Inductive Automation (IA), creators of Ignition, do an incredible job of constantly educating and supporting this industry in a variety of ways. Their series of webinars are really worth checking on regularly as the calibre of speakers and depth of subjects and ideas explored is second-to-none.
This was a fantastic webinar recently presented by Don Pearson, Kevin McClusky from IA, and Jeremiah Hannley from Streamline Control – so good we thought we’d share the introduction and transcript with you. If you’d like to listen to the original recording, you can do so here. If you would like to view the slidedeck from the presentation, it is available at the end of the transcript below.
In a world rocked by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the mobile revolution, Digital Transformation, and COVID-19, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) remains an essential technology system for manufacturers. However, a SCADA system that was “good enough” 10 or 15 years ago will not be adequate in today’s environment. Before adopting or upgrading to a new SCADA system, you must be certain that it offers the power and flexibility your organisation needs to adapt to these unfolding changes.
In this webinar, SCADA experts will discuss the features that a truly modern SCADA system should have, as well as the questions you should ask to assess your needs. You’ll also see how companies like yours can build SCADA solutions that are both forward-looking and cost-efficient.
- Learn why support for open standards is so important
- See why SCADA systems should be IT-friendly
- Take data beyond the plant floor with mobile, cloud & edge technologies
- Find out how licensing models can impact IIoT implementation
Don: Welcome everyone to today’s webinar, Choosing a SCADA System for the IIoT Era. We’re glad you could join us today. Before I introduce the speakers, I’m going to introduce you to Inductive Automation, our company, which was founded in 2003. We’ve basically over that time actually become a leader in HMI, SCADA, MES, and IIoT software.
Across that space, we serve thousands of industrial organisations all across the world. Right now, I think we’re in about 56% of Fortune 100, 41% of Fortune 500 companies. Over 2,700 integrators have joined our Integrator Program over that time. And we’re based in Folsom, California, and we have a growing network of international distributors also around the world. So if you wanna get any more information on us, you can go to the About section of our website, there’s plenty of information there to share with you.
To introduce the speakers today I’m Don Pearson with Inductive Automation, and joining me today is Kevin McClusky, he’s the Co-Director of Sales Engineering at Inductive Automation. So Kevin, you do a better job at introducing yourself than I do, so why don’t you say a couple things about yourself? Your background and your role with Inductive.
Kevin: Sure thing, thanks Don. So as mentioned, I’m Kevin McClusky, Co-Director of Sales Engineering. I, along with Travis, lead the Sales Engineering Department here at Inductive Automation. I’ve been with the company about 12 years, and I’ve worked with literally hundreds of different companies, helping with architectures, helping with their digital transformation, helping with their IIoT initiatives, and helping provide some guidance, and also getting good information and feedback and understanding of their needs along the way. So it’s been a fun evolution to watch, and it’s good to be here today.
Don: Thanks, Kevin. Also with us today is Jeremiah Hannley, and he’s with… He’s the Chief Technology Officer of Streamline Control. So welcome, Jeremiah. Also, I’d like you to do a better job than I did of introducing yourself, a little more about yourself and a little bit about Streamline Control.
Jeremiah: Sure, thanks, Don. So let’s start with a little bit about Streamline. Streamline is composed… Comprised of a unique mix of highly experienced and skilled management consultants, solution architects, and engineers who combined have over 75 years of relevant industrial control system experience.
These key personnel create, develop, migrate, support and train in areas such as digital transformation, communication, networking, IIoT, operational data, SCADA, and cybersecurity. We not only bring great technology expertise to the table, but our team is committed to delivering transformative results. We work with companies to understand OT assets and the associated data. This allows us to provide companies insights to operational technologies.
And a little bit about me, I’ve spent the last 15 years working with OT systems in and around the energy and utility space. I’ve consulted on SCADA, and industrial control systems, communications architecture, solutioning, data acquisition, HMI, and cybersecurity, to name a few. At Streamline, I help lead a team of SCADA and IIoT professionals.
Don: Jeremiah, thanks. And really, thanks a lot for taking the time to join us here today, we really appreciate that. So, a look at the agenda and what we’re presenting today: First we’ll talk a little bit about SCADA, what it is, and of course why it matters.
And we’ll then have an extensive discussion about the features that a modern SCADA system must have. Then Jeremiah will share a real project that he at Streamline Control had built. And we’ll wrap up with webinar… With the Q&A as we always do, so.
So why does SCADA matter? Here’s a very short answer: Because if you look behind the scenes of almost any modern industry, there’s a SCADA system at work. Whether it’s a simple configuration or a large and complex installation, SCADA systems are really the backbone, if you will, of modern industries. Include all these mentions here, and be it food and beverage, manufacturing, oil, gas, all the way down the line, and many, many, many others are all involved in utilizing SCADA systems to run their operations. What are all these companies using it for?
Don: I think that’s an important part to start with, because they’re using it for essential day-to-day functions, like controlling their industrial processes, notifying operators about the problems in the system that could cause some downtime, monitoring, gathering and processing their data, interacting directly with devices through HMI software, and recording events. There’s just a ton of stuff that these organizations are using their SCADA systems for. Bottom line, having a SCADA system is pretty darn essential.
