Caliel told attendees, “We continue to build on a strong portfolio of technologies, and we continue to invest significantly in our core offerings. These [Invensys offerings] didn’t just come out of our development labs; they were shaped by taking input from customers like you. The effectiveness of the collective ranks of our workforces [from supply chain integration] has never been higher.”
But, Caliel added, as the experience embodied in the aging workforce leaves, more and more has to be done to make the most of the huge amounts of operational intelligence and data available.
To futher that goal, Caliel indicated that Invensys Operations Management (www.iom.invensys.com) is allocating some 6 percent of the company’s sales to research and development. “Critical to further development is our commitment to modernization projects in industry, recognizing that a stable and safe control system is the foundation of an effective modernization program. It needs to include not only the technical components, but the human components and the operational components as well,” he said.
Caliel reiterated the company’s commitment to continued collaboration with customers, citing his appointment of senior executive Gary Freburger as president of systems business for Invensys Operations Management. Freburger, he said, has been with Invensys for years with a “tremendous track record of delivery and executing on some of our most complex programs.”
A bundling of products and services aimed at virtualization down to the control level was one of two market forays highlighted at the meeting. The initiative, due for rollout in in the first quarter of 2013, was foreshadowed in February when the company announced the certification of its ArchestrA System Platform 2012 and Wonderware InTouch 2012 software for virtualization technology. The certification is for both VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization platforms.
Controls and development platforms that are hosted in virtual machines can be running in less than a day, as compared to the weeks-long effort needed for the specification, procurement and installation of in-house computing platforms can seriously delay the beginning of project code development. Hardware virtualization is related to cloud computing and has many benefits for managers of industrial information systems (See p. 30 for more on cloud computing).
Both VMWare and Microsoft HyperV platforms in effect draw boundaries around CPU and memory usage such that, within a given computer, the functionality of one or more computer-based machines is mimicked. Machine code, the computing level required for virtualization, has long been hidden today’s highly abstract operating systems. In the case of virtualization, the machine code shapes CPU cycles and memory spaces to mimic the exact behavior of a specific computer. The result is a sequestered “virtual machine”—a computer within a computer that behaves exactly like its cabinet-and-circuit-board-based hardware twin.
Generally speaking, these virtual machines have a range of uses. They can be employed to execute software that may not run on the host computer when the latter is left simply in its base, out-of-the-box configuration—useful for continued use of software designed for earlier machines. Alternatively, each virtual entity can run currently available software packages independently of other virtual machines running other packages.
In the Invensys scenario, control systems are developed on virtual machines which are replaced by physical equipment toward the end of the project. At that stage, procurement of steel-and-silicon equipment can be dovetailed into the project once functionality is well defined, and the necessary hardware configuration can be specified precisely. Advantages include not only the reduced time to development mentioned above, but also the ability to deploy latest-revision hardware in the finished project. A side benefit (and also a time-saver during development) is the ability to sidestep any server or software crash, because identical virtual machines can be instantiated and brought on-line in minutes.
Also new is a range of consulting and development services bundled into a formal plant modernization program. In an exclusive press session at the user group meeting, Freburger joined Nathalie Marcotte, vice president of systems marketing, and Brian Courchesne, director of systems marketing, to provide additional details.
“The initiative is a packaging of a wide range of Invensys offerings,” Marcotte said. “We’ve done a series of pilot implementations over the last 18 months that have helped us align the program to a number of end-user requirements. This is the market rollout.”
Emphasis is on a holistic approach to modernization. “When equipment or lines need upgrading, that’s a good time to step back and look at the process as a whole,” Courchesne pointed out.
Earlier in the day at a general session, Dave Gaertner, director of modernization, Invensys Operations Management, outlined the overarching methodology as follows:
· Collaborate on a 2- or 3-day on-site needs assessment.
· Develop long-range modernization plans within cost constraints.
· Align modernization with process initiatives and strategies.
· Explore business opportunities and mitigate risks.
· Leverage solutions based on benefits and return on investment.
· Modernize in multiple technology areas.
“The more holistic the approach” Freburger said, “the more positive impact the modernization can have.”
While Invensys does not disclose detailed business unit sales, Freburger indicated that the program “is intended to be a significant part of our systems services work” from here on out.