Inductive Automation was the first private organization to write their own OPC Unified Architecture (UA) stack—and they chose to write it completely in Java. The company’s vision was to develop control system software that was not dependent on any particular operating system. The old OPC spec was based on Microsoft's Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM), which tied every OPC server to Windows.
In order to achieve their goals of a software platform that would work on any system, Inductive Automation needed an OPC server that wouldn’t lock their software into a Windows-only environment.
“We made the decision that we wanted everything written in Java so that users would have the freedom to choose their operating system,” said Colby Clegg, software developer for Inductive Automation. “The platform-neutral OPC UA specification enabled us to write our own stack in Java. Now our entire software package is in Java, and this offers a lot of benefits for users.”
The result was the Ignition OPC UA server, which can work either as a stand-alone OPC server for third-party OPC UA clients, or as part of the comprehensive Ignition software package. In either case, it provides fast, reliable, and secure access to PLC data through its pluggable driver architecture.
Java is one of the most popular programming languages in the world (see the TIOBE Programming Community Index for September 2010). Java runs on more types of consumer and embedded devices, smart cards, ATMs, thin clients, PCs, servers, and mainframes than any other language.
“Java is the ‘write once, run anywhere’ language,” said Steve Hechtman, president of Inductive Automation. “This is a major reason why we selected it. By writing Ignition in Java, it runs equally well on Linux as it does on OSX, Windows or Solaris.”
Java is also highly resistant to viruses. It is designed from the ground up to be more secure than legacy programming languages, offering a rich array of features that prevent many common security holes. That makes it ideally suited to the industrial environment.
“Rather than following the flock and just selecting the current Microsoft technology, we took a step back and evaluated what language provided the most portability, security, stability and support—and Java was the clear winner,” Hechtman said.
Inductive Automation offers the Ignition OPC UA server for free, whether users purchase the Ignition software or not. “We want the market to get excited about the potential of OPC-UA,” explains Clegg, “and in the freedom of selecting your own platform. Plus, once users get started with Ignition, we’re confident that they’ll be blown away by everything it can do.”
The Ignition OPC-UA server is free and can be used with any OPC-UA client: Simply request a free activation key, download the software, and get started using it on your control system. It features an open driver API, and includes free Allen Bradley and Modbus TCP drivers.
The activation key and download page can be accessed here: https://www.inductiveautomation.com/products/ignitionopc/download