New OPC System Integrator and Distributor Program

OPC Foundation creates a new program for system integrators and distributors to provide technology and certification that will improve service quality and reliability, and enhance the end-user experience.

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The OPC Foundation has created a new program targeted to address the opportunity to increase market share for system integrators and distributors and, at the same time, provide a solid foundation for these new members to provide the highest quality services in the deployment of products from different vendors.

The original focus of the OPC Foundation was targeted to vendors developing shrink-wrap products and providing specifications, technology and certification to facilitate multivendor interoperability.

The trend from the end-user perspective is to leverage system integrators and distributors who build custom systems using products from multiple OPC vendors. OPC provides easy ways for custom software that adds value to an end user’s system by developing a custom OPC component to complete an integration project. The OPC Foundation needed to provide a mechanism and membership class to facilitate the system integrators and distributors being able to design, develop and certify the custom software. The end-user's expectations are that system integrators should increase their proficiency of the use of the OPC technology, and OPC has deliberately created a program to address this requirement.

“Initially, the system integrator makes the end-user happy by putting together a system that consists of certified OPC products from multiple vendors,” stated Thomas Burke, OPC Foundation President. “However, problems sometimes arise as small pieces of custom software are developed to extend the functionality which then compromise the integrity of the system. Frequently, that simple little OPC component was not developed exactly to specifications, so making things work together is difficult.” Often, OPC gets the blame, but regardless, it’s the end user who suffers. “The Foundation wants this to stop, for the benefit of all,” said Burke. “So we are calling on the myriad of OPC system integrators out there who routinely use OPC to solve problems in the field to sign up and help raise the overall quality and reliability of OPC products.”

OPC Foundation membership fees are traditionally correlated to company annual revenue, but project values tend to be high in the automation business, necessitating a different pricing model,” said Burke. So, to make things easy, the Foundation is creating a new SI&D membership category with a fixed fee of U.S. $1,500. “For this the SI&D member gets access to OPC specifications and reference implementations (sample code) on which to base its products. Our free Compliance Test Tools are also available so SIs and distributors can self-certify their own custom OPC components. A special listing of SI&D members will be kept and end users will be actively encouraged to use these members for their projects.”

The launch of OPC’s Unified Architecture is adding urgency because this new technology covers all levels of enterprise connectivity, often outside of the direct automation arena. “We especially urge companies thinking of implementing an OPC Unified Architecture system to join us now,” said Burke, “so that end users do not become disillusioned with our next ambitious step into the future.”

A fresh round of specialist SI&D training events is planned, together with a series of Webinars. “We’re also developing a certification scheme which will award successful attendees at our training classes ‘Certified OPC Provider’ status,” said Burke. “We are now establishing a network of new Test Lab services to ensure top product quality and reliability, particularly for Unified Architecture components, and our goal is to ensure that all developers, including the new SI&D membership, take full advantage of the services we offer.”

For more information, visit the OPC Foundation at www.opcfoundation.org.

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