OPC Foundation Names Full-Time Executive Director

Sept. 1, 2004
Thomas Burke, president of the OPC Foundation (www.opcfoundation.org), has been appointed the organization’s first full-time Executive Director.

The press release announcing the appointment notes that “the move strengthens the OPC Foundation’s executive team,” and follows the appointment of Invensys Wonderware’s (www.wonderware.com) Rashesh Mody as chief technical officer in June.

“Rashesh Mody brings key advantages as OPC seeks to collaborate more closely with technology leaders to benefit from their significant intellectual property resources,” said Burke. “The new Executive Director post will enable us to more effectively project these advantages into the marketplace, using a sophisticated marketing effort aimed at promoting OPC as the leading connectivity technology in the world.”

While OPC, which is an open connectivity standard, has been successful in the sense of adoption by almost all manufacturing software suppliers, there remains a sense at the Foundation that its message is not being adequately promulgated to potential users. Mody, like Burke in his previous role as president, and all other officers and developers, is an unpaid volunteer. When people have full-time jobs, it becomes difficult for them to expend the time and effort that a marketing and evangelizing campaign demands. Therefore, Burke—as a full-time, salaried Executive Director—will be able to devote the time and energy necessary to expand the technology and the message.

Burke, who has worked for Rockwell Automation (www.rockwellautomation.com) for more than 20 years, will have as one of his responsibilities the strategic direction of the OPC Foundation, including the design and architecture of next generation products. Burke added in his statement, “Having a full-time executive arm will enable us to leverage our technical leadership in new ways. My principal goal is to help members and vendors of OPC products become more successful, which we will do by ramping up our marketing efforts on their behalf. Much of this will relate to the rollout of our Unified Architecture (UA), which is a key determinant of OPC’s future.”

In 1996, a number of leading engineers and software developers noticed that Microsoft Windows was becoming the predominant platform for manufacturing software. Within that operating system was a technology known as “object linking and embedding,” or OLE. This technology allowed users to bring data from one application directly into another application—for example, data from a spreadsheet could be moved directly into a word processor application. Discussions, which included representatives from Microsoft (www.microsoft.com), led to the development of a standard method for moving data in a manufacturing environment called OLE for Process Control, or OPC. Microsoft evolved OLE technology into component object model (COM). A later Microsoft evolution morphed COM into common language runtime (CLR), which is part of the Microsoft .Net initiative. By leveraging CLR and World Wide Web Consortium (www.w3c.org) standards such as eXtensible Markup Language (XML), OPC Foundation is evolving its standard into a new Unified Architecture platform, which employs XML and Web Services.

During the past 20 years, Burke has been responsible for firmware development, software development, data acquisition systems, human-machine interfaces and corporate architecture at Rockwell Automation. He was one of the founding fathers of OPC technology and has been with the Foundation since its beginnings in 1996.

The OPC Foundation, dedicated to interoperability in automation, is an independent, non-profit organization that comprises leading manufacturers and solution providers in factory and process automation. The OPC Foundation’s charter is to develop worldwide industry standards for data transfer offering multi-vendor interoperability and seamless connectivity of measurement and automation devices, systems and networks used in the manufacturing and process industries, by leveraging open computing technologies. Board members and officers are unpaid volunteers. Development of specifications is undertaken by volunteers from over 350 members worldwide.

Gary Mintchell

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