But before you adopt or upgrade to a new SCADA system, there’s really… I think there’s a few things you need to understand, because in today’s era of IIoT/digital transformation/Industry 4.0, whatever you call it, manufacturers are using more data in their day-to-day processes than ever before. Big data, big data analytics. Data needs to be shared across the organization, so the SCADA system shouldn’t be siloed off. And, with some of the many changes happening with technology, a SCADA system based on ’90s technology just… Frankly, it’s just not sufficient. You can’t take yourself into tomorrow if you’re stuck in yesterday technology-wise.
Don: So when you’re choosing a new SCADA system for your organization, you should be certain it’s powerful and flexible enough to really adapt to all of these unfolding changes. So how do you find that exact right type of system?
Here’s what you need to look for in a SCADA system. It’s a pretty comprehensive list here. It needs to be IIoT-ready. It needs to bridge the gap between OT and IT. It needs to be based on open standards, work with multiple operating systems, it must be web-deployable on premises or the cloud, made for mobile as well as desktop, remote monitoring and process control capabilities, edge of-network capabilities, scalability, modern cybersecurity, and unlimited licensing.
We’re gonna just take a look at each of these features one by one, and I think the best way to do this is have you kick us off, Kevin, with the first feature.
Kevin: Sure, absolutely. So the first thing we’re looking at here, and the first one in that list we were just looking at is a system that’s IIoT ready. So why is this important? Really, it’s because you can access way more data way faster than before with IIoT. It just makes everything so much more accessible, which helps with all sorts of things inside the business. When IIoT is correctly implemented, it brings about great improvements in connectivity, efficiency, scalability, and in time savings and cost savings.
So how can you determine if your SCADA system really is IIoT ready? A lot of them say IIoT in different places or advertised modern technologies. But here are some important questions to ask to really determine that. Does it work with IIoT standards like MQTT and Sparkplug? Can it connect intelligent devices to infrastructure? Can it connect to the cloud, or does it partially run in the cloud? And can it handle large-scale data collection? Jeremiah, I know you have some experience when it comes to IIoT-ready SCADA systems. Do you have any remarks that you’d like to add about this?
Jeremiah: Yeah, sure. I think having an IIoT-capable system is super critical in order for businesses to compete in this day and age. We’re really at the infancy of leveraging analytics, AI and automation on real-time data, and these types of architectures facilitate this. A lot of what I see out there in OT assets, SCADA consumes really a fraction of the data that’s there, but businesses are demanding more and more. IIoT-ready systems are poised to enable that growth in a way that doesn’t bring your OT asset to a halt.
Kevin: Alright. Thanks, Jeremiah.
Don: I think what we can look at also is this next one is so critical, particularly as organizations have grown and because historically, there’s been sort of IT and OT, and we look at digital transformation, IT-down or OT-up, and we feel very strongly that there needs to be an OT/IT alignment. So bridging the gap between OT and IT is one of the roles of the SCADA system.
It’s important because OT and IT are perceived as separate domains, often with different languages and different ways of doing things. Over when there’s an alignment between OT and IT, it leads to major benefits, like lowering your costs, lowering your risk, standardization across your enterprise and bottomline, it just means better decision-making. So in order to successfully implement IIoT, OT and IT need to identify technologies that they can both work with. SCADA should help facilitate that. So what are you asking?
Try and determine that, here’s some questions that you can ask to help you decide if the SCADA system is gonna really bridge the OT/IT gap. Can they connect to any PLC? Can they connect to databases? Can they connect the ERP systems? And can it make data accessible to all levels of an organization to anybody who needs it when they need it. These are really important components to determine if you’re gonna be able to bridge the OT/IT gap and have one enterprise that takes you well all the way from central to cloud, if you will, for your operation.
Kevin: So the next thing to look at is whether a SCADA system is based on open standards. It’s important because open standards promote interoperability, which makes integration, scalability and collaboration much easier, and open standards are vendor-neutral, I’m sure that everyone on this call has at some point been subject to vendor lock-in where you have to use something from the specific vendor’s ecosystem, you can’t mix or match pieces of software systems or hardware, and open standards really address that.
So it also helps poise you for being able to move into the future in a way that you can adapt to new technologies and open technologies, you can adapt to new hardware, you can adapt to really using the best-of-breed instead of being locked into a specific vendor’s ecosystem that they have that’s available there.
So questions to ask about the SCADA system when it comes to open standards: Does it support open technologies? Some examples are SQL, Python, MQTT or OPC UA. SOAP, REST, HTML5, CSS and the list goes on. Or is it built on closed proprietary technologies? Does it require you to use a specific vendor’s technology in order to accomplish what you’re looking to accomplish? Will it lock you into having certain vendors as part of that system overall, and how difficult will it be to maintain it or to expand the system?
Don: So let’s take a look also at the next on the list of, sort of, must-haves, if you will, in evaluating your SCADA system. You actually need a SCADA system that works with multiple operating systems, and just why that’s important, because it really provides you long-term cost savings, it gives you more options for building your system, and it prevents vendor lock and it causes fewer support headaches.
All of this, I think, is really important when you got a SCADA system that becomes the backbone to your entire organization. Some of the questions you could ask when you’re evaluating the SCADA system,you should ask: Can it work with many or all major operating systems or only one? If it works in only one operating system, if that vendor stops supporting the version you’re using, how will that affect your operations? Really, bottom line I guess, what’s gonna cost you in time and money to get back up and on track?
