While at the recent ISA Expo 2007, I had the chance to listen to Emerson’s Jonas Berge‘s presentation on software for automation. Jonas is an active member in the ISA SP104 committee. This committee is responsible for advancing the Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) standard.
A few years back he wrote a book, Software for Automation: Architecture, Integration, and Security. His presentation covered some of the ideas from the book. Specifically, he discussed these key points:
- Select technologies for software architecture
- Justify investment to management
- Where and how to deploy DCOM vs. Web
- Where each OPC flavor is used and how
- Integrate with business and coexist with legacy
- Troubleshoot DCOM and OPC
- Apply software and make the PC rugged
- Engineer and document software
- Backup, administer, and optimize
- Make it robust, safe, secure, and 21 CFR Part 11 compliant
The body of knowledge that an automation professional must understand to perform their job effectively continues to expand. As Jonas describes, the software architecture is as important to design as the hardware architecture. Information flows from devices connected from digital busses all the way through the automation systems to enterprise-level software applications.
Security concerns must be addressed and be part of this design. Cyber-security is an area of specialization unto itself and you can follow many of the issues and advancements at the Digital Bond and Unfettered blogs.
Jonas describes setup of networks and OPC, ODBC, and web services communications across networks and tips for troubleshooting these. One everything is functioning properly, methods of management and administration including backup and restore procedures are covered.
Jonas highlights the fact that this is a lot to plan and get right. If you find yourself overwhelmed and too busy to become an expert in this area, you are not alone. Many process manufacturers are working with their automation suppliers versed in this level of expertise to help on the project front-end and to help maintain these software packages and integration methods through their useful lifecycle. One example is Emerson’s SureService support services.