What is the best Plant automation solution that doesn't use any Microsoft products

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Thread Starter

Ryan Carroll

What are the best process control solutions that are not tied to Microsoft? I have read about seimens going that direction but I was hoping someone could give me some pointers.

I have been out of this industry for over a decade. Basically I would like to have some feedback on the latest solutions that are free of Microsoft.
 
W
The list is very short. In my opinion, there are no "professional grade" automation solutions that do not use Microsoft products. Sorry, but that ship has sailed. Now people on this list who have been trying to create Linux based automation products will violently disagree with me, but you said "best process control solutions" and there just aren't any that don't use Windows.

Best,
Walt

Walt Boyes, FInstMC, Chartered Measurement and Control Technologist
Life Fellow, International Society of Automation
Editor in Chief, Control and ControlGlobal.com
[email protected]
 
Well, basically for the last decade everybody has been getting onto the Microsoft bandwagon. To the point where finding anything that doesn't have at least some Microsoft component somewhere is getting quite rare.

So assuming you mean you dont want any microsoft based components anywhere at all (no OPC, no Windows based HMI, no Windows based programming tools etc) then what do you mean by "best" and "Plant Automation" ? Do you want a small scale embedded controller running a PID loop written in C++ on linux ? Sure - no problem, if you can write C++. Do you want a large scale DCS to control an oil refinery? If you don't want Windows you're pretty much either going to buy something 10 years out of date or something not from a major DCS manufacturer like ABB, Siemens, Honeywell, Invensys etc.

If you mean a PLC or other Controller that doesn't use a microsft OS (as opposed to programming tools running on Windows), then take your pick. Very few of the major manufacturers have moved to using windows based soft-controllers.

The "no microsoft on my DCS" ship sailed a long time ago.
 
W
I beg whoever owns Realflex now It was a BakerHughes company twenty years ago. I'd completely forgotten about it. And it does use QNX. But I sure can't think of another.

Walt

Walt Boyes, FInstMC, Chartered Measurement and Control Technologist
Life Fellow, International Society of Automation
Editor in Chief, Control and ControlGlobal.com
[email protected]
 
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Curt Wuollet

Yes, and that's what makes our plants and infrastructure irresponsibly vulnerable to terrorism, espionage, pranks and manipulation. Not only by providing the best possible environment for virus propagation with zero diversity, but by incorporating the worlds most porous and penetrated operating system as an inescapable component of every non-trivial system. That's brilliant, simply brilliant. At least the military has caught on. It's pretty scary that industry isn't smarter than the military.

Regards

cww

 
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Nathan Boeger

The landscape hasn't changed that much in the last decade with respect to Linux/Non-MS frontrunners. There is a lot of "what do you want" / "what are you looking for" room for interpretation of your questions. Is a hardware solution "tied to Microsoft" if the programming software is written for Windows but the device has nothing to do with it? You'll find that with pretty much every PLC/DCS "solution" out there. You could easily use a dedicated machine or virtual machine to do the programming. It won't affect process performance.

On the software side, Ignition has become the dominant platform independent (doesn't have to be MS) SCADA package. It requires Java and Inductive Automation supports a wide range of operating systems. For example, the "quick start" explains text Linux installations with differences between Ubuntu and Fedora, plus they provide a Debian Package Management installer.

http://inductiveautomation.com/products/ignition

It's hard to determine from your post if "process control solution" is hardware, software, or both. "Best" can mean different things to different: people, industries, places, etc - it depends on your process.

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Nathan Boeger, CISSP-ISSAP
http://notanotherindustrialblog.blogspot.com
 
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Ryan Carroll

Thank you for your feedback to my question.

Let me clarify "best" as if a client asks me to build a machine using components of my choice what would I use. I have been away from this industry for 15 years and I can honestly say I have not sat in front of a windows machine in 10 years. The my mac computers are always on and connected to the internet 24/7 and never had a virus that I know of (not to say they don't have issues). I realize that in this business i will be familiar with most brands and look forward to this. I see that programming a plc and interfacing it with a HMI has evolved but not changed a lot. What I intended with this question was to get a feel for the leading edge of what you are using today. I do have a link (http://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/about_us/newsroom/press/press_release.cfm?Component=82370&ComponentTemplate=822)

that appears to me may be Siemens first step in movement towards the apple os. I have also read recently that the next release of windows(should they even call it by that name) would work on a virtual machine (mac osx running parallel). I would hope I can in the near future be able to use apple computers for all work stations at all levels. I believe that I could give a client a fairly reliable interface to the machine while still allowing a plc to do its job regardless of what the operators and engineers are using to control them. Thanks again for all of your feedback, they have given me more to research as I catch up with the times.
 
R
Thanks
Inductive automation is on the top of my list and I look forward to working with this product.
 
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Nathan Boeger

That's a fair question. I would first say to go with what the client is comfortable with - meaning what their IT department is willing to support. That way computer and networking problems don't always have to be your problem. In the absence of that, sure, recommend installing what you're most comfortable with. OSX is a fine operating system. I have a Macbook Air sitting next to my Alienware Windows 7 laptop. I run various flavors of Linux on an ESXi server and on my Windows 7 desktop. All of this is personal preference. I wouldn't say any one is strictly better than another. I do know that if I wanted to program PLCs, I'd choose an XP virtual machine, or better yet, older laptop with a physical serial port. I'd also know that a Linux machine or Mac wouldn't cut it. You're a professional and these are the tools of your trade - acting like an MS, Apple, or Linux "fanboy" just isn't appropriate in most cases.

Be careful blindly trusting OSX. It's not inherently much safer or protected from viruses - the more significant reason for what you described is the numbers and demographics of the users. We're seeing more malware and as time goes on the number will probably increase. You would be wise treat Mac workstations with the same care as PCs when it comes to protection. That said, you probably will have a better experience with Apple than Microsoft in this regard.

I'm not familiar with which (PLC/hardware) vendors are extending their software support to OSX and/or Linux. I think more need to jump on the web based/Java bandwagon like Inductive Automation. Think about it. How do I program my home router? Via a web page from any computer on my network without specialized software. How do I program a Cisco Call Manager for VoIP phones? Again, through a web browser, this time using Java. The business model of charging money for each computer that needs to program the hardware, then installing custom Windows based software needs to stay in the 90's. These days consumers should demand to be able to run their software on any OS, across the network, without an install. The technology has been there.

Like I said in my first response, I don't think you're behind the times. Most industrial hardware and software vendors are. But I see indications that we're moving in the right direction - take OPC-UA, for example. It's getting there - just don't expect that we're in the Jetsons after being gone for 15 years. This industry is SLOW to adopt change.

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Nathan Boeger, CISSP-ISSAP
http://notanotherindustrialblog.blogspot.com
 
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William Sturm

For better or worse, todays leading edge seems to be primarily whatever Microsoft has recently released to the market. An alternative technology that may have some acceptance would be a web based system that is fairly independent of a particular OS. There is a flicker of light on the horizon of tablets/smart phones with Android or IOS for industrial use, that would be the bleeding edge IMO.

Bill Sturm
Abbeytronics LLC
 
I think you should get really used to setting up virtualbox with someone's throw away XP license that is upgrading to 7. I don't know of any *major* PLC guys that work on either MAC or Linux. We do use one controller product that is Linux/PPC based on the runtime system, but it's factory supplied programming software is a standalone install for Win32/64 (you can setup your own linux or Cygwin environment manually if you want to). At this point in time windows for automation is nearly inescapable.

I would say one thing and that is to go with a PLC company that is well supported and uses Ethernet Programming. The virtual machines seem to have Ethernet covered very well. I have used some USB and serial based devices as well and they do work for the most part.

Ken
 
The Linux situation looks as follows:

- Communication with field devices today is no problem.
Practically all fieldbus protocols are supported under Linux today. This may be in combination with special hardware + driver or drivers that work on standard hardware. Even OPC which has been tied to Windows is beginning to be replaced by it's successor OPC UA. OPC UA is platform independent and is available for Linux.

- A lot of database systems are running on Linux

- You can do platform independent GUI programming with Qt/GTK/Java. So your application might run on both Linux and Windows.

- You may run Windows within a virtual machine if you need to use PLC tools only available on Windows.

- There are some HMI / SCADA frameworks for Linux which might also run on Windows.
An example is our http://pvbrowser.org

I think everything is available to do automation tasks on top of Linux.
May be you install Linux on the computer within the rack and continue to use Windows for the GUI on your desktop.
Thus only use Windows when security is not an issue.
 
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