Kevin: Something else that you really need in a SCADA system is a web-deployable and on-premise technology that will live… Well, either on premise or in the cloud, really. So when you can deploy to the cloud, you often get greater cost efficiencies for storage and computing compared to on-prem, which can be a big deal for organizations.
Cloud platforms offer higher-level capabilities like advanced analytics, business intelligence and machine learning. These capabilities really can let you do additional powerful things with your data once you’re ready to take that step, as either an individual or as an organization. And you can really get the best of both worlds as well by taking advantage of a hybrid cloud/on-prem architecture.
So some questions to ask about the SCADA system are:Can it be accessed from a local network? What about an Android device or an iPhone? Is it possible to run full-featured in a web browser or does it only offer a limited web browser or mobile experience? Maybe it’s just a smaller offering from the SCADA vendor that lets you do specific things in a web browser or mobile, but doesn’t have the entire experience of the entire application able to run in there. That’s an important question to ask. How long does deployment usually take?
Kevin: Is it instantaneous? Is it when someone presses the safe button, it’s deployed or does it take a certain amount of time for each application version to be deployed? How can it be deployed in the cloud in addition to on-prem and how can those systems work together? Does it provide a quick way to put OT data into cloud services like AWS and Azure?
Don: And then you can see even just with what Kevin and I have gone over so far and the comments of Jeremiah, that, it’s just what you’re asking your SCADA system to do, be and the role it plays inside an organization is a whole lot different than what people talked about in the ’90s. So I think it’s really important to look at all these must-have features as technology evolves. So you’re creating a system that will be somewhat future-proof and take you into the future.
One of those components clearly is mobility. Today’s SCADA systems should be made for mobile as well as desktop. That’s really kind of important because as you might’ve noticed, there’s been a huge proliferation of mobile devices over the past, I’ll say 15 years. That’s why the younger members of your workforce are so accustomed to using mobile devices.
When you bring mobile solutions into your organization, they can make more data visible and accessible to more of your people, which helps them respond to problems more quickly and to make better decisions, they can be responding from wherever they are in the organization, wherever they are, they’re capable of having the data to make those decisions and make them rapidly. So mobile, I think, is a really important point.
Don: Some questions you’re gonna ask about that SCADA system. Does it work equally well on mobile, as on desktop and plant-floor screens? Does it offer a first class solution for building mobile industrial applications? Do the screens look good on any size of device? And how advanced is the mobile component? Is it built “mobile-first” from the ground up or is the mobile element tacked on? Jeremiah, you have some thoughts on this and experience with this too. I’d like to add from your viewpoint, just the importance of mobile SCADA solutions.
Jeremiah: Yeah. The ability to expand the reach of real-time information beyond the control room particularly for field and remote users is really all the rage. We have clients asking for ways to communicate information between the field users and the central control room. These users are quite remote.
As an example, in the middle of Colorado, they’re seeing the same information that the control room has. The demand has always been for more data for the control room. In fact, I was just in an energy summit the other week and a request from one of our clients is, “How do I put more in the hands of my mobile worker to reduce the load on my board or my control room?”
Things like keeping radio chatter down or issuing a work order from these interfaces are some use cases being talked about, of course, this isn’t a net new concept, but because of this architecture, it doesn’t need to be put into a panel or a local HMI. It can all be driven off of a common ecosystem that’s agile and scalable.
Jeremiah: I’d also like to note that leveraging a SCADA and IIoT system that leverages HTML5-based components is super critical for building out real-time operational dashboards. You’re expanding the reach and access of the SCADA system to enterprise users versus having people log in via RDP log into read-only clients to see the process information. You still have a high-performance HMI built to facilitate the need to operate the plan to the process. But now we’re starting to take that OT data up a notch and instantly provide data insight and value to other users.
Don: That’s great, Jeremiah. Thanks. I think that really adds the perspective on just how critical especially our field workers, mobile technology is for a SCADA system.
Kevin: So this next one goes without say probably to most of you, but you need to have a SCADA that enables remote monitoring. It’s also important though, to have a remote process control enabled SCADA that you can do in a secure way to not just have read-only values. And that is, that is different from some systems that are out there where you just have read-only from the outer, from central, because there are concerns about security.
If you have a secure system and you have security best practices in place, it can be a safe thing to have remote control as well, which can really enable a lot of things that you can’t enable otherwise. By the way, I see that there’s a fair number of questions that have been coming in here and we will get to as many of these as we can when we get to our Q&A section at the end. I just wanted to say, we see you and we are happy that you’re submitting questions. And please go ahead and continue doing that.
Kevin: So when it comes to this remote monitoring allows you to check on processes and access information quickly without physically being in the facility. Of course, you can pull it up on your phone or you can pull it up inside the web browser. Remote process control lets you take actions based on what you learn through that monitoring immediately there because of the speed of travel and the speed of the internet and the speed of being able to access these different things if you’re using the right technology.
