Open Source Faces Off Versus Proprietary Software

Open Source Faces Off Versus Proprietary Software

Two Polish software developers engage in conversation weekly on The Podcast. One wrote the original version of Nozbe the Getting Things Done app I use. Michael Sliwinski talked of using open source software to help him write his app and start his company. His Apple developer Radek Pietruszewski in episode 157 discussed how they wrote a piece of database code they dubbed WatermelonDB and released it into open source on GitHub.

I talk about the benefits of open source as an introduction to things I gleaned from last week’s annual trip to the Sacramento, CA area and the Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference. Community was the operative word as the gathering of several hundred (I never heard an exact count, but the rumor was there were more than 600) integrators and users crowded into the Harris Center in Folsom for conversation, training, and updates.

On a side note, I’ve been unusually swamped with my annual project of assigning referees to high school and US Soccer youth contests. It seems as if half of the preliminary work I put in assigning before the season were washed away in an unusually wet late summer. Rescheduling is hell. Referees are tired of hearing from me. But I have only 2.5 weeks left in the high school season and two weeks beyond that will close the club season. Then I take a six-month break. Therefore, my energy level for writing has been sapped and the frequency here and on my podcast have suffered.

Founder and CEO Steve Hechtman betrayed his usual laid back demeanor talking about company growth and especially the latest release—Ignition 8—to be released in a few months. I have few details, but developers solved many platform problems caused by integrators pushing the envelop of HMI SCADA software.

Chief Strategy Officer Don Pearson told how the company has always embodied the OT/IT convergence meme with Hechtman coming from an OT background as an integrator and co-developers and now co-directors of software engineering Carl Gould and Colby Clegg were trained in IT technologies.

Pearson began the discussion of open source that continued throughout the conference. While Inductive Automation has always been a proponent of open standards—it still fully supports OPC UA, for example—it is also an open source user and contributor. The technologies strongly promoted at the conference were MQTT (a transport protocol) and Sparkplug (an information carrier in this case used to communicate Ignition tag information from source to consumer). Developer Cirrus Link has placed Sparkplug in the open source Eclipse Foundation.

Speakers talked with assurance about open source, but there was a thread of defensiveness in the discussion, too. Pearson quoted Maeterlinck, “At every crossroad on the way that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.” Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich proclaimed, “Software is eating the world, and open source is eating software.”

I like both open source and open standards. They both have propelled industry enabling innovation and limiting lock-in. I remember downloading the first Java JDK in the 90s and trying out the eclipse platform in early 2002. All pretty cool stuff. The Inductive Automation adoption of open source is refreshing in the industry.

Here are a few bullet points from the Carl-Colby show introducing Ignition 8:

  • Building on the past, but with a new beginning
  • New platform:
  • Revamped tag system to reduce memory overload
  • New scripting app
  • Subscription and data model
  • Extensibility
  • Dynamic writable UDT parameters
  • Deployment architecture, true project inheritance
  • Project resource management
  • Ignition perspective, new mobile module, built up from ground new

I really should add that while Ignition is very good software, most of the people at the conference told me that they were enticed into the system by the pricing. From the beginning, Inductive Automation decided to upset the software pricing model prevalent in the industry. It is a growing company…

Sepasoft

Inductive had acquired an MES company, integrated with Ignition, and has now spun it off into a separate company run by Tom Hechtman, brother to Steve. Its modular software includes many typical MES applications such as track and trace, workflow, OEE, recipe management, and more. Hechtman discussed a Lean Six Sigma tool kit. He noted the staff has doubled in the nine years since acquisition. It is an ISA 95 and B2MML solution. And also now a MESA International member.

Other notes from the conference

Table top exhibits from the conference sponsors were always packed with curious engineers seeking solutions.

Opto 22’s VP Marketing Benson Hougland told me they can’t build the Groov EPIC PLC fast enough for demand. That product combined with Ignition is a powerful control and SCADA platform—as sales attest.

Albert Rooyakkers, founder/CEO of Bedrock Automation told me that his sub-$1000 controller is selling well. Bedrock specializes in secure and hardened controllers—ideal for power, pipeline, and other such applications. He told me, “Secure SCADA with Ignition is coming.” His key word is secure.

