Ignition Community Conference 2017 a Big Hit With SCADA Geeks

Ignition Community Conference 2017 a Big Hit With SCADA Geeks

Forgoing a couple of vacation days, I headed out to Folsom (Sacramento), California this week to attend the gathering of SCADA geeks known as the Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference.

This was the fifth conference for the company and my third. This is the second straight sell out. The venue was packed, energy level high, networking intense.

I remember meeting Founder/Owner/CEO Steve Hechtman about 14 years ago at a trade show. He explained a new way to build SCADA and a new business model that would upset the current dominant competitors. He emphasized building from the ground up with IT friendly technology.

He did it. From a small building in Sacramento to 22,000 square feet of rented office space (where they positioned people near aisles to make the space look more packed only five years ago) to a building down the street that they’ve gutted and rebuilt to give their 56,000 square feet. Looks like they’re doing well.

Emphasis of all the keynote speakers was on Ignition (Inductive Automation’s product) as a platform.

Don Pearson, chief strategy officer, talked digital disruption. He cited a survey that reported 84% of business leaders expect disruption, yet only 7% have a strategy, “sitting on the fence is not an option.”

Inductive is a proponent of Open Process Automation Forum making this the second straight conference I’ve attended with OPAF as a sub theme.

  • Pearson cited these Success factors for the company:
  • Decouple devices from applications—use a publish/subscribe approach
  • Superior OT solution, meet operations requirements first
  • Single source of truth—make devices the source of tags
  • Plug and Play functionality
  • Eliminate cutovers (taking software down and booting up new and hoping)
  • Scale with unlimited licensing

Ignition is “perfectly poised for IIoT.”

Two questions I had:

It’s still just SCADA, but what is it really these days. What is it that makes it still exciting. After talking with many people, I figured out these things:

  • Extend to enterprise
  • Exponentially larger
  • Mobile
  • Visualization smoothly from device to device

Hearing once again about OPAF, I wondered:
Will it just be another OMAC?
On the other hand, some innovative small companies are moving in who just might change the direction of industry.

Big push on community. Don, “The community is our North Star.”

This is the only company in this technology area currently exhibiting growth, enthusiasm, and new technologies. Do competitors write off SCADA as an old market? Well, in this era of the Internet of Things, that will be a mistake–much to the benefit of Inductive Automation.

Can HMI SCADA Be A Good Manufacturing Business?

Can HMI SCADA Be A Good Manufacturing Business?

HMI SCADA software builds the platform of the Industrial Internet of Things. Yet, many of the traditional companies apparently are not pursuing it as actively as in the past as they spend more time on somewhat “higher end” software—business intelligence and analytics.

So, is there money to be made in this business?

To that end, I have been watching the growth of Inductive Automation for more than ten years. It has introduced the Software as a Service, or cloud-based application, to the industrial space greatly lowering costs for customers. At the same time, everything it builds is IT-friendly. So the OT people can make friends with the IT people.

Well, business has been good enough that Inductive Automation has purchased a building for its corporate headquarters that’s 2½ times larger than its current space. The fast-growing company will remain in Folsom, and will move into its new location in July.

Inductive Automation makes industrial automation software that’s used in virtually every industry and in more than 100 countries. The company’s key product is Ignition by Inductive Automation. Ignition is an industrial application platform with fully integrated tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

The company has grown rapidly since its inception in 2003. Since the launch of Ignition in 2010, Inductive Automation’s revenues have grown at an average annual rate of more than 60 percent. The company’s growth has been fueled by powerful software and an unlimited licensing model, which together remove economic and technological barriers for industrial organizations seeking more data from their operations and processes.

“We’re committed to Folsom,” said Steve Hechtman, president and CEO of Inductive Automation. “When we first moved here from Sacramento, we had 20 employees. Now we have more than 100, and we look forward to continuing our growth at our new site. The larger building will allow us to expand to about 300 team members, as we continue to serve the global marketplace in industrial automation.”

Folsom community leaders are very happy with the company’s decision to stay in Folsom. “We are pleased that Inductive Automation calls Folsom home,” said Evert W. Palmer, city manager for Folsom. “We celebrate their success, and we are thankful for their contributions to Folsom’s strong and growing ecosystem of industry-leading technology companies.”

“Inductive Automation is a shining example of strong leaders with a well-defined vision to grow their company strategically and profitably,” said Joe Gagliardi, CEO/president of the Greater Folsom Partnership. “Their commitment to stay in Folsom and build their business is adding energy to the already-strong job growth we are experiencing in 2017. All segments of the Folsom economy benefit from the success of Inductive Automation.”

Can HMI SCADA Be A Good Manufacturing Business?

Future of Industrial Software and HMI/SCADA at Inductive Automation

The industrial software market has changed dramatically over the past 13 years. One market disruptor hails from just outside Sacramento, California. I still remember meeting Steve Hechtman at an ISA show probably in 2003. He talked about developing HMI/SCADA industrial software in an entirely new way.

He told me that Inductive Automation was developing software written in Java and using IT-friendly technologies. Not only that, he would have a business model that totally disrupted the prevalent licensing by seats.

steve-hechtman-at-icc-2016Hechtman greeted a capacity audience at the 2016 Ignition Customer Conference Sept. 19. The 430+ attendees exhausted the capacity of the Harris Center in Folsom, CA. The company has experienced double-digit growth every year since it started. It has been profitable every quarter since the launch of its flagship product, Ignition, in 2010. Privately held, it has no debt and no investors.

The company’s mission has been to reduce friction. Reduce friction to use the product, to buy the product, to develop using the product. Or, to quote from the presentation, “Our mission is to create industrial software that empowers our customers to swiftly turn great ideas into reality by removing all technological and economic obstacles.”

The technology allows for a 3-minute installation. It is scalable from a Raspberry Pi to enterprise servers.

Rather than calling Ignition HMI/SCADA software, Hechtman refers to it as a platform. Not only does Inductive Automation build modules to sit on it, the company makes it easy for customers to build, and even sell, modules, too. Part of that removing friction thing.

Hechtman brought up the IIoT and the hype surrounding it. The Gartner Hype Cycle plots a curve from early thoughts to euphoria plummeting to the trough of disillusionment to a partial recovery where 20%-30% of companies use and gain benefit from the technology. He suggested that Ignition builds a bridge over the trough of disillusionment to beneficial application of the IIoT.

don-pearson-at-icc-2016Chief Strategy Officer Don Pearson followed with the other theme of the week—IT/OT convergence. ”We’ve been doing that from the beginning,” he stated.

Most people have talked about driving convergence from the IT side. That’s all backwards according to Pearson. The OT side should drive the convergence partly through adopting IT-friendly technology and learning from IT folks about their strengths such as security.

One last sign of growth—the number of partners exhibiting in the foyer. More than I can list, but start with Opto 22, Bedrock Automation, Cirrus-Link, Seeq. The company has vision and drive. And financial stability.


Here is a link to an interview I recorded with two of the original developers–Colby Clegg and Carl Gould. Owner/President Steve Hechtman was in the room, but I don’t recall that he said anything. I threw a digital audio recorder on the conference room table in early 2011. The company has grown into new offices and is now looking for more office space since then.

There was a lot of buzz at the conference. There were people from many countries, but many also were from large manufacturing companies. Several large systems integrators brought several engineers. The organizers asked if I would lead a “meet up” or round-table discussion on Monday before the actual kickoff. Wow–there were several really smart people in attendance. It was a great geek discussion.

If you are involved with developing applications with industrial software, you should check out next year’s conference. Even if you are not a customer, it’s worth it just to learn from others who come.


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