osisoft pi opinion?


Thread Starter


I have to move my historian to a pi - Systems.

I take a look both systems, and like to share some opinion.

At first i was very disappointed from the hmi of products (prozessbook) looks very very old no object orientation, export which is not very user friendly,... .) doesn't these products invest in userbility?

Or are there alternate GUI like the processbook for the pi, or does everyone extend the processbook with the addons?

The same impression i have on the server a lot of different switches, where you can turn (and you should otherwise, it doesn't run) different places where you can place the structure... (af,mdb,..) and you need a lot of command line tools to manager the servers.

It looked arround and pi looks to be some kind of "marked leader" i'm right?

I was working with wonderware insql where the configuration and so on was much more simpler (for example archive configuration) (at this point it is very easy to compare ... i know pi has fare more features in other areas)

Are there alternatives?
I heard from aspentech ip21? what are their pros/cons?

Trevor Ousey

Hi Max,

My experience is with the Wonderware IndustrialSQL (InSQL) product, and then briefly with PI when it was 'pushed' by a corporate plan. I would tend to agree that PI ProcessBook has the old feel, although it does have a simple feel as well, and with some of the users we had to deal with it may be suited. They do have a lot of large customers that use the PI historian, but then so does SAP, which doesn't mean that it is a good product.

The main issue that we have seen is the lack of robustness with the OPC interface, which in our area was connecting via Rockwell RSLinx to the PLC network. When ever any changes occurred with the tag structure or we had to do a download to the PLC, the OPC interface would 'glitch' and the only way to recover was a reboot of the server.

Support from Osisoft seems good, although I did not use it others had. And Rockwell must think it is a good product, they have a tailored version as their new Historian.

For a nice impressive addition/alternative for PI have a look at http://www.incuity.com/ which has connectors to various Historians and platforms. Again, Rockwell thought this was a great product/company too...

OK. I'll bite.

Yes. OSI PI is a big system and at first glance I had exactly the same concerns as you do. However, it's not as bad as it seems ....

PI has been around for a long time. Over the years its been migrated from VAX-VMS to a windows environment but has done a very good job of maintaining backwards compatibility. This does however mean there are a lot of things that still exist, but you don't need to use any more.

You no longer need command line functions to manage the PI server or server applications. Pretty much everything can be done through the PI-SMT which is a Windows based management tool.

The DCS and PLC interface manuals also spend a lot of time talking about command lines, but the reality is you use the Windows based ICU to build a "command line" that you never need to look at. It's all GUI based.

There are a lot of Add-ons, like AF (Analysis Framework), ACE (Advanced Computing Engine), SF (Sigmafine) that many folks just don't use. If you are a new user just migrating onto PI, then you may have no use for these systems as yet. However, they are really powerful tool sets for creating customised solutions, process & financial models or .NET applications interfaced to PI - they are certainly not 10 minute solutions to simple problems.

Processbook is undergoing a series of updates, though again I agree its still a little dated. However it works well which is important because as well as generating PB displays it also generates web graphics for RtWebParts. The Process Book exports are not meant to be "user friendly". Instead, they are conversions to formats to be used in other PI tools.

My first couple of weeks working with PI as an installer & systems manager were very difficult. It seemed like a lot of work for not much. However, with a bit of time and experience we started getting feedback from the users in the plant about how great the system was.

So my advice is that although it seems quite daunting at first, once you've been using PI for a few months you'll probably be really impressed by it. And then you'll understand exactly why its the market leader.

Good luck

> Take a look at iHistorian from GE Fanuc. <

I took a look at the iHistorian looks like it only fits you want a historian for scada system but not for a plant wide historian with more than 100.000 Tags => what is your opinion?



I am going to reiterate Rob's comment above.

The thing with the OSISoft PI system and its applications/interfaces is it is huge and can connect to massive amount of different systems. Some PI systems now are up and over 1 million points and running as if they are a 1,000 point system. Very scalable.

The applications have to remain slightly generic because of all the various industries where PI is used BUT the applications are typically highly configurable and expandable. Just take ProcessBook, you can build your own .Net addins for Data retrieval, docking window addins (this is how OSI are releasing new functionality in new versions) etc. Actually one of my favourite tools from OSISoft (apart from AF!).

Then a brief look at AF and you can see PI systems can become an Asset based system from which you can provide a whole wealth of functionality. AF is the future for PI!

I am probably slightly biased as I work with PI systems, interfaces, applications and my own PI applications all day long but it is a great set of tools and highly scalable.


RJK Solutions Ltd - OSISoft PI system specialists.

Michael Brown

PI will do you a good job. Once its setup and running there is not a great deal of maintenance required for its care and feeding.

Reporting, trending, general data access seems to be your interest.....

Check out Incuity @ incuity.com (Rockwell bought them last year). the package has a native connector to PI and delivers a very good interface to slice and dice the stored data...of course its all web-based technology.

