Rockwell Automation Serves the ‘Industrial Data Center’

Nov. 14, 2013
With the help of its partners, Rockwell Automation addresses needs of the connected enterprise in the era of the Internet of things at its Process Solutions User Group conference and Automation Fair 2013 events in Houston.

Rockwell Automation CEO Keith Nosbush and Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers have been meeting on a regular basis, and the fruits of those labors were evident throughout Rockwell’s Automation Fair and Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) events in Houston this week.

More than 100 Cisco people attended Automation Fair, for example, and many Rockwell Automation and partner information technology products were on display.  Attendees also got the benefit of both companies’ perspectives regarding trends like the Internet of Things and Big Data.

In his keynote speech to open PSUG, Nosbusch described the “connected enterprise,” which offers both challenges and opportunities for industrial plants. Historic silos of information must give way to the swelling reality of the Internet of things, which gathers data from every machine and device for analysis and action. “Real customer value is created when raw data is converted to information then into knowledge and ultimately into wisdom,” he said. The era of big data is upon us, and the conversion of plant-floor data into useful business knowledge is imperative.

“Rockwell Automation has been at the forefront driving connected-enterprise strategies for more than a decade,” said Nosbusch. “As the industrial space continues to become a more pervasive element of the Internet of Things, the operational rewards of securely making the right information available at the right time throughout the enterprise are even greater. That seamless integration of the enterprise, supply chain and plant is becoming the next wave of competitive differentiation.”

Rick Esker, senior director of the industrial automation domain for Cisco and also a PSUG keynote speaker, said there are more “things” producing raw data in the industrial arena “than in any other set of verticals out there….  [and] sensors in the network are the ‘DA’ in SCADA.”

The opportunity is “we’ll become aware of the unaware,” said Esker and learn things through analysis of raw data that we never knew before. The challenge is, “where do I perform those compute functions? We need to measure as close to the control interface as possible. So a network router is now also a compute device. We are seeing convergence between the network and the control systems,” he added.

Both companies are also seeing the proliferation of data, and the increasingly complex needs to store, manage and analyze it. Esker said video, which is a bandwidth hog, is going to enrich a lot of the sensor technology. Industrial users now are deploying video flare sensors to measure the mix of gases in a flame, for example. He cited Guido Jouret, chief technology officer for CISCO’s emerging markets technology group who said, “’We can now detect when glass breaks, where it broke and whether it is abnormal or relevant, and what we do about it.’ This is all done at the control edge using an audio and video alarming,” said Esker, but it brings up big issues (see “Industrial Network Challenges and Opportunities,” below).

Bundled virtualization product

To address some of the IT infrastructure needs of industry, Rockwell Automation introduced its Industrial Data Center offering, which is engineered specifically to help manufacturing and production companies take advantage of fully virtualized environments to reduce costs (by decreasing the server footprint), extend application longevity, and improve infrastructure reliability (through management and recovery features).

“Moving to a virtualized environment can be costly and time consuming for production businesses,” said Matt Fordenwalt, business manager, consulting services at Rockwell Automation. “The Industrial Data Center offering lets companies more quickly and easily take advantage of the trend.”

The Industrial Data Center bundle is a standard, pre-configured industrial server product that includes hardware, software, factory assembly, on-site configuration, documentation and TechConnect support from Rockwell Automation. It also incorporates Unified Computing System (UCS) servers and Catalyst switches from Cisco, and cabinetry and cabling from Panduit, another Rockwell Automation Strategic Alliance partner. 

The Industrial Data Center bundle also is built in accordance with industrial best practices documented in the Rockwell Automation and Cisco Converged Plantwide Ethernet Architectures. “Validation and assembly, led by Panduit, extends convergence to the computing level by combining their expertise in the enterprise and data-center markets with Rockwell Automation industrial expertise,” said Fordenwalt. 

Industrial Network Challenges and Opportunities

From Rick Esker, senior director of the industrial automation domain for Cisco and PSUG keynote speaker

1 where do we read the data in the network?

2. when does data become an alarm?

3 how do we manage latency from data acquisition to control?

4 current infrastructure vs. data growth (new and richer data)

5 where does the scarce expert sit?

6 were do we store the data?

7 how log do we store data?

8 data analytics policy/control cost

9 how do we keep data safe and secure?

10 asset dispersion, mobility and control issues for mobile assets

Sponsored Recommendations

Measurement instrumentation for improving hydrogen storage and transport

Hydrogen provides a decarbonization opportunity. Learn more about maximizing the potential of hydrogen.

Learn About: Micro Motion™ 4700 Config I/O Coriolis Transmitter

An Advanced Transmitter that Expands Connectivity

Learn about: Micro Motion G-Series Coriolis Flow and Density Meters

The Micro Motion G-Series is designed to help you access the benefits of Coriolis technology even when available space is limited.

Micro Motion 4700 Coriolis Configurable Inputs and Outputs Transmitter

The Micro Motion 4700 Coriolis Transmitter offers a compact C1D1 (Zone 1) housing. Bluetooth and Smart Meter Verification are available.