports connectivity to devices via several methods, including 3rd party device clouds, direct network connections, Open APIs, and AlwaysOn connectivity.
KEPServerEX is a communications platform that provides a single source of industrial automation data to all of applications. The platform design allows users to connect, manage, monitor, and control diverse automation devices and software applications through one intuitive user interface.
KEPServerEX leverages OPC (the automation industry’s standard for interoperability) and IT-centric communication protocols (such as SNMP, ODBC, and web services) to provide users with a single source for industrial data. Designed around the four product pillars of Proven Interoperability, Centralized Communications, On-Demand Scalability, and Industrial Strength, KEPServerEX is developed and tested to meet our customers’ performance, reliability, and ease-of-use requirements.
KEPServerEX provides critical technical features that are centralized around accessibility, aggregation, optimization, connectivity, security, and diagnostics.
OPC is the leading standard for industrial automation connectivity. KEPServerEX supports the OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) specification and many of the OPC Classic specifications, including OPC Data Access (OPC DA), OPC Alarms and Events (OPC AE), and OPC Historical Data Access (OPC HDA).
KEPServerEX has preferred access to leading automation software, including iFIX by GE Intelligent Platforms (NIO) and InTouch by Wonderware (SuiteLink/FastDDE). KEPServerEX also supports preferred access to Oracle MES and MOC solutions through their proprietary API.
KEPServerEX supports multiple interfaces for integration with IT applications, including ODBC for logging information to a database and SNMP for providing information to a Network Management System (NMS). With the advent of IoT and Big Data applications, KEPServerEX now includes the ability to communicate with Splunk software and cloud services via the Industrial Data Forwarder for Splunk.
With the IoT Gateway, KEPServerEX can seamlessly stream real-time industrial control data directly into Big Data and analytic software for Business Intelligence and Operational Excellence. Its customizable data format supports most MQTT and REST applications—enabling users to choose the vendors and communication methodologies right for their system.
Some applications require information to be made available from a file or database. This information is typically exported at a predefined rate and includes both current and historical data. KEPServerEX has the ability to export historical Electronic Flow Measurement (EFM) data (via the EFM Exporter plug-in) or historical trend data (via supported drivers) to files and/or databases.
KEPServerEX is a communications platform that can support connections to thousands of data sources and provide information to hundreds of applications. The platform design simplifies the configuration of the connected applications by providing a single point of entry to all information. KEPServerEX also enables troubleshooting and issue diagnosis, provides control to the access of information based on user roles, and the ability to restrict the frequency of communications over bandwidth-limited telemetry-based environments.
KEPServerEX provides a unified configuration for managing connectivity to any data source. Anything can be added, configured, or deleted while the server is on-line and operational. Users can configure projects manually using a step-by-step wizard or programmatically through the export and import of XML and CSV files.
Data Storage and Retention
KEPServerEX is capable of archiving the real-time data it collects to local storage. By leveraging the Local Historian plug-in, applications can access this historical data (via OPC HDA) for future analysis. KEPServerEX can also store information in any ODBC-compliant database using the DataLogger plug-in, which has a store-and-forward capability for when a database is unreachable or unable to process the information fast enough.
Data Conditioning and Reduction
In addition to providing raw values to connected applications, KEPServerEX can perform linear or square root scaling, perform basic arithmetic expressions, or apply deadband calculations on raw data and provide its aggregate. This provides minimal bandwidth and resource utilization by providing only the most critical updates.
KEPServerEX is used in critical applications where highly-reliable systems are required for maximum uptime. It includes the ability to define redundant network paths, primary and secondary data sources, and applicable failover criteria.
In large networks that have many devices and applications requiring information, flexible control is necessary to allow for customized load-balancing of data collection and information flow. KEPServerEX provides tools to schedule the frequency of communications and throttle the demand across the network.
KEPServerEX optimizes communications with devices by aggregating identical requests from different applications whenever possible. Multiple demands on data can be batched together into the fewest requests possible. These optimizations are unique to each protocol, and are designed to reduce network overhead and device processing.
In a typical industrial automation network, devices and controllers must communicate with one another even if they are not from the same manufacturer or do not support the same protocol. KEPServerEX provides the ability to establish links between data values in different data sources, allowing Machine-to- Machine (M2M) communications as close to the device as possible.
KEPServerEX offers the broadest range of drivers available, supporting devices across various verticals within the Industrial Automation Industry. While most drivers act as masters that initiate requests, there are many drivers that can emulate a device where communications are driven by a controller. KEPServerEX drivers also support a variety of wired and wireless network mediums for Ethernet, serial, and proprietary networks. Although most drivers connect directly with hardware devices, some are designed to connect with other applications—such as databases, custom software applications, or other OPC servers.
Industrial automation equipment can be deployed in a dry and heated factory, but it can also be installed inside a vehicle, on a remote pipeline, or in a well or pump station. In these remote environments, there are often a variety of telemetry solutions in use like cellular, radio, or satellite modems. KEPServerEX supports these telemetry configurations and provides additional ways to optimize communications through virtual networks, timing parameters, device demotion, and by scheduling communications across devices.
As automation networks have grown from ten controllers to thousands of controllers, tools that aid and accelerate deployment are critical to a solution’s success. KEPServerEX provides many tools that speed the deployment of new devices, including Automatic Tag Generation (ATG) and Device Discovery (when supported by the device and communication protocols). Users can also export, manipulate, and import an XML project file to programmatically define the configuration.
As systems are configured, components must be implemented and tested before the entire system becomes available. KEPServerEX allows any data source to be placed into simulation mode prior to deployment. In addition, the Memory Based driver can be configured to create a range of static and dynamic data points. The Advanced Simulator driver can leverage a database and its contents to drive application-specific simulation data into connected applications.
Access to the KEPServerEX configuration can be restricted through the User Manager. This tool allows the administrator to define user groups and users with restricted access to certain project configuration tasks, and also provides the ability to disconnect client applications.
There are various tools available within KEPServerEX to control user access to the server, data source, or data values. The Security Policies plug-in limits access based on OPC UA user credentials while supporting default handling for anonymous users (both OPC UA and other client interfaces). The ability to dynamically address information can be disabled, limiting user access to tags defined within the project. KEPServerEX supports a number of secure client standards including SNMP (v3 security), OPC UA, and OPC DA (DCOM security) to further restrict access to the server, as well as a number of secure device protocols to meet the requirements of DNP3, SNMP, and OPC UA data sources. Secure data tunnels can be configured by leveraging multiple KEPServerEX instances at remote endpoints to pass data through firewalls and meet authentication and encryption requirements across the Internet.
OPC Diagnostics provide a real-time and historical view of OPC events between any OPC client and the server, including method calls made by the client or callbacks made by the server. The ability to view actual communications and responses is invaluable when troubleshooting client accessibility. The diagnostics tools within KEPServerEX greatly speed deployment and reduce downtime.
Communication Diagnostics provide real-time capturing of the protocol frames transferred between the server and any device, as well as indications on the driver’s performance. All read and write operations can be viewed or tracked directly in an OPC client application using built-in diagnostics tags. This is useful when modifying key communication parameter settings (such as baud rate, parity, or Device IDs), because corrections are immediately visible.
Third-Party Diagnostics Integration
Diagnostics information can be viewed within KEPServerEX and by third-party applications. Diagnostics information is provided through system-defined tags and accessible to the same clients connecting to the data sources. KEPServerEX logs event information, which is accessible within the configuration tool or to any application that supports the OPC Alarms and Events specification.