Avnu Alliance and TSN Developments at Hannover Messe

Avnu Alliance and TSN Developments at Hannover Messe

Hannover Messe continues to reflect the trend of companies joining alliances to develop and promote standards and interoperability. While I did not have an interview with the Avnu Alliance while I was in Hannover, I talked with some members and obtained other information. Avnu Alliance promotes adoption of the Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) extension to Ethernet.

Specifically, Avnu Alliance is a community creating an interoperable ecosystem of low-latency, time-synchronized, highly reliable networked devices using open standards. Avnu creates comprehensive certification programs to ensure interoperability of networked devices. The foundational technology enables deterministic synchronized networking based on IEEE Audio Video Bridging (AVB) / Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) base standards. The Alliance, in conjunction with other complimentary standards bodies and alliances, provides a united network foundation for use in professional AV, automotive, industrial control and consumer segments.

The adoption pace of TSN from 2017 to 2018 was amazing.

I always drop by the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) area at Hannover and check out the TSN Testbed for Flexible Manufacturing. The testbed was developed with two major goals – to show TSN’s readiness to accelerate the marketplace; and to show the business value of TSN in converged, deterministic IIoT networks. Momentum is increasing for the testbed, with the IIC hosting its 10th plugfest in an 18-month timeframe at the Bosch Rexroth facility in Frankfurt, Germany and its 9th plugfest, which was held in Austin, TX in February at National Instruments (NI) headquarters following a joint workshop on interoperability with Avnu Alliance. The TSN Testbed recently integrated test tools from Avnu Alliance members, Calnex, Ixia and Spirent into plugfest activities, and demonstrated interoperability of TSN devices from more than 25 companies performing real-time automation and control automation functions over TSN.

Any Avnu Alliance member is welcome to join the IIC TSN Testbed or to participate in a plugfest. Upcoming plugfests will be held in Austin, TX from June 26-29, 2018 and in Stuttgart from July 24-27, 2018.

The Edge Computing Consortium (ECC) along with members and Avnu Alliance, hosted a press conference to announce new developments surrounding the newly created OPC UA TSN testbed. The testbed demonstrates six major IIoT scenarios mimicking processes found in smart manufacturing settings and utilizing products across different TSN vendors. Avnu Alliance is a key partner supporting the development of the testbed with the ECC in the shared goal of enabling manufacturers to test their products for interoperability and conduct trials of real-world systems as an early check for problems.

Tom Weingartner, Avnu Alliance member and Analog Devices’ marketing director for Deterministic Ethernet Technology Group, represented the Alliance at an announcement ceremony.

Paul Didier, Avnu Alliance member and IoT solutions architect, Cisco delivered a talk at the Industrie 4.0 meet the Industrial Internet Forum, in a presentation titled “Time Sensitive Networks – Where does the technology stand and what to expect”. He will provide an update on TSN and how manufacturers, alliances and liaison groups are working together to advance the technology and its implementation in the IIoT.

Paul will present an additional lecture for the Forum on “Modernizing Your Industrial Manufacturing Network”. The presentation will follow the findings coming out of the IIC TSN Testbed and its capabilities, including information on how manufacturing automation and control infrastructure vendors and key decision-makers can leverage TSN for a variety of operational benefits, including increased connectivity between devices and the ability to extract and analyze valuable information through interconnectivity.

“HANNOVER continues to be a key industry event for both Avnu Alliance members and liaison groups that we work with to educate and increase awareness of TSN as a solution for the growing IIoT,” said Todd Walter, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Leader and Chief Marketing Manager at NI. “Whether through the developments coming from the TSN testbeds, speaking engagements or product demonstrations, our members and partners are committed to creating an interoperable TSN network that gives all industrial devices a more streamlined path to participating in the TSN ecosystem.

