Where’s The Edge with IIoT–Emerson Exchange

Where’s The Edge with IIoT–Emerson Exchange

Presentations abound at Emerson Global Users Exchange. Attendees can choose to take deep technical dives into Emerson products, get overviews and trends of technology and the industry, and even personal development. Yes, there was even a 6 am fitness time with either running or Yoga.

Where’s “The Edge”? Yes, you can use good presentation skills for career success. Building Your Personal Brand through Digital Transformation–or social media an networking. Here’s a recap of the 2019 Emerson Global Users Exchange based upon several sessions I attended led by people I’ve known for a long time–Dave Imming, Mike Boudreaux, and Jim Cahill.

The Secure First Mile–IIoT and the Edge

A panel discussion assembled and led by Emerson’s Director of Connected Plant Mike Boudreaux, discussed Industrial Internet of Things in relation to “Where is the Edge”. The blend of IT and OT on the panel was refreshing and informative. Most instructive was how far each has come toward understanding the entire picture broadening from each’s silos.

Attila Fazekas, ExxonMobil, stated that IoT connects to Level 4 of the Purdue model. He is part of the IT organization taking the view from that side of the divide. He noted that his company tries to have a hard line between the IoT (IT) and control systems, although he admitted that occasionally the line becomes blurred. He was a strong proponent of  IT governance, notes they have a hard line between IoT and control system (although in effect the line sometimes gets a bit smudged).

Peter Zornio, CTO Emerson Automation, relates IoT and Edge to “a giant SCADA system.” He reflects those who come from the plant where intelligent devices are connected to an automation system, which formerly was the single point where data was collected and then passed through. I have talked with Zornio for years. Few people in the industry are as knowledgeable about the plant. He is beginning to adjust to the IT world with which he’s going to have to work in the future. Especially given Emerson’s expanded strategy into digital transformation and “Top Quartile Performance.” He sees security helping drive Edge applications to divide systems providing a firm break between control systems and IT systems.

Jose Valle, CTO Energy/Manufacturing at MIcrosoft, brought another IT view to the panel. For him, The Edge becomes a place for security with a separation of functions. He  also brought an emphasis on provisioning devices through the cloud.

Rich Carpenter, Executive Product Manager, Emerson Automation / Machinery (former CTO of GE Fanuc/GE Intelligent Platforms), discussed a new Edge computer from Emerson (GE). It uses Hypervisor to run RTOS and PLC control on part of chip segmented by firewall from regular PC chip running Linux for IoT functions. Noted that for the latter, they’ve discovered it better to use Node-RED and Python for programming. Congratulations  to Rich for landing at Emerson—he’s another long-time contact. And thanks for mentioning Node-RED.

Overall, the panel expressed concerns about providing security with the IIoT and Edge devices. The best part was Boudreaux’s assembling a panel split evenly with IT and OT and there was no acrimony or “you think this, we think that” nonsense. They are all trying to solve bigger problems than just IT or OT only. Businesses are driving them together to solve “digital transformation” challenges. Good stuff.

Plethora Of Protocols

Plethora Of Protocols

Purdue and Information FlowI’ve spent way too much time on the phone and on GoToMeeting over the past several days. So I let the last post on the hierarchy of the Purdue Model sit and ferment. Thanks for the comments.

Well, I made it sound so simple, didn’t I? I mean, just run a wire around the control system and move data in a non-hierarchical manner to The Cloud. Voila. The Industrial Internet of Things. Devices serving data on the Internet.

Turns out it’s not that simple, is it?

First off, “The Cloud” is actually a data repository (or lots of them) located on a server somewhere and probably within an application of some sort. These applications can be siloed like they mostly are now. Or maybe they share data in a federated manner—the trend of the future.

To accomplish that federation will require standardized ways of describing devices, data, and the metadata. I’ll have more to say about that later relative to some white papers I’m writing for MIMOSA and The OpenO&M Initiative.