You can potentially reduce the number of personnel who are on-site and the need for travel. You can lower your operational costs, improve your worker safety and really speed up your response times for any incidental alarms that are happening. And of course COVID-19 has really accelerated the move toward remote operations. We’ve seen a lot of that over the last year, year and a half and it looks like this is really a permanent shift for many organizations.
Kevin: Here’s some really good questions to ask of your SCADA system or the SCADA systems that you’re evaluating when it comes to remote monitoring and process control: Can you easily set up a remote connection to anything inside your enterprise? Can you increase the number of tags and connections without going over budget? Does it enable you to bring and easily build web applications for mobile devices and for desktops? Can you easily bring data in from the field and from edge devices? And can you easily add capabilities like reporting, alarming, enterprise administration to manage a fleet of installations?
Don: All right, let’s talk about the edge for a minute here. I mean, clearly this is another really important thing for SCADA today: Edge-of-network capabilities. Edge computing, it’s… I mean, I think we all know this … is certainly one of the fastest growing areas of industrial automation and it compliments IIoT.
According to the Eclipse Foundation survey this year, the adoption of edge computing technologies is accelerating alongside the adoption of IIoT. So edge computing lets you process more data and push polling closer to the source, rather than centrally. You can cover more territory while reducing latency, improving your security and getting real-time data more reliably.
So when you look in at that and trying to utilize edge, here’s a couple of questions you want to ask about the SCADA system: Does it let you extend data collection, visualization and system management to the edge? Can you add functionality such as local HMIs, field devices, intelligence, data synchronization, and publication of field device data at the edge? So Jeremiah, you had some good comments to make on the subject of mobile and let’s ask you for Streamline’s view. You do a lot of work in oil and gas. Where is edge computing as far as how it’s become a big deal to you guys, do you have any comments about the value of edge?
Jeremiah: Yeah, absolutely. I would say edge computing is very valuable. It allows a lot of great things particularly in oil and gas, but really on any geographically distributed SCADA system. One example is, we can standardize and inject meaning and context at the edge as much as possible. So a tag isn’t just a Modbus address anymore. It’s a pressure transmitter.
And with metadata, we can say it’s also located upstream or downstream of this pump. We can also include things like device and serial number. In these larger IIoT ecosystems, that data now transmits all the way from the edge into the SCADA system and into the corporate environment or the enterprise environment for consumption.
Additionally, you’re opening up the ability to integrate information beyond industrial protocols. These devices can now integrate flat files, PDFs, cameras. You start to realize just how powerful it all is. We can convert that into real-time information for operators or control rooms and analytic and business information for the enterprise.
Don: That’s great. Thanks for your insight on that whole important area.
Kevin: Scalability is another very important feature for SCADA systems. And if you’re looking at evaluating how to future-proof the system going forward, looking at the ability of that system to grow is a big deal. You don’t want to get a system that’s going to force you to switch over to another system later on.
And an ideal system really should allow your organization to build any kind of architecture that it needs, whether it’s simple, whether it’s longer, whether it’s a data collector or whether it’s a SCADA network that stretches really over a wide geographic area or something in between. The more scalable your system is, the more future-proof it is because you’ll be better positioned to adapt when any of those conditions change that you might need to adapt to. And we all know that adapting to change is something that’s very important inside this industry.
Kevin: So, questions to ask in this area about a SCADA system: How challenging will it be to scale that SCADA system out? How many kinds of architectures can you build with it? What are your options for different architecture types? Can it be deployed effectively at one site, at multiple sites, and to the cloud? And can you mix and match between all of those? Can you add redundancy and is redundancy an easy thing to add if you start out without redundancy and you want to add it later? Can you manage data and projects from one central location?
Don: Kevin, thanks a lot. And just to comment also on the queue of questions to our audience here, you are interested in this topic by the number of questions. So we are going to have plenty of time to get to all of those as we wrap up this section here, but I think it’s really critical to take a minute here on one item here.
The next must-have feature is modern cybersecurity and unfortunately attacks on industrial targets are increasing in various forms, whether it’s phishing, malware, ransomware, data breaches, etc. And a few recent examples that have been in the news, of course, the attack on Colonial Pipeline, the water treatment plan in Oldsmar, Florida, JBS meat plant, we’re seeing more and more industrial attacks occurring.
If nothing else, I think these should be kind of a wake-up call about what can happen to industrial organizations and their customers, and so I don’t know, we can’t say that any software is 100% secure obviously, but having software with modern security features is an important element of any solution you put together. So some questions you should ask as you really dig into this one is, does it support widely used encryption protocols like SSL and TLS, does it support federated identity providers? Does it support 2-factor or multi-factor authentication? Does it have a model for user permissions? Does it follow the Perdue model?
Don: So I think, Kevin, you, and Jeremiah probably both have additional comments given your knowledge of security, and I know you’ve been pretty deep in it, so why don’t I start with you, Kevin, then we’ll go to Jeremiah.
Kevin: Sure, yeah, so it’s been interesting working with customers over the years as this has become something that is more and more important, in the old days, you used to have a control network that was either completely siloed off from the rest of the system or was set up in a way that had firewalls or that had different pieces of security that made it so that you didn’t really worry on the OT network too much about security, and some organizations even had it open to the rest of their IT network that was allowing for communication between different items, and you didn’t have the same attacks in the same way that you have today.
