Virtualization Provided by DCS/PLCs Vendor

<b>Does Virtualization have to be expensive?</b>

I am surprised to see that the DCS/PLC vendors selling a Virtualization solution as if it is one of the best technologies and charging a industry nearly millions of dollars.

I have stopped using virtualization, and it is not a new technology that I want to use. It is 1960 technology, in fact Unix Mainframes and terminals are on same line.

I was quoted for 20 clients, the cost by one DCS/PLC vendor for virtualization was $750,000. Let me show you a simple calculation - each computer (desktop) is $1000 to $1200, then 12 desktops and a rack will cost about $30000 (along with a good quality switches). So where does this cost of $750,000 come from. I am completely surprised by these DCS/PLC vendors salesmen selling a old technology and facing a client with straight face saying they are doing the best price.

Comments are welcome.

Jeremy Pollard

The industrial market has been a captive audience for 40 years.. why would you expect it to be any different now?? Inductive Automation upset the apple cart with no cost clients, but no one else has followed suit because they figured IA was not mature technology.

What the future holds is going to be interesting but to be sure we will probably still be a captive audience.

Cheers from: Jeremy Pollard, CET The Caring Canuckian!
Crisis, necessity, change

Integrator, Educator, Consulting, Columnist - Control Design
The cost of HMI/SCADA is more about the software than the hardware, so virtualization probably isn't going to save you much money that way. This is especially true in full fledged engineering workstations that have a ton of extra software and gateway services that typically run exclusively on Windows, meaning you need at least a Windows Server running Terminal Services server.

No, where the savings will be is in long term O&M. By virtualizing the software environment, you get flexibility like re-purposing a client instantly, creating/restoring backups easily, instant rollbacks on upgrades, easier upgrades, and elimination of hardware compatibility as an obstacle to device replacement.

Virtualization isn't necessarily easy to achieve; the mainframe comparison isn't right, as mainframe software was designed from the beginning with centralized execution in mind. Some HMI and SCADA programs are written that way as well, with client-server protocols that allow thin clients or even browser based clients. However, like I said, that is usually a small part of the software running on many PCs in a DCS.

The key issues for virtualization are redundancy/failover, configuration of the virtual network, software and license compatibility with a centralized system (try plugging in 32 USB license dongles to a server sometime!), O&M of the server (much more like traditional IT), cybersecurity, and cost of the servers themselves.

So, if you've got the engineering chops to do it right in house or you can live with the wild wild west of an ad-hoc solution, great; if not, products from some DCS/PLC vencords have done some or all of the legwork. As with everything else, your mileage may vary.

For example, if you're using a very specific solution like a GE Mark VIe DCS, you'll probably save a lot of time and money with the GE Control Server for virtualization--it already has integrated everything you'll need. For a low end PLC doing machine control, maybe doing it in house is acceptable.