Typically data is carried by protocols. OPC (and its latest iteration OPC UA) has been popular in control to HMI applications—and more. Other Internet of Things protocols include XMPP, MQTT, AMQP. Maybe some use JSON. You may have heard of SOAP and RESTful.

Will we live with a multiplicity of protocols? Can we? Will some dominant supplier force a standard?

Check out these recent blogs and articles:

GE Blog – Industrial Internet Protocol Wars

FastCompany, Why the Internet of Things Might Never Speak A Common Language

Inductive Automation Webinar — MQTT the only control protocol you need

OPC – Reshape the Automation Pyramid (is OPC UA all you need?)

Interoperability Among Protocols

What we need is something in the middle that wraps each of the messages in a standard way and delivers to the application or Enterprise Service Bus. Such a technology is described by the OpenO&M Information Service Bus Model that is the core component of the Open Industrial Interoperability Ecosystem (OIIE) that I introduced in the last post. The ISBM is actually not a bus, per se, but a set of APIs based on Web Services. It is also described in ISA 95 Part 6 as Message Service Model (MSM).

OIIE Architecture

The MSM is described in a few points by Dennis Brandl:

  • Defines a standard method for interfacing with different Enterprise Service Buses
  • Enables sending and receiving messages between applications using a common interface
  • Reduces the number of interfaces that must be supported in an integration project

Here is a graphic representation Brandl has developed:


These are simple Web Services designed to remove complexity from the transaction at this stage of communication.

Purdue Enterprise Reference Architecture Meets IIoT

Purdue Enterprise Reference Architecture Meets IIoT

Mike Boudreaux, director of performance and reliability monitoring for Emerson Process Management, has published an important article in Plant Services magazine discussing some limitations of the Purdue Model incorporating the Industrial Internet of Things. There are many more applications (safety, environmental, energy, reliability) that can be solved outside the control system. They just are not described within the current model.

Interestingly, about the same time I saw a blog post at Emerson Process Experts quoting Emerson Process Chief Strategic Officer Peter Zornio discussing the same topic.

I’ve been thinking about this for years. Mike’s article (which I recommend you read–now) brought the thoughts into focus.

Purdue Enterprise Reference Architecture Model

The Purdue Enterprise Reference Architecture Model has guided manufacturing enterprises and their suppliers for 25 years. The model is usually represented by a pyramid shape. I’ve used a diagram from Wikipedia that just uses circles and arrows.


This model describes various “levels” of applications and controls in a manufacturing enterprise. It describes components from the physical levels of the plant (Level 0) through control equipment and strategies (Level 2).

Level 3 describes the manufacturing control level. These are applications that “control” operations. This level once was labelled Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). The trade association for this level–MESA International–now labels this “Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions” to maintain the MES part but describe an increased role for applications at this level. The ISA95 Standard for Enterprise Control labels this level as Manufacturing Operations Management. It is quite common now to hear the phrase Operations Management referring to the various applications that inhabit this level. This is also the domain of Manufacturing IT professionals.

Level 4 is the domain of Enterprise Business Planning, or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. It’s the domain of corporate IT.

Hierarchical Data Flow

The Purdue Model also describes a data flow model. That may or may not have been the idea, but it does. The assumption of the model that sensors and other data-serving field devices are connected to the control system. The control system serves the dual purpose of controlling processes or machines as well as serving massaged data to the operations management level of applications. In turn, level 3 applications feed information to the enterprise business system level.

Alternative Data Flow

What Mike is describing, and I’ve tried sketching at various times, is a parallel diagram that shows data flow outside the control system. He rightly observes that the Industrial Internet of Things greatly expands the Purdue Model.

Purdue and Information Flow

So I went to the white board. Here’s a sketch of some things I’ve been thinking about. What do you think? Steal it if you want. Or incorporate it into your own ideas. I’m not an analyst that gets six-figure contracts to think up this stuff. If you want to hire me to help you expand your business around the ideas, well that would be good.

