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Cloud Computing and the FDT/OPC Initiative

The idea of cloud computing has been gathering a lot of interest among manufacturers looking to connect their own geographically dispersed facilities as well as connect to their partners’ operations. The FDT/OPC collaboration is addressing the specifications necessary to enable it as a viable option.

Cloud computing – like any new technology – is shrouded in a number of misconceptions. As Arthur C. Clarke said, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The truth is, cloud computing really isn’t all that mysterious. Basically it refers to the use of multiple server computers via a digital network as though they were one computer. If you’ve ever used Salesforce, accessed Amazon, or played music on your PC or mobile device with Pandora, you’ve used cloud computing.

The OPC’s collaboration with FDT to communicate all types of device and machine data across an enterprise using OPC UA will rely on the capabilities of cloud computing to truly extend the FDT/OPC initiative’s possibilities as envisioned.

The new FDT 2.0 standard supports a client/server distributed environment. However, that level of connection is not practical when looking to extend this communication architecture across a diverse geographic footprint. That’s where OPC’s focus on cloud computing comes into play.

“OPC’s commitment to supporting a cloud computing strategy is particularly valuable for the easy aggregation of data across global facilities,” says Glenn Schulz, managing director for the FDT Group. “The combination of OPC and FDT will allow the optimum combination of local control and monitoring with global overview and aggregation via cloud computing from OPC without the need for the end user to develop their own global IT infrastructure. I view this as an exciting development that will experience broad adoption by the end user community due to its relatively quick deployment and minimal overhead cost structure.”

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