The Passion and Mystique of OPC UA

July 1, 2005
Thomas J. Burke, president and executive director of the OPC Foundation, discusses how the OPC vision is being deployed and developed through the introduction of the OPC Unified Architecture, whose success is driven by the involvement of the end-users and manufacturers, who are the life-blood of the OPC standard.

Welcome to another edition of the OPConnect newsletter. First off, let’s talk about the OPC Unified Architecture. There is a tremendous amount of excitement about this new OPC architecture, whose theme and power is secure, reliable, interoperability for exchanging data and information from the factory floor to the enterprise. There is a dedicated team of volunteers who have the passion and mystique to develop a complete, open and interoperable architecture, while leveraging existing, evolving standards and technology that will last for years to come.

The initial OPC Data Access (DA) specification was so successful because it provided a standard “interface” for all devices, allowing any software application to acquire data from any device. OPC DA has now been modeled into a service-oriented architecture, and the very successfully deployed OPC DA functionality integrates with applications over the Internet, crossing firewall boundaries while still providing secure, reliable computing.

The OPC Unified Architecture is a platform for secure, reliable interoperability based on Web Services. It unifies the services and information models of the existing OPC Component Object Model (COM) specifications, providing a common base of services that spans all the OPC functional areas.

The first release of the OPC UA provides seamless integration for the installed base of existing OPC products into the new architecture. This requirement to support the installed base of products sparked the creation of a different kind of working group, whose focus is to develop OPC UA “wrappers.”

Enhanced certification

A second important area of development for OPC is the creation of a working group focused on enhancing OPC compliance and interoperability. Called the OPC Enhanced Certification Program, its commitment is to develop the processes, tools and interoperability laboratories for the OPC Foundation’s enhanced certification process. This end-user and vendor team will guarantee that products based on the OPC Foundation technology will truly be plug-and-play, as opposed to the end-user nightmare of plug-and-pray.

The enhanced certification working group is a collaboration and partnership with existing standards organizations that already validate and certify hardware products in independent labs. Stay tuned for the breaking news and announcements about these partnerships and how they will revolutionize certification for OPC products by leveraging existing processes, tools and labs.

Communicate, collaborate

The “C” in OPC communicates the OPC theme of “collaboration,” as the OPC Foundation continues its work with other organizations to facilitate the OPC UA services of being the “how” for moving the “what.” Some of the collaborations of interest include the OPC Foundation’s work with the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society for ISA-88, batch control standards; ISA-95, enterprise integration standard; and ISA-99, security standard. The OPC Foundation is also in active partnerships with SAP, the global leader in enterprise resource planning software, based in Walldorf, Germany, as well as the Machinery Information Management Open Systems Alliance (MIMOSA), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and the Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) working groups.

The OPC Foundation and the Microsoft Manufacturing Users Group (MSMUG) have created a working group of end-users whose charter it is to address the requirements and processes for successful plug-and-play interoperability focusing on reliability and certification. This partnership will allow end-users to have a unified voice to the OPC vendor community, guaranteeing that OPC vendors develop and deliver the products that manufacturers expect.

The goal of OPC is to become the universal serial bus (USB) for all software and hardware interoperability for manufacturing, both for the automation space and in the business space, providing the integration between control and enterprise applications.

When you plug a USB device into your computer, you are not expected to know the intricate details of the USB specification, you just expect your computer to be able to “communicate” with the device on the other end of the USB connection. OPC is developing the infrastructure to do the same thing for hardware and software in the manufacturing space, including the automation and enterprise layers.

Stay tuned to this newsletter as we keep you informed of the many important OPC events and developments in 2005. Join us as we—OPConnect…Driving Your Vision of Interoperability.

Thomas J. Burke

OPC Foundation President & Executive Director

[email protected]

OPC Foundation

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