At this point in the game, even without IIoT taken into consideration with a modern SCADA system installed on the plant floor, it is important to take a look at the security considerations. Especially the encryption, TLS 1.2, 1.3, using the same encryption that your banking website uses is something that can really help protect organizations.
Kevin: In the case that there is some sort of a network compromise, there’s some sort of way that somebody makes it into the system over an open VPN connection or somebody logged into the factory, they plug into a network port, you still want to have protections in place to make sure that they’re not going to be able to get into your SCADA system and to do damage there, you want to have that protected and then on top of all of that, of course, going out over the internet that a lot of IIoT systems do and making that accessible and mobile devices when you’re sitting at home, having a mobile app or having those security pieces in place to make sure that you’re employing security best practices is really key when it comes to all of that.
So I just emphasize a few things that you said, Don, that it is really critical these days to have a system that has security at the forefront that has security as not as an afterthought, but as something that is a core piece of the system overall.
Don: Absolutely. Thanks, Kevin. I totally appreciate your comments. It is critical. Jeremiah, from the practitioner’s viewpoints in you and what you’ve seen with your customers, your thoughts.
Jeremiah: Sure, I think what I really like about IIoT-style architecture, is it allows for the passive data collection on the control system side of things, instead of interrogating or asking devices for information or basically reaching in from the enterprise with solutions that leverage edge we can collect and push into the enterprise for data consumption, so then you can start to instantiate digital twins or operational twins at the enterprise and go from there.
Don: Thanks, Jeremiah. Well, Kevin, I think I’d like you to bring us home with the last area that an organization should be looking at and evaluating a SCADA system. Clearly what we’ve gone over here, and from the questions, I see in the queue here, there’s a lot to be said for what we’re asking our SCADA systems to do and provide to the organization, so quite a bit of coverage here, go ahead and bring us home.
Kevin: Sure, sure, and I actually saw one question come in, we’ve had a lot of questions come in, and we’re going to try to get to as many as we can, but one that’s specifically about this Live that I wanted to answer quickly. It says, “How can we check the SCADA system and check in to support check and forward support of modern security?” Well, what you see on the screen right here, these questions are intended to give you the ammunition to do just that, so asking these questions of the vendor, trying to get an understanding from the vendor of what they support. Do they support TLS 1.3?
That’s a really important question right there. Because if they do, then they support modern encryption, if they don’t, then they’re behind in encryption, and that’s going to be something that’s important. They might only be a little bit behind, they might have TLS 1.2 support, which is still widely used, but if they have TLS 1.3 support then they’re right at the forefront, and they really care about security and being completely up-to-date. The federated identity providers, 2-factor and multi-factor authentication, all of these are really important points here.
Kevin: And if you ask these questions, depending on the responses that you get there, you’ll get a sense of if they do support modern technologies or if they don’t. Some vendors do, some vendors don’t. And some softwares from those vendors do, some softwares from vendors don’t. So it’s important to ask about the specific piece of software that you’re considering evaluating or that you’re running at the time to see what the options are for that piece of software.
Kevin: Alright, and so then, the last item that we have here, so… And I’ll say last but not least, take a look at licensing. In specific, you really need to have an unlimited licensing model.
So traditional SCADA licensing makes you pay for every different level of client and tag that you use, you might have ranges of 1-10 tags is X number of dollars, and 50-100 is X number of dollars. If you have unlimited licensing, you don’t have to really worry about the number of tags that you have beyond what the hardware actually supports. So you’re talking more in the range of thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of tags before you’re thinking about multiple servers and multiple licenses.
Traditional SCADA licensing makes you pay for these different levels, right? And so it’s difficult or impossible to add lots of sensors or devices under traditional licensing. In an economical way, if you have unlimited licensing, this feature really is key to making it possible to expand the system without needing to feel constrained as you’re doing it, which opens up innovation, opens up the ideas, and lets your engineers and lets the folks who are creating the systems really run wild and implement whatever that they want to.
Kevin: So questions to ask about the SCADA system: Is it licensed by clients and tags or is it licensed by the server? Will it cost more to add those clients, tags and connections? Will scalability be affordable under the licensing model? And how will the licensing affect or limit the system’s overall performance? So now that we’ve talked about all of these must-have SCADA features, you might be asking yourself, “Is there an existing solution that has some of these things, or that has all of these things?” And some of the questions that have come through have indicated things like that…
Since this webinar is presented by Inductive Automation, it’s probably not shocking to know that we might be bringing up Ignition by Inductive Automation at some point. If you don’t know, Ignition is software we’ve designed to have all of the key features needed for today’s changing world. We put a lot of time, resources and development into creating software that addresses each of these deep means of organizations that we just discussed, and I’m really proud to be part of this team, and I thought that you might be interested in understanding some of these features that we have in the software and how they line up with these different needs that organizations have. So, Ignition is IIoT-ready.
Kevin: It handles MQTT Sparkplug, lets you connect intelligent devices and infrastructure, connects to the cloud and can handle large-scale data collection. It bridges the OT/IT gap, it connects to any PLC relational database or ERP system, so you can make data accessible at all levels of your organization. On the PLC side, we have a number of driver suites that are available directly inside Ignition, and then it also supports OPC, so it can connect to external OPC servers and connect through any of the driver suites that you might have there.
