Products: Virtualization eases distributed control system migration

Distillery saves time and money with virtualization; products used: Simatic PCS 7 replaced an APACS system more easily by using a virtualization architecture, which reduced hardware costs and saved time.


The virtualization system uses a VMware Sphere hypervisor running on a main host server with Siemens Simatic PCS 7, allowing multiple operating systems to share one host server. Courtesy: MGP Inc.Virtualization architecture eased a distillery's distributed control system (DCS) upgrade. Below are some of the products used in the upgrade. From 1994 through 2001, an APACS process automation system from Siemens was used to control most major plant functions at MGP Inc., including the boiler/utilities, dryers/evaporators, cooking, distillation, and fermentation.

APACS performed well and helped build the Lawrenceburg, Ind., distillery's reputation as the top U.S. producer of brown and white alcohol goods. After more than a decade of success using APACS, the system needed an upgrade to continue growth as the APACS lifecycle was coming to an end, and the human-machine interface (HMI) program in use was no longer available or supported.

While the APACS automation solution served the application well, continued improvements were needed in production. The newest Siemens distributed control system (DCS) is Simatic PCS 7.

The virtualization system chosen uses a VMware Sphere hypervisor that runs on the main host server with Simatic PCS 7. Attending classes through VMware and watching YouTube videos provided more information on virtualization and its potential benefits.

Additionally, the virtualized environment uses HP hosts, which communicate with different networks, including a terminal bus, management bus, redundancy bus, and a plant bus.

A RAID 5 configuration is used as the hard drive storage that backs up the system, so if something goes wrong, a drive can be replaced, rather than the whole system.

Siemens Simatic Virtualization service was used, helpful for the first experience integrating IT technologies into the industrial environment. Siemens took responsibility for the selection of the software and hardware components, including virtualized server setups, configuration of the virtual machines, installation and configuration of the operating system, and installation of the Simatic software.

Sitting atop the hypervisor, a virtual machine operates independently and focuses on its own requirements without taxing the physical server. Courtesy: MGP Inc.Siemens provides support for the system including the hosts and thin clients from HP, ESXi from VMWare, and the prebuilt virtual machines with operating systems installed and licensed, including PCS 7, which help to reduce lifecycle cost and ensure future upgrades.

Now underway is replacement of eight APACS controller nodes with redundant Simatic PCS 7 AS 410 controllers. The migration will end with Profinet Ethernet and Profibus communications to 7,300 I/O points and swapping out more than 260 I/O cards to Simatic ET200 IO.

Jason Singleton is instrumentation and controls specialist at MGP Inc., Lawrenceburg, Ind. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

ONLINE extra

Read the case study involving the products mentioned here as well as a story from CFE Media content partner ISSSource about virtualization benefits and challenges.

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