SOA architecture lends itself to profitable partnerships for plant-level information
Kevin Roach, VP of software, Rockwell Automation, is on something of a roll. “It's been a great year for growth and market share,” he enthuses. “We've continued to deliver double-digit growth in a market that's growing a lot more slowly than that.” Expressed as simply as possible, Rockwell has two product lines: its Logix control platform and FactoryTalk, an integrated s...
Kevin Roach, VP of software, Rockwell Automation, is on something of a roll. “It's been a great year for growth and market share,” he enthuses. “We've continued to deliver double-digit growth in a market that's growing a lot more slowly than that.”
Expressed as simply as possible, Rockwell has two product lines: its Logix control platform and FactoryTalk, an integrated suite of plant operations software.
Roach says much of the software-side growth has been fueled by added capabilities to FactoryTalk that manufacturers find extremely valuable. These include the ability to connect plant-floor applications, and view all plant operations through a single user interface—two components Rockwell brought to FactoryTalk this year.
FactoryTalk Integrator enables the links between plant-floor and enterprise-level systems, while FactoryTalk Portal helps manufacturers increase productivity by allowing them to consolidate their Web-based interfaces into one manageable and configurable launch point.
“Timely access to dynamic information, applications, and people is essential when building manufacturing portals,” notes Roach. “FactoryTalk Portal can help users quickly build highly scalable portals that provide the right information to the right people in the right format.”
In addition to new products, growth is powered by new alliances. A tie with data-historian pioneer OSIsoft , characterized by Roach as “historic,” led to Rockwell announcing plans to license and deliver OSIsoft technology within FactoryTalk. Under the agreement, Rockwell Automation will incorporate the OSIsoft PI System and related components into the FactoryTalk suite. The agreement also calls for leveraging FactoryTalk's service-oriented architecture to enable tight integration between OSIsoft's plant historian and Rockwell's Integrated Architecture.
“Connect to a