I have some basic assumptions at this time:

  1. Data is not hierarchical
  2. Data has many sources and many clients
  3. Eventually we can expect smart systems automatically moving data and initiating applications

Perhaps 25 years ago we could consider a hierarchical data structure. Today we have moved to a federated data structure. There are data repositories all over the enterprise. We just need a standardized method of publish/subscribe so that the app that needs data can find it–and trust it.

Now some have written that technology means the end of Level 3. Of course it doesn’t. Enterprises still need all that work done. What it does mean the end of is silos of data behind unbreachable walls. It also means that there are many opportunities for new apps and connections. Once we blow away the static nature of the model, the way to innovation is cleared.

OpenO&M Model

OIIE Architecture

Perhaps the future will get closer to a model that I’m writing a series of white papers to describe. Growing from the OpenO&M Initiative, the Open Industrial Interoperability Ecosystem model looks interesting. I’ve just about finished an executive summary white paper that I’ll link to my Webpage. The longer description white paper is in process. More on that later. And look for an article in Uptime magazine.

Purdue Enterprise Reference Architecture Meets IIoT

The Demise of Layer 3-The Manufacturing Execution Layer of the Purdue Model

A friend of mine wrote an editorial recently where he predicted the imminent demise of Layer 3– manufacturing execution –of the Purdue Model of manufacturing technology. He hides behind a paywall these days, so I don’t think I can link. Funny thing is, he’s always been focused on the lower layers of technology. For him to try to create controversy here was, to say the least, surprising.

Perhaps a recap is in order at this point. The Purdue Model has withstood the test of time. It described technology and application layers 30 years ago that are still true. Technology is always fluid, but certain things just have to be done in a manufacturing or production enterprise.

Layers 0, 1, and 2 describe the instrumentation, control, and automation layers. Layer 3 describes what has been known as the MES–or execution–layer. Layer 2 describes the enterprise layer–known as the ERP layer.

My writing has focused at the lower layers for the past 18 years. I have some work on the MES and ERP application systems. Prior to 2014 my work was almost exclusively for controls and automation magazines. There remain no magazines devoted to Layer 3. No advertising or promotion dollars exist for that area–or at least not enough to fund that level of journalism. I thought I would focus on that as a one-person digital media site, but there’s just not enough money or news available there. The ERP level magazines have also mostly folded, but there remain huge sites that cover enterprise applications.

So back to the (non)controversy.

Some people have been predicting (hoping?) that connectors could be constructed such that real-time data can flow directly from production/manufacturing to the ERP layer effectively squashing layer 3.

But wait! All those functions performed at that level still need to be done–inventory, work-in-process, scheduling, laboratory integration, routing, and the like. Yes, ERP suppliers such as SAP, IBM, and Oracle wish that their products could absorb the functions of Layer 3 and therefore they could be a one-stop-shop for all manufacturing and enterprise IT functions.

Just as certainly the suppliers of today’s MES solutions–GE, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric (Wonderware, et. Al.), and Siemens (plus many more)–hope that that scenario won’t happen. Unless, I suppose, that they could sell their solutions to one of the big ERP suppliers.

The Real Manufacturing Execution Problem

The real problem at this level has little to do with technology or application. It’s the name. MES evolved from the earlier (think 70s) MRP and MRP II. Thanks to the stellar work of the ISA 95 committee, the term MOM has sprung up. And I read more about “operations management” than I do about “execution”.

Operations management holds a clue to the future. It is not all about the technology or the application any longer. It is all about business benefit–to the customer. New technologies such as the rise of importance of analytics and new visualization such as smart phone interfaces are changing the nature of Layer 3. There is still a Layer 3. It may not look like the Layer 3 I implemented in 1978. It may not look like the Layer 3 of five years ago. But the functions are still required, still being accomplished, and getting better all the time.

My friend sometimes tries more to be controversial than enlightening. Controversial gets page views (OK, so I pulled out an SEO headline myself). But I’d rather spark a conversation.

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