Having worked with a variety of industrial companies on numerous automation projects, John Krajewski, Director of Product Management, HMI/Supervisory, Schneider Electric, knows that one of industry’s biggest concerns about new software applications is that the first time they get to experience it fully in action is when it goes live as part of their production system.
“Most manufacturers do not have a parallel system that mirrors their production system where they can test new applications, because their production systems are often just too big,” Krajewski said. “This means that the first time manufacturers get to see new software in action is when it’s deployed full scale in their production system.”
This industry reality is behind Schneider Electric’s development of Wonderware Online InStudio. Built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform, Wonderware Online InStudio allows users to revision production resources in the cloud and then apply them on the plant floor. Designed to streamline the testing, deployment and use of Wonderware software, the initial release of the product will feature Wonderware’s HMI and supervisory software. All Wonderware software will eventually be able to be used within Wonderware Online InStudio.
“In essence, Wonderware Online InStudio is a web front end where you can create projects, add machines to the project and select from a variety of versions of our software,” said Krajewski, explaining that all versions of Wonderware software currently supported will be compatible with this new service.
Providing use case examples for Wonderware Online InStudio, Krajewski said users could configure a machine in the service to be “in historian mode, and another machine to be a configuration repository, and another to be an object server, or an HMI server. They can provision a large number of machines with this service so that they can have a list of machines at their disposal whenever they may need them and pay for them on a per-use basis. So when they need the machine, the software will already be installed, the applications they need will be installed, and it will be ready to use.”
Wonderware Online InStudio is not restricted to Wonderware software applications. Because the service hosts virtual machines, “you can put in anything you want, not just Wonderware software,” said Krajewski. “You can put PLC emulation software or VPN software so that you can connect to actual assets on the plant floor. If you have an OPC server or one of our Operations Integration Servers on the plant floor, you could set up a VPN and tunnel into your network and access them directly. Wonderware Online InStudio is a full Microsoft operating system running virtualized in a cloud environment.”
Krajewski notes that direct connections from Wonderware Online InStudio to plant floor assets will likely be a less common use for the service in the near term. “What we expect to be a more common use is when users are considering a new automation project and want to create a proof of concept for how the system will look and how the data flows will happen. From this design stage, users can then develop and test where the full development suite of software will be in the system. Users can build out their entire system in Wonderware Online InStudio and transfer things to and from the virtual machines and the on-premise devices as needed. They can loop and reiterate their development design as they learn what works best and then even conduct FAT (factory acceptance testing) in Wonderware Online InStudio before running anything on site.