Using the OPC DataHub to Bypass Firewalls

Software Toolbox supported the implementation of the OPC DataHub for OPC tunneling at the Aberdeen facility of Total E&P, with the goal to network OPC servers and clients securely, across corporate firewalls.

Aw 2446 Feature3 500
Total Exploration and Production (Total E&P) is a subsidiary of the Total Group, operating in more than 120 countries worldwide. Total E&P is among the largest oil and gas producers on the UK Continental Shelf. The Aberdeen, Scotland, headquarters of Total E&P employs about 750 people, and operates or owns significant interests in the Alwyn Area fields in the UK Northern North Sea, the Elgin Franklin Area fields in the Central Graben Area North Sea, and the St. Fergus Gas Terminal on the north east coast of Scotland.

For the past several years, production engineers at the Aberdeen facility have been using the OPC protocol to gather data at their terminals. Recently their management asked them to connect the terminal system to the corporate networks, to gain access to valuable production data in real time. When the engineering team set about making the connection, they soon ran into the problem that many others have experienced: OPC works well on a single machine, but not so well over networks, particularly firewalled networks like theirs. This is because OPC relies on Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) for networking, and configuring DCOM security to work through firewalls is known to be a significant challenge for even the most experienced network professional.  

“These are secure systems, and OPC doesn’t like to go through firewalls,” said Rob Sidebottom, project leader. “We did manage to get DCOM working, but it was so slow. Our large amount of data was the problem.”

Tunneling Past DCOM

So they decided to try OPC tunneling, which bypasses DCOM by using TCP to send data across the network. They tested several OPC tunneling products and were impressed by the OPC DataHub because of its ease of use, reliability and extra features.  Software Toolbox, who are Master Distributors for the Cogent Real-Time Systems OPC DataHub in North America and also offer sales and support to customers worldwide, provided technical backup on the project. “The OPC DataHub is a powerful tool with excellent support,” said Sidebottom.  “Quick and robust, it’s just what we wanted.”

To configure the tunnel, the team first connected one OPC DataHub to the OPC servers running on the terminal system. Next they configured the DataHub on the corporate network to connect through the firewall to the first OPC DataHub. Finally, they simply connected the OPC client programs on the corporate system to connect locally to the second OPC DataHub. This completely removed any need to configure DCOM or security settings on either computer.

“This is typically how a tunneling application goes with the OPC DataHub,” said John Weber, President of Software Toolbox. “Rob (Sidebottom) and his team had it up and running very quickly, with almost no assistance from us.”

“The OPC tunneling is working well, no problems,” said Sidebottom, after several months of operation. “We are just doing tunneling at the moment, but there are lots of possibilities. Thanks to Cogent and Software Toolbox, we have a powerful conversion tool in place, and it will come in handy for other uses.”  

The OPC DataHub is a highly optimized integration tool for real-time data. It provides quick, reliable and secure access to valuable process and production data and makes it available to management systems, database archives, and remote clients. Combining a number of innovative technologies, the OPC DataHub makes it easy to access the real-time data needed to make informed and timely decisions that save time, reduce waste, and increase profitability.

Software Toolbox, in Charlotte, NC and has helped over 7,000 users, integrators, and OEMs in 67 countries by providing software add-ins, development components and software applications that enable them to maximize their industrial automation software results. For more information about Software Toolbox visit www.softwaretoolbox.com.

Cogent Real-Time Systems is the leader in real-time data integration between Windows, Linux and QNX systems. For more information, please contact Cogent at info@cogent.ca, Web site www.opcdatahub.com, or call +1 (905) 702 7851.


More in Home