Digital Transformation Leads To Digital Reinvention

Digital Transformation Leads To Digital Reinvention

“Digital Transformation is so last year. While many legacy companies around the world are still grappling with “transforming” their digital ecosystems, the true leaders are already on to next hot topic: Digital Transformation 2.0. We’ll call it ‘Digital Reinvention.’ ” Media relations agencies, aka PR agencies, must be under constant pressure to get messages published however they can. I’m flooded with teasers such as this one. And few, if any, take the time to know if their target is a good place for the news. It’s almost like there is no strategy other than send out as many promos as possible and hope some land.

Most I just delete. Then I get the inevitable follow up, when are you going to run my news (that probably doesn’t apply to your coverage but I need numbers)?

I bit on this one. Is Digital Reinvention an attempt to coin a new marketing phrase? Is it a real thing with a real definition? Dr. Google told me that the phrase has been around for several years, but it has not caught on. Maybe Rick Bullotta will catch on with Industry 4.5? (Search on LinkedIn)

The press release introduced me to Alfresco co-founder John Newton. He was quoted, “the whole notion of infinite computing, infinite storage, and resilience is just completely different.” Those changes are having a profound impact on how companies think about their future. Cloud adoption is happening at the speed of light as companies embrace the idea that they are no longer limited by server space. Responsive design and responsive applications are driving not just apps, but the entire business model. Companies like Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit and the behemoth, Amazon, are taking those words to heart and constantly reinventing each day.

So, I talked with Newton. He mentioned they had done a survey on what companies were achieving with Digital Transformation, how fast they were growing—innovative, size, etc. That formed the foundation for his thoughts. He told me to look at platform, design, and business operations. How open are they to connecting to customers and suppliers. Innovators looked at Digital Transformation not as technology only but also as business operations stretching to customers and supply chain.

Newton called out ‘design thinking’ that looks from the users point of view to make technology human. Another type of today’s thinking is ‘open’—open source, open standards, open architecture. “This will trump all other forms. It is naturally attractive to customers. The more profound is platform thinking. This is dominating in the stock market. Five of the top 10 value companies are platform plays, including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon. They have a long term relationship with customers. In manufacturing think after-service care, maintenance and service relationships. Product is almost a loss leader. Digital twin is part of the platform play, for example, using it to predict failures.

Twenty-five minutes into the conversation, Newton had not tried to sell me on Alfresco. I had looked him up and noted he had founded Documentuum before founding Alfresco. So, I had to ask. Always need to learn about new companies. “We help create and manage documents and processes,” he told me. “We have a different way of thinking—open, open source, architecture, cloud friendly, AWS templates, manage in a matter of minutes.” Sounds interesting. All of my favorite concepts.

Control and Networking Make Automation News

Control and Networking Make Automation News

Here is some news regarding control and networking. Bedrock Automation is a recent entrant into the control and automation space, while Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) holds great potential to be a disruptive force.

Control

I seldom write about automation company “wins”, but this one shows some direction for a new company. Bedrock Automation is a young automation company that has built a new control platform from the ground up for not only the latest in control but also for security.

My curiosity has focused on where it would find a market. I don’t see it displacing Rockwell Automation and Siemens any time soon, but the platform is robust and adaptable. This looks like a perfect application.

Pinnacle Midstream, a Houston-based supplier of storage and processing services for the oil and gas industry, has selected the Bedrock control system as the automation platform for its crude oil receipt and delivery points. The Bedrock system will coordinate flow of product from partners, through the Pinnacle processing facilities and onto refiners and shippers. Pinnacle chose Bedrock system for its scalability, ease of engineering, ruggedness, cost efficiencies and intrinsic cyber security.

“We are expanding to the meet the growing need for midstream services and need a secure way to centralize control of flow amongst our facilities. The Bedrock system provides an economical solution in a small, easy-to-implement system that can coordinate edge control today, while also scaling easily and economically to the full DCS functionality we expect to need in the future. We also liked the rugged Bedrock housing, which will resist the dust that gets into everything around here,” said Mike Hillerman, VP of Engineering and Operations for Pinnacle Midstream.

