Top Six Benefits of OPC UA for End-Users

Thomas Burke, president and executive director of the OPC Foundation, discusses why end-users are discovering the benefits of an OPC UA solution, including reliability, performance, multi-platform support and easy migration.

Aw 2741 Opc Nl Burke Photo

Welcome to the August 2009 edition of OPConnect, the official newsletter of the OPC Foundation. There have been a lot of things happening in 2009, and it’s been very exciting with respect to OPC Foundation and the OPC vendor community.
 
One of the most significant things is the recognition by the end-users of the value proposition for the OPC Unified Architecture (UA) technology.

There are six key features that OPC UA delivers to the end-users:
-  Ease-of-use
-  Plug-and-play
-  High reliability and redundancy
-  Enhanced performance
-  Multiplatform support
-  Easy migration plan for existing OPC products to the OPC UA technology.

That last feature—easy migration plan—is critical to its success. Even though OPC UA is a revolutionary new architecture, it still provides a rock-solid evolutionary migration mechanism to allow existing OPC products to plug in and get many of the benefits of the OPC UA technology.
 
OPC UA Goes Embedded

The OPC Foundation began development of OPC UA technology primarily as a means to address the needs of enterprise integration. But the side effect of using a service-oriented architecture with Web services is that it provides an easy strategy for the embedded world to adopt the technology into existing and new products. We have seen a great number of embedded vendors adopting the technology, and thus providing a whole new breed of OPC products that we never had before with the existing OPC COM-based architecture.

When the first OPC specification was released more than 10 years ago, the technology was the result of competitive vendors working together to solve a communications problem that was really was more of a problem for the vendors than the end-users. Collaboration across consortiums has now been the focus of the OPC Foundation, and end-users are driving the requirements of the architecture and demanding vendor adoption of the technology and product certification. OPC UA provides a mechanism for information to be modeled, such that the standard features of data access for OPC information can be extended to the complex information of other industry groups, consortiums and vendors.

A good example of this is the ADI information modeling working group, sponsored by OPC and made up of a set of end users from the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, as well as vendors that have analyzer type devices. The purpose of this ADI working group was to define the data and information for analyzer devices used in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Many previous attempts had failed, but with OPC UA, the effort to standardize on an information model for analyzer devices and be able to specify that OPC UA be used as a mechanism for transporting information model was very straightforward. The technology was demonstrated in May at the Achema show in Frankfurt, Germany. Other information standardization working groups include FDI, PLCOpen, & OpenO&M, with planned demonstrations of the information standardization technology at various trade shows coming up in the next several months.
 
Other areas of standardization activity for OPC UA will expand its use in domains beyond industrial automation. There is work going on with respect to building automation (more than just an OPC server on top Bacnet) and the SmartGrid, to name a few. We have also seen many security organizations review and approve the OPC UA security infrastructure and services.
 
Active work is ongoing with respect to the development of the certification tools for both clients and servers for the OPC UA technology. These tools will be used to help vendors and system integrators validate their implementations, and will then be used by the OPC Foundation to actually certify the products tested in the Lab. Beta release of the tool is this month. 
 
The OPC Foundation is providing starter kits and developer workshops to facilitate vendors developing OPC UA-based products. A developer workshop will be offered in Frankfurt, at the end of September, and in New Orleans at the end of October. Click here for details and registration information.
 
In addition, the OPC Foundation is working with many of the toolkit vendors to provide a royalty-free license of the technology, as they bring together best-of-breed toolkits to facilitate vendor product development while minimizing code development.

The OPC Foundation Web site, at www.opcfoundation.org, is an excellent source to locate OPC and OPC UA products. It includes an online product catalog and information on vendors that have certified their OPC products in the independent certification test lab.

For more information on the OPC UA working groups and consortiums, you can also visit the OPC Foundation Web site, at  www.opcfoundation.org, or send me your thoughts and comments at Thomas.Burke@OPCfoundation.org.

 

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