It is based on open standard technology, so SQL, OPC UA, MQTT, Python, REST, SOAP, the list goes on, right? The Ignition platform does work with Windows, MacOS and Linux operating systems, and its web clients can run in standard web browsers as well as in apps, native apps in iOS and Android, so your iPhone, your iPad, any of your Android devices can run clients, that’s web-deployable, on-premise or in the cloud. It either runs as a web application, like was just mentioned, or it can be deployed from a web browser.
Quick deployment for on-prem or in the cloud, and modules for Ignition are available for putting operational tag data into cloud services directly like AWS and Azure. It’s made for mobile as well as desktop. It works equally well in mobile, desktop and plant floors, if you’re using the modern visualization options inside Ignition.
Kevin: It’s a first-class solution for building mobile standard applications, and you can build mobile-first applications from the ground up, and set things up, so that screens look great on any size of device, and in fact, our demo project demonstrates exactly that. It supports remote monitoring and process control, Ignition lets you easily set up remote connections to anything in your enterprise and to easily build out web applications for mobile devices and desktops, easily allows you to bring in data from the field and edge devices to central, easily add capabilities like reporting, alarming and enterprise administration and also lets you increase your number of ties and connections, without going overbudget.
We have that unlimited licensing model built-in directly into Ignition. It supports edge computing. So Ignition Edge is a product that lets you extend data collection, visualization and system management to the edge. You can choose edge solutions for local HMIs, for field devices, for field data collection, intelligence, communication, we have a product called Edge Compute, that allows for local intelligence and local compute on edge devices, data synchronization is built-in, publication of field device data is available at the edge.
Kevin: It’s very scalable, in general, talking about Ignition in general here, you can deploy at a single site, or multiple sites, in the cloud, build in various architectures, add redundancy, manage data and projects from a central location, and of course on the security side, it has very modern set-up cyber security features, supports TLS 1.2, 1.3, SSL, although SSL is kind of an umbrella term there, if you want to be technical. TLS is the thing that’s really important when you’re talking about the support, those encryption protocols are built in, we support federated identity providers, so, OpenID Connect, SAML, 2-factor authentication, multi-factor authentication systems,
Ignition can plug into, as a model for user permissions, allows users to follow the Purdue Model and other network architectures if they choose as well. And it also has an unlimited licensing model, it’s not limited by the clients and tags but by the server, there’s no additional cost for more clients, more tags, more connections, the licensing doesn’t impose arbitrary limits on your scalability or system performance.
Don: Kevin, that is a lot, and while that’s all true, somehow I think that you and I cannot be fully credible because we might be just minorly biased since we both work with Inductive Automation. So I wanna basically take a minute and not ask you to take our word for it, because Jeremiah’s here from Streamline Control, we need to tell you about a real project. They replaced a legacy midstream SCADA system with a high-performance SCADA system that leveraged an IIoT architecture, and Ignition was an important part of that project. So Jeremiah, can you just tell us more about the project? Anything you wanna share about it.
Jeremiah: Sure, Don. I’ll just go through a high level list of requirements that the client gave to streamline. Many of them are pretty standard, others were pretty challenging. But basically, they were looking for a solution that had an off-site disaster recovery of backup location. They needed a solution to collect and communicate data seamlessly over VSAT and the private sale network at locations throughout the United States. They must support best practices around cybersecurity, including the Purdue Model. They must have the ability to have a centralized management of all of the notes within the system, the ability to push data into the enterprise for immediate consumption to build out operational dashboards. And the ability to support a local HMI and edge node all-in-one platform.
Those are some of the upfront requirements that were a little challenging. But there were challenges that came with their projects when you’re in the weeds, so to speak. A couple of them are: How do I build a common HMI structure on assets with a variety of equipment footprints? How do I build out templates that are repeatable when my tags are so varied? How do I implement yoking in a repeatable and logical manner? How do I leverage all the hard work, building displays in Vision on the Perspective side in order to stand up an operational twin of the system for enterprise users?
Jeremiah: What mechanisms are in place to ensure that data collected at the edge makes its way up into the enterprise? Do I have structured and repeatable approach for bringing SCADA data and non-SCADA data into the enterprise? For example, we can start to bring back more measurement data from flow computers, additional data that is not typically needed in the SCADA environment. There is definitely a lot of things and lessons and challenges to go through.
Instead, I think the best way to look at this is to see what Streamline built from an architecture perspective. Well, as you can see, it’s just a bunch of boxes with arrows, makes it look pretty easy. But let’s just unpack this a little bit. We use MQTT Distributor as our middleware operational backbone. These are brokers distributed at each control center.
For the Purdue fans out there, this all sits on Layer 3 and below. Edge nodes are distributed throughout the pipeline system, as you can see by the boxes below. Communication is through VSAT and cellular, allowing for two communication paths. Although the drawing only shows one arrow, the edge needs to be able to swap between communications mediums seamlessly. We use Cirrus Links’ MQTT Modules to facilitate this. The ability to swap path is built into the product. I really love the modules that Arlen and his team at Cirrus Link built. It really makes all of this possible.