Networking

Avnu Alliance, the industry consortium driving open standards-based deterministic networking through certification, is co-hosting the 2017 Time Sensitive Networks and Applications (TSN/A) Conference with WEKA FACHMEDIEN on September 20-21 at the Mövenpick Hotel Stuttgart Airport in Germany.

The TSN/A Conference is a combination of the “TSNA Conference” and the “Industrial Ethernet TSN Kongress” and offers attendees insights into Time-Sensitive Networks and usage in applications for Automotive, Industrial, Professional Audio/Video and more. The conference spans two days of technical sessions, panel discussions, vendor demonstrations, and participant networking.

“We are excited to bring together experts and thought leaders from around the world to the TSN/A Conference in Germany this year” said Kevin Stanton, Avnu Alliance Chairman, who will also deliver a conference presentation on Time Synchronization on Wired and Wireless Infrastructure. “It’s been a pleasure to join forces with WEKA FACHMEDIEN as the speakers present both the technology of TSN and its implications across our industries.”

On Wednesday, September 20, the first day of the conference, programming will feature two keynotes from Avnu Alliance members. Wolfgang Schenk of Hirschmann Automation and Control will present on “Time-Sensitive Networking: Enabling Technology for the Automation Model of the Future,” analyzing the transformation of the automation pyramid towards an automation pillar and discussing why TSN is the enabling technology for this transformation. Avnu Alliance Member BMW representative Dr. Kirsten Matheus will give a keynote on the “Use of AVB and TSN in the Automotive Industry.” Specifically, the presentation will describe the results of two workshops that Avnu Alliance held to gauge the need in the automotive industry for different Audio Video Bridging (AVB)/TSN functions.

I am happy to see momentum building for the technology. Can’t wait to see applications.

OPC Foundation Also Promotes the Open Process Automation Forum

OPC Foundation Also Promotes the Open Process Automation Forum

Interoperability spurs innovation. After years of technological consolidation in the process automation industry with “distributed control systems” becoming ever more centralized, we are witnessing a resurgence of distributed, along with open and interoperable.

Open Process Automation Forum

Yesterday I discussed Foxboro promoting the Open Process Automation Forum. Today, I can report that the OPC Foundation has also formally joined the forum. It fits given that OPC UA is one of the key standards that the OPAF will need for its interoperable system to work.

The OPC Foundation has developed a whitepaper, an introspective on process automation, elaborating on the vision of OPC UA and why the OPC Foundation is engaging in The Open Process Automation Forum.

The OPC Foundation vision includes the key element of information modeling, providing a foundation for other standards organizations to directly plug-in their data/information models into OPC UA.

OPC UA Seminar Tour

Here is a free opportunity to learn about open standards, OPC UA, a chance to meet with leaders in the interoperability field – in one day, in one place. Oh, and at two of those sessions (Milwaukee and Cleveland) one of those leaders will be me!

The seminar is designed for corporate leaders, IT professionals, students and all interested in IT to learn more about open standards, their place in this constantly changing arena of IIot, Industre 4.0, the Cloud and beyond and how this knowledge will benefit their life, their career and their company.

 

This seminar tour will focus on the rich feature set of OPC UA and the unique ways these features are put to use in real applications. By attending these conferences you will:

  • Learn how OPC UA provides Industrial Interoperability for the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0
  • Learn about OPC UA in the world of the IIC, China 2025, Korea Manufacturing Innovation 3.0
  • Hear why end-users are requiring vendors to build OPC UA into their products
  • Get latest update on OPC-UA technology and further roadmap enhancements
  • Learn how active collaborations with other industry organizations are working to revolutionize the transformation of data, providing an infrastructure for the modeling of information
  • Network with industry experts and peers
  • Hear how Microsoft is positioning Azure with OPC UA extensions
  • How to connect your machine to SAP easily and standardized
  • Learn why OPC UA is the one and only recommendation for communication channel for RAMI4.0 – the Reference Architecture Model Industrie 4.0

 

Here are the event details:

 

September 26 – San Diego

September 27 – Santa Clara

September 28 – Seattle

September 29 – Vancouver

October 3 – Minneapolis

October 5 – Toronto

October 9 – Milwaukee

October 11 – Cleveland

 

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