OPC-UA debuts at ARC Forum

Source: PlantServices.com

By Paul Studebaker

Jul 24, 2006

The OPC Foundation released its latest interoperability solution, OPC Unified Architecture (OPC-UA), June 27 at ARC’s 14th annual forum in Boston.

OPC-UA is a new series of specifications that provides secure, reliable interoperability for moving data and information from the plant floor to the enterprise. It ties the existing OPC specifications together, leveraging Web Services as the key technology enabler in the new architecture. Applications such as asset management and true resource modeling and utilizations can be performed by using OPC-UA specifications to move data and information.

“The OPC Foundation’s Unified Architecture is a technology driven by the trend on the plant floor towards decentralization, providing interoperability between the plant floor and the enterprise, and creating a link between multiple generations of legacy automation products,” says Tom Burke, president and executive director, OPC Foundation (www.opcfoundation.org). “OPC recognizes the need for technology that manufacturers can employ in pursuit of universal, standardized and interoperable solutions to comprehensively describe automation and enterprise components. OPC-UA is platform-independent, and provides an infrastructure that is scalable and able to be deployed in devices ranging from the plant floor to the enterprise.”

OPC-UA provides a base foundation of services for discovery, read/write and subscription capabilities to move information that is described in the specifications of the other industry standards organizations focused on information modeling. Services for secure, reliable communications information also are the result of collaboration with other Web Services standards organizations that span industries including retail, financial, medical and security. Leveraging the information model of OPC-UA eases complete data access and exchange services with secure transactional capability for configuration data, diagnostic data and runtime operational data.

“The strategy behind the OPC Unified Architecture is to leverage collaboration with other industry standards organizations, including ISA-S95, ISA-S99, IEC, OAGi, EDDL, FDT and MIMOSA,” says Craig Resnick, research director, ARC Advisory Group (www.arcweb.com). “OPC Unified Architecture is intended to focus on defining ‘how’ to move the information models without restrictions from these other industry standards organizations that define the semantics of the content, along with bridging the integration gap between legacy and state-of-the-art automation and enterprise solutions.”

OPC-UA also defines the wrapper technology to support legacy OPC installations interfacing with the new unified architecture, so existing installed OPC-based products will not have to be replaced.
An OPC Foundation Early Adopter Program is designed to give member companies a jump-start on the OPC unified architecture technology. Vendors on this team worked together to build a solid foundation for migrating existing legacy products to the OPC unified architecture. Members have jointly developed common OPC-UA wrappers for existing DA, A&E and HDA servers.

The core team for the early adopter program includes 4CE, ABB, Absynt, Advosol, Allmendinger, Ascolab, Beckhoff, CAS, Cognex, Cyberlogic, Emerson, GE, Honeywell, Iconics, Indusoft, Invensys/Foxboro, Kepware, Matrikon, Microsoft, OSISoft, Prosys, Rockwell, SAP, Siemens, SISCO, SMAR, Softing, SoftwareToolbox, SRI, Technical Research Center Finland, Technosoftware, Wapice, Wonderware and Yokogawa.

“As a founding member of the OPC Foundation, Rockwell Automation has been a long-term supporter of its standards for improved plant-wide integration and interoperability,” says Kevin Roach, vice president of software, Rockwell Automation. “In our ongoing commitment to open standards and connectivity, we plan to leverage the OPC-UA specifications as part of the service-oriented architecture (SOA) within our FactoryTalk production and performance software suite starting in 2007.”

Kemal Turedi, founder and CEO, Cyberlogic, says, “We believe this effort goes beyond addressing the current DCOM-based limitations, and the unified architecture will prove to be a solid foundation to build on in the near future.”

At the ARC Forum, Iconics announced Versions 9 of its VizBiz manufacturing intelligence and Genesis32 HMI/SCADA applications, and described a number of changes and improvements. “Adding OPC-UA connectivity to all Iconics solutions gives our users the most reliable, secure and scalable open standard communication model available for plant connectivity,” says Russ Agrusa, Iconics president and CEO. “We are excited to be one of the first to offer OPC-UA across the boards in all Iconics solutions.”

The OPC Foundation collaborates with Microsoft, which is providing Web Services for rapid employment of unified architecture in both control and IT. OPC-UA represents the migration from COM/DCOM to SOA-based .NET technology. “The OPC Foundation's Unified Architecture technology is closely aligned with Microsoft's Windows Communication Foundation, which makes it easy for manufacturers to use Microsoft technology to build OPC Unified Architecture components,” says Chris Colyer, worldwide director of process manufacturing, Microsoft. “The requirements of OPC Foundation's Unified Architecture for scalability, reliability and performance align well with the direction that Microsoft has established providing the tools and components necessary to develop products efficiently.”

Microsoft's Windows Vista will be the first unveiling of many core services that form the foundation of the OPC Unified Architecture. In the future, this will take OPC to applications beyond manufacturing.