Jeremiah: Edge nodes are used here to concentrate field data. When super critical pieces, we leverage custom properties to describe tag data in the edge, basically creating a real-time distributed database. This allows for dynamic displays, contextualization and automation at the SCADA side and at the enterprise side. Really powerful stuff, thanks to Sparkplug B. Non-SCADA data is segregated at the edge, but still uses communication backbone that SCADA does. SCADA or Ignition will never see this information because it’s not subscribing to it.
Here, we start to realize the potential of this architecture. SCADA will always have priority, but we can now leverage a common architecture to push information where it needs to go. Taking full advantage of the operation, the OT backbone, we can stand up a hot backup control center in an off-site location. That runs independent of the main control system. Should there be a disaster, a need to fail over, the controllers head to the center, and that can operate at the click of a button. QA Dev testing environments are all built in another box over here. This allows for engineers and developers to work tests and then push changes into production all built into their… This is seamless with Ignition’s EAM Module.
Jeremiah: This is important, it allows us to expand the ecosystem, test on live data, but not impact the production system, which is so critical. An environment where integrators can work and test using the same information from the production environment seems trivial. But from my experience, there’s always some risks and challenges with this. You’re interfacing with OPC servers, connecting to devices natively on a production SCADA system that could cause some upsets.
This is even more challenging on legacy systems with serial devices. Here with this architecture, we’re just listening for data, it’s very powerful. Additionally, we now have our environments to test patches and updates on before we roll it out to our production system. Off of the operational backbone, we build out applications using Ignition or Ignition Edge inside the control network. These aren’t edge-of-network per se, they’re more of a self-contained application to analyze and interpret and then publish information back into the operational backbone. So we’re beginning to apply the concept of edge inside the controller at Layer 3 of the Purdue Model.
Jeremiah: Application like monitoring batches now reside in an application outside of the SCADA system, meaning not combined into a larger project and running independent. We can then modify tests and roll out these applications separate from a larger SCADA system roll out. Finally, I’d like you to look at the part on the right. Off of the enterprise system, we can now publish data into the enterprise by subscribing and passing data into enterprise brokers.
This is where the fun really begins. We’re beginning to realize how this architecture puts real-time data into users’ hands at the enterprise. Streamline calls this interface, the mobile business interface. And as you can see on the next slide, I’m going to show you more boxes with more arrows. There’s a lot going on here and I’ll speak in more detail about this at ICC.
But to impact some of this, we’ve had a Vision-based HMI, high performing, beautiful displays, two-click navigational philosophy, layered screens, repeatable templates, spaced yoking and the like. All the production data is collected and published to the enterprise interface. For security people out there, we can put this at Layer 3.5 or the DMZ to have a level of indirection to the enterprise.
Jeremiah: At the enterprise is a Perspective Ignition instance. We decided to use this because it really has all the features of a modern, scalable, operational dashboarding and application tool set. It has built-in time series and historical services, tags components. This is essentially how mobile and business users interface with the system. We can now build and develop dashboards applications that service enterprise users outside of the SCADA system, but leveraging the same real-time information perspective at… And Ignition is a perfect IIoT system that allows for our clients to ideate and build out applications and use cases to enhance their operations without the need for building it into SCADA.
For example, pipeline operators travel hundreds of kilometers or miles of pipe and through their mobile phone, they can access securely the state of the equipment, trends, control room notes in real time on their phone. There’s no RDT, there’s no jump service to manage, no data historian groups to coordinate data from field to enterprise. It’s all automatic. It’s all there at their fingertips. Well, that concludes my presentation for now. I’ll be going into more detail of this and other projects similar to, similar to this that Streamline has built for our clients at ICC, which is detailed on the next slide.
Don: Jeremiah, that was great. Thank you so much. And there are a lot of questions here. We’re going to get to them just to emphasize what you just said about ICC. We have a Discover Gallery at the 2021 Ignition Community Conference. This project and others, you will see focused on there. And our compliments to everyone at Streamline that really did the work on this innovative project.
So for all of you in the audience, if you want to see more of these projects, then come to the Discover Gallery at ICC this year. You can also check out the archives from 2020. Discover Gallery is where we showcase top Ignition projects from all around the world, across multiple industries, doing this project here. So it’s something I’d certainly recommend that you take a look at.
And I want to mention that as we go into Q&A that the Ignition Community Conference this year, will also have Keynote address, a Developer Panel, Build-a-Thon competition, a wide variety of sessions from you and the Ignition community will be presented, also improve the virtual conference experience, got a lot more interactive video chat platform we’re working with. It happens September 21st and 22nd, and it’s just free. So register today at the link you see on your screen. Also, if you want to try Ignition, download it for free, takes a couple of minutes, use it as much as you like.
Don: You want to get ahead at Ignition. You can also learn how to use Ignition at Inductive University, hundreds of free videos for training yourself. You can learn the basics, learn how to install a module onto a client, or even get a full admission credential for them. Let’s get into the Q&A here, I’m up to bat. I want to say some people asked how they could work with Streamline, know more about it, to answer those questions, there’s contact information for Jeremiah. So if you’re interested in more information on Streamline and working with them, you can go there.
Kevin on the Q&A also, if you want a demo, here’s the contact information to contact us at IA’s 800 number and all of our account executives are more than willing to help you get your live demo. Now with the time we have left to Q&A. Kevin, I saw you checking a lot of boxes for people. I know Eddie has brought a few questions, one, and yes, we can make a PDF of the presentation available to anybody who wants it. The access to the archive will also be available. I think by either end of day or tomorrow.