Michael Brown
"Your friendly neighborhood Rockwell Guy"
& Raging Geek....

Mike Halhead

I've used Wonderware InSQL extensively. About 2 years ago I pushed the decision to migrate our operations to PI; I must admit that it hasn't been an easy decision. However, I do believe that it was the right decisions.

If all you're looking for is a historian then you won't benefit from PI. To benefit you need to make use of the additional tools; Totalisers, PEs, ACE, Webparts or iViews, AF, Batch/EventFrames, Manual data, scalable, ProcessBook, Datalink, Datalink for Excel Services, PI Notifications.

OSI provides a framework on which you can develop. Unlike people like Aspen who provide solutions; although some of these solutions are very good shoe horning them to fit you process tends to lead to a suboptimal solution. Unfortunately with all this power come complexity.

I'm surprised by the comment that PB is not Object Orientated; take a look at module relative displays or the upcoming element relative displays.

The best part of switching to OSI has been their techsupport. Their techsupport is excellent.

My advise to getting started. Watch the training video's and UC presentations. Start small (I burnt my fingers badly by go with a big bang on the first implementation). Develop solutions and integration to solve very specific problems. Be careful not to create to many point solutions; i.e. start small but keep the overall architecture in mind (remember that you have to maintain all of this).


OSI PI is the market leader but suffers from a few downsides one of which you have discovered with the "difficult to use" feature. They also use a lossy compression algorithm called the "swinging door algorithm" when they store/archive your data. This means you can't recreate your historical data with 100% accuracy later on. They are also very expensive.

I have found that the historian eDNA from Instep Software is extremely easy to use. The screens are set up very easily and it integrates with just about any equipment out there. It is also significantly less expensive than OSI PI. It is newer and better technology.

I would give that a look if I were you ....

Hope that helps....
Yes, OSIsoft has been around for a long-time, long enough to continue profiting from the paid-client/server model. Because their bread-and-butter is the server, they invest far more into the server than into the clients.

<b>PI ProcessBook</b>
PI ProcessBook is powerful, but users must go through training to harness that power. The key feature of PI ProcessBook is that it has VBA and many tasks that users perform in ProcessBook can be scripted.

The PI Server itself has many options, but the only required option is the interface to your SCADA and the base server itself. To my knowledge, AF is still young and not yet widely-adopted by the market and the PIModuleDB has about 50% market penetration.

<b>System Management</b>
OSIsoft has created the PI-System Management Tool (PI-SMT) to perform routine server management, but there are a few legacy operations (e.g. reprocessing archives) that require command-line operations. For the most part (70 - 85%) of the administrators job can be using the PI-SMT.

<b>PI vs. IP.21</b>
I worked with both PI and IP.21 at my former firm, and there are significant differences. The maximum point count on IP.21 back then was roughly 30,000 points. If your plant had 120,000 points, you had to install and manage 4-separate servers.

If you think PI ProcessBook is old and has poor usability, Aspen ProcessExplorer is far worse. For example, each ProcessExplorer file is capable of rendering exactly one trend, and to get multiple trends to show, you needed to create a "workspace" that opens up many files within the application. Needless to say, my former employer has since standardized on PI and has been buying PI exclusively.

<b>UI alternatives</b>
That said, if you are looking for usability for PI, there are many products that improve usability. Transpara sells a mobile KPI solution called, "Visual KPI". As well, Zymergi sells a web-based, search for PI called, "ZOOMS"

Much of what Oliver says is true particularly the dated Process Explorer comments but some of the information is out of date.

IP21 is probably the most flexible and customisable historian on the market. It is far more flexible than Pi in terms of the contents of your history files, the number of configurable archiver tasks, the sizes and tuning of those archive for optimum performance. It has supported 1000,000 tags for some time now.

As far as object orientation and modern programming goes it is all about choosing the right tool for the right job. Custom tasks in IP21 need to be written in C, it is afterall a real-time database and this is quite acceptable. Client tools is where you want to be able to make use of more modern technologies like .Net and Microsoft Silverlight.

I do not work for Aspentech or have any affiliation with either party. We have a development Pi system as well as many years experience with IP21.

Hope this helps,

Bill Graham
Industrial Thinking Ltd
Have you considered other vendors? OSI PI and Aspentech IP21 both have lots of moving parts and can be a challenge to manage at times. The Canary Enterprise Historian was grown over the years and scales from a few thousand tags to over a 1,000,000 tags on single server. To facilitate this the management functions and health monitoring are built into the Trend Historian Console - the system runs health status checks in the background and will alert the user via email of any issues found.

It offers trend components that run either as standalone ad-hoc analysis tools or as an activex can be embedded into your choice of HMI/SCADA products. If you would like to go the ProcessBook route there is a product called InfoLink, developed in .NET and uses C# as the scripting language, that can be used to model PB style displays.

Lastly Canary is 25 year young company that has been providing high performance historian solutions to OEMs with a focus on customer service.

Jack Wilkins
Canary Labs