April Events Take OPC on a Wild Ride

May 1, 2005
For a month packed with activities, Thomas J. Burke, president and executive director of the OPC Foundation, discusses the OPC buzz at Hanover Fair, the OPC UA Developers Conference, held at the Microsoft campus, and the OPC Interoperability Workshop, held in Tampa, Florida.

Welcome to the second edition of “OPConnect,” the 2005 OPC Foundation newsletter. You will receive this newsletter by e-mail every other month in 2005, and summaries will be published in select issues of Automation World magazine and at www.automationworld.com.

Hanover Fair abuzz over OPC

The word was on the street already about the new OPC Unified Architecture specification, at the OPC Foundation-sponsored booth at Hanover Fair, held in Hanover, Germany, in April. Conversations around the booth among end-users and vendors centered on how significant the new architecture is and what it means to the industry, with respect to solving the critical problems of reliability and moving information between the control system and the Information Technology environments. Companies in Europe are very excited about Web Services and platform independence, which are key components of the OPC Unified Architecture.

A technical update was presented on the OPC Unified Architecture (UA) and OPC certification, with attendees dancing in the aisles to the tunes from the video presentation. For all you classic rockers, “Born To Be Wild” seems to be the key song for the OPC UA team.

The other hot topic at the Fair was OPC Foundation’s embracing and collaborating with the Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) initiative, which also involves the Profibus, Fieldbus Foundation and Hart consortiums. I participated at several panel discussions at the Fair, and the OPC Foundation is viewed as the neutral party to facilitate device configuration and asset management for all devices, independent of the fieldbus technology employed.

Also during the Fair, OPC Europe hosted the annual OPC Board of Directors meeting. Shown in the picture on the left side are board members: Toshiaki Shirai, Yokogawa; Tom Burke, OPC Foundation; Dave Eisner, Honeywell; and Russ Agrusa, Iconics. On the right side of the photo are: Chiaki Itoh, Yokogawa; Ron Eddie, Emerson; Reinhold Achatz, Siemens; Mike Bryant, OPC Foundation; and Rich Ryan, Rockwell Automation.

Developers’ conference

Also in April, the OPC Foundation hosted an OPC UA Developers Conference at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash. The event provided a jumpstart of the OPC UA technology and showcased the corresponding Microsoft technology that is its fundamental underpinning. More then 130 people attended the conference and walked away with an overview and drilled-down knowledge of the technology.

At the event, Cactus Commerce showed how OPC UA can be deployed in a batch processing simulation; for more information, see the story in this newsletter, “Cactus Develops an Indigo Implementation of OPC UA.”

One of the major surprises to a number of the attendees was that the OPC Foundation, with OPC UA, has built a framework and defined services to address enterprise integration with the control system. You could see the light bulbs go on in a number of the vendors’ brains when they thought about the possibility of becoming the data/information providers from the control system into the IT space.

Performance typically is a concern with respect to open systems being deployed in solving generic integration problems. At the conference, the OPC Foundation presented performance and throughput results for the OPC UA binary services, which demonstrated the Foundation’s commitment to developing technology that exceeded the expectations of its users.

We introduced the OPC UA scalable architecture, which facilitates building OPC into embedded devices as well as large-scale enterprise servers. The OPC Foundation announced the creation of an adapter/wrapper, which essentially becomes the middleware solution, providing secure, reliable, interoperability between legacy OPC products that are already deployed in the field. This provided participants with the assurance that the Foundation is solving problems for both the end-users and the vendors.

Interoperability workshop

The third major OPC Foundation event in April was the North American Interoperability Workshop, held in Tampa, Florida. Over 50 people participated in the eighth annual workshop, whose locale provided a welcome change to the first two North American interoperability workshops, which were held in the dead of winter in Cleveland, Ohio.

However, the developers from the vendor companies who were testing their products never experienced that famous Florida weather, as each day lasted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., performing vendor-to-vendor interoperability tests.

The hot theme at the interoperability workshop was certification. Vendors recognize that the key to success in selling products to end-users is to develop quality products that are tested for interoperability with other vendors’ products. Attendees welcomed the announcement that the OPC Foundation will be setting up a permanent interoperability lab in each of the respective OPC Foundation worldwide regions, to further enhance the reliability of OPC products.

Make your plans now to visit the OPC Foundation members at OPC-sponsored booths at the PTA Show in Moscow in September, 2005, at the ISA Show in Chicago in October, at the SPS Drives show in Nuremberg, Germany, in November, and at the System Control Fair in Tokyo, also in November.

“OPConnect” is sponsored by the OPC Foundation and its members, whose charter it is to demonstrate their dedication to interoperability, via the OPC Foundation technology and tools. For more information about trade show events, interoperability initiatives and the OPC UA specification, please visit the OPC Foundation Web site, www.opcfoundation.org. For more information on products and services from our members, please visit the sponsors’ Web sites.

Thomas J. Burke

OPC Foundation President & Executive Director

[email protected]

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