Kevin: One of the questions here is… Well, this was just a comment from David, said, “Mention that some of these other softwares, you need to buy pages too”. Thanks for that. Thanks for that note, David, you don’t have to buy pages inside Ignition. So that’s what that was about. The question here was, “Can we configure Ignition as an MES system?” Absolutely. So you can take a look at on our web pages. We actually have quite a bit of information about using Ignition as an MES. And you can do that with the core of Ignition, or you can do that with some of our partners’ modules, Sepasoft modules, our MES modules for OEE, SPC, Track and Trace, and a variety of other features.
And we actually sell those modules and we have a very close relationship with them and that’s a whole MES suite that’s available. And yeah, lots and lots of folks are using Iignition as an MES. Next question here, “Can we install Ignition beside a recently upgraded SCADA, but not replace the SCADA itself to get some of the benefits that you’re just talking about, email PDFs, SMS services when it comes to production- heavy industries like cement? T to what extent can that be feasible?” So yes, absolutely.
Kevin: We actually, when we started out before we were one of the major players inside this space, our suggestion almost always to folks was to install the side. And so, take Ignition, put it right next to your existing SCADA system. Use it for a little while, play around with it, set it up for a small system and generally folks basically install it and then fall in love with it and decide that they want it to grow and be a little bit more. Or if it’s just acting as a specific application. You’re happy with what it’s doing there. There’s nothing wrong with having it right beside something else that you already have in place.
Kevin: “Does Ignition strictly use web applications or is there an option to build a GUI application?” Yeah, there are two visualization systems inside Ignition. You can choose either one. One of them is building web applications, the other one is building full desktop applications. And then, either one that you choose is fully supported by Inductive Automation, and they’re both really powerful technologies.
The web applications are just as powerful as the desktop applications, and you can choose to use either one. We also have a way to launch the web applications in a desktop application using something called Perspective Workstation, so if you wanted to just design web applications but have it run full-screen as a desktop application that’s an option, too.
“Does Ignition work with virtual servers?” Absolutely, 100%. I’d say probably 50% of our customers run on virtual servers, so yeah. You can’t have a modern system that doesn’t run on virtual servers. You have to run on virtual servers, if you’re actually a modern SCADA.
Don: This question for you, Jeremiah is basically, “If you’re looking at using OPC UA instead of MQTT, where would you use OPC UA instead of MQTT?” Any comments on that?
Jeremiah: Sure, for highly distributed systems over many… Basically, highly geographically distributed systems, I would use MQTT. For situations like plant floors, I’d leverage OPC UA to maybe pull in information from devices, or DCS systems as an example but then I would leverage MQTT to contextualize and push data into the enterprise.
Don: Cool, thanks. And let me see if there’s anything else here. Kevin, how about… I just see some coming in faster. “Does it support Docker?”
Kevin: It does if you run Docker individually. If you’re running something like Kubernetes or an orchestration engine for Docker, then that is something that we have support coming for. It’s not supported fully with licensing for that, but if you’re just talking running a Docker image inside a system that has Docker installed or running Docker on a device that supports Docker, yes, we have an image on Docker Hub.
You can download it, use it, play with it, license it. As long as it’s going to be running on a single system, then Docker support is great inside Ignition today and then going into the future. Yeah, we will be supporting Kubernetes and other orchestration engines, probably within the coming year here, we’re gonna have support for that.
Don: Let’s try and get a couple more questions in with just the minute or two we have left. “Can it run a completely isolated network while testing?”
Kevin: Absolutely, yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that. You can do that unlicensed. If you want a license, you get a separate license file and you can do that. Set up the licensing through your laptop that’s separated, that goes out to our system. But basically, yeah, you install it, it can be completely isolated, connect to local PLCs on that isolated network and you don’t need any internet connection at all in order to run Ignition. And in fact, a number of folks do that on really key sensitive places that they have.
There was a question about IEC 61-850, intelligent devices and devices inside the electrical space. We support DNP3, we support data buffering, transfer for DNP3, and we do have 61-850 support coming, so we’re in active development on a driver for that right now. That should be out sometime in the next year. We’re trying to get it out sometime near the end of this year. As with any development, it might be a little bit longer than that, but that’s right around the corner. And until that point, you can always pair Ignition up with something like Kepware, that also has a 61-850 on C driver. But yeah, support for that directly inside Ignition, is absolutely coming.
Don: Thanks, one last question for you, Jeremiah. It says, “For Jeremiah, I assume that SCADA selection’s best done as part of a digital transformation roadmap. Can you talk a bit about the Streamline Control roadmap development service?” I think we will probably have a chance for you to take a minute or two on that, and that will be our last question and we wrap up. But Jeremiah, over to you.
Jeremiah: Sure. Yeah, at Streamline, we work with organizations to help build out digital transformation roadmaps that align with their business objectives and visions. We basically come in, help set up workshops and basically help ideate use cases and implement them.
Don: Thanks, Jeremiah. Thank you very much. Thanks to all of our attendees today. And we really appreciate your participation and interest. Have a great day. We are concluded.