GE Energy’s iCenter: A Historian on Steroids

Aug. 17, 2012
This case history describes the data infrastructure supporting GE Energy’s iCenter operations management service center, a 24x7 operation that manages an enterprise-size data historian of more than 2 million tags coming from 25 sites around the world.

Florence, Italy is home to GE Energy’s iCenter, the central command center for the company’s remote services offerings for the oil and gas industry. iCenter systems are continuously connected to client sites around the world, gathering real-time data for equipment analysis and troubleshooting. The 24x7 operation manages an enterprise-size data historian implementation of massive proportions: More than 2 million tags collecting 1 second data from over 700 assets at 25 sites around the world. 

Such a massive repository is a showcase for how industrial data historians handle vast quantities of real-time data. For iCenter, the data is the foundation for advanced analytics used in alarm detection and dispositioning and as the primary source for ongoing product development engineering. The data is also used to support contracted services agreements that include everything from spare parts to performance guarantees.

The software infrastructure behind iCenter is provided by another GE division, GE Intelligent Platforms. Proficy Historian is GE Intelligent Platforms’ foundation for enterprise data management. It provides ultra-high performance collection, storage and retrieval of information for a range of Proficy applications, according to Dan McGuire, program leader for global professional services for GE Intelligent Platforms.

In the GEE iCenter, McGuire says Proficy Historian is connected to Proficy SOA, which models the fleet and provides a single point of contact for Proficy Workflow. The Workflow application is used to manage back-end operations, interact with reporting services and visualization, and support connectivity to data warehouses and relational databases used throughout GE Energy.

Like most customers, McGuire says iCenter users want three kinds of tools in order to make the most of historian data:

  • Easy to use tools for ad hoc queries, where they can also import/export data, query data into existing reports and easily pass files with information around. For that, Microsoft Excel is predominant.
  • Web-based dashboards and web reporting, so, GE-IP’s Web Portal is also mandatory. They can create reports, analysis, charts, and trends and democratize information via the web either on an intranet and Internet.
  • A tool to understand and model the process based on historical data, so they can not only understand what happened but predict, analyze and be proactive in understanding correlations of data, to model and simulate the process.

The iCenter has a Sustaining Team that monitors key performance indicators (KPIs) and alerts that may come from the historian server or data collection infrastructure to ensure high availability of the data. This team is also responsible for managing the tag configuration and compression settings to guard against uncontrolled growth, and administer the creation of tags in both the central system and at remote collection points.

KPI dashboards are used every day to monitor the central system infrastructure, including the server environment and storage subsystems.  Data availability and validity metrics are derived on a continuous basis to track the health of the external data collection infrastructure.

How important is historian data? McGuire describes one oil and gas industry company that logs “almost all controller data—all I/O signals, set-points, internal states—only a few signals were not monitored. This equated to more than 100,000 tags. This company’s shutdown cost is approximately $6 million per day, and a shutdown takes three days to recover from.”

This company, adds McGuire, not only makes extensive backups, but also has a 100 percent duplicated system at a remote support site—partly for backup purposes, but mainly so that any changes can be tested on the backup system before being implemented on the live system.

For advice from McGuire and others on optimizing the use of historian data, see “Historian Best Practices: Distilling the Truth” in the August 2012 issue. 

Renee Robbins Bassett, [email protected], is Managing Editor of Automation World.

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