Budget to Replace PLC with AutomationX


Thread Starter

Mark Wells


I'm concerned that I might be perceived as a scared engineer with a fear of innovation, so I'm budgeting to replace a PLC (Pathetic Little
Computer) that controls a three-roll mill with an IBM 2064 zSeries Model 116 running Linux and AutomationX software. I want to be open-minded.
I've looked at other options for computers but the IBM zSeries seems to have more available computing power, good data distribution and
computational flexibility. I've got a couple of questions:

1. My I/O is Profibus DP, but I don't know if PCI slots are available on the zSeries. Would it make sense to simply remove the existing I/O and
switch to an Ethernet based solution such as Wago? This would mean that my initial investment in 30 discrete I/O and 3 analog I/O would have to
be totally replaced.

2. Should I budget for a Parallel Sysplex configuration (a server pair), or would the zSeries by itself be reliable enough?

3. The price of the zSeries Model 116 seems high. I could save about $1.6 million by going with the Model 108 (according to
http://www.xephon.com/targetprices/css/targetprices.html). Has anybody tried this configuration successfully? Did the I/O updates seem slow?

Sincerely (not really),

Mark Wells
Runfactory Systems Inc.
http://www.runfactory.com1235 Bay Street, Suite 400
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5R 3K4
Ph. 416-934-5038
Fax 416-352-5206

David McGilvray

Hi Mark,

Your not so sincere post raises an interesting point. While obviously a ridiculous scenario for your small application, I wonder how your favourite server, the IBM 2064 zSeries Model server 116, compares to large Distributed
Control Systems. Certainly the costs are in the same neighbourhood - in fact the server price is considerably lower than a number of larger
Honeywell TDC 3000 installations I'm familiar with. What about reliability? performance? flexibility? Total Cost of Ownership? Profit Contribution?

Food for thought.

David McGilvray
M&R Automation
TDC -3000 , Advant-500, Foxboro and Rosemount among others would be good DCS systems. However they would be closed when compared with the solution proposed. And secondly the technology used will be similar,

Most DCS systems run on UNIX or UNIX clones.
The proposed system would run on Linux.

The Hardware is on some network in both the cases (LCN, data Highway, DCN etc. depending on the DCS chosen).

Automation X is proven system.

In addition to the regular features:
The proposed system would be future proof.
Hardware components would be openly available in the market.
Support except for AutomationX would be available from several sources.
AutomationX has a friendly policy and hence there is a small edge to the customer.
The Cryptography chips on teh IBM Z series provide one of the most reliable and secure data comm.'s today.
It would also be easier to upgrade the system in the future as the design is open.
Over all cost of ownership of open systems is always lower for open systems in my experience.
You can add any number of Database and Web software packages and provide a highly flexible and reliable solution to the customer.

however I concede that all DCS systems are better known systems.

Anand wrote:

> On Selecting the IBM Z series, you have selected one of the best,
> technologies available today.
> The specs of the Z900 series are formidable.
> the specs on g2219112.pdf talk about PCI cards on page 5, but they have
> not specified how many PCI slots are available, but that should be quite
> some number. You should be able to use Profibus Dp along with drivers
> for the Profibus DP and PCI cards used in the usual way.
> I believe that PCI slots will be available, but a further check with IBM
> rep. of the area concerned would help (final word).

Anybody know if AutomationX has Profibus drivers for the zSeries?

> What is the reliability requirement of the plant? Are the old systems
> 1:1 redundant. If not then you can think of having raid disks and some
> simpler reliability mechanisms and a cold standby facility for the worst
> case failures.

The old system just had one PLC. I'd like to try to avoid the cold standby if possible because it would save me about $4 million.

> That would depend on the process requirements and the economic aspects.
> However if your are tighter on budget, you could also use simpler
> machines running
> Linux, and raid devices and other simpler technologies for hot standby,
> to get the required reliability at a lower cost.
> Speed will depend on the processor speed and RAM. Lots of both of these
> would be sufficient and another thing is to load the minimum required
> packages while installing the OS.
> You could achieve a good reliable system with adequate speed even by
> using other servers, But I was quite impressed by the IBM specs.

Yah, I think I'll stick with the IBM. I'm pretty sure that the Linux boxes will only run one Linux image at a time, while with the zSeries I could run thousands. Very flexible...

> Unfortunately in a real world, you could be competing a large part on
> prices and hence price would be a big deciding factor! Other wise the
> IBM server config becomes a perfect plant solution that
> 1. is reliable
> 2. Fast
> 3. Provides safest connection to plant and world networks. (is terrorist
> safe!)
> 4. is expandable

Price won't matter. If the customer brings it up, I'll tell him that he's scared. I'll then point out that his current PLC-based system has a higher total cost of ownership, and that he's paying a big opportunity cost by using the PLC. If that doesn't work, I'll tell him that his PLC will soon self-destruct causing millions of dollars in damage and potential loss of life. 100%. Marketing.

Having fun,

Mark Wells
Runfactory Systems Inc.
http://www.runfactory.com1235 Bay Street, Suite 400
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5R 3K4
Ph. 416-934-5038
Fax 416-352-5206
Maybe your posts should describe why your product would be better than a $4.5 million TDC 3000 (or a $9 million TDC 3000 if you want to use a "server
pair")instead of PLC's and DCS's. You could even try to use some numbers and examples instead of buzzwords. I honestly think that you might be able to make a case, if you haven't lost all credibility already.


Mark Wells
Runfactory Systems Inc.
http://www.runfactory.com1235 Bay Street, Suite 400
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5R 3K4
Ph. 416-934-5038
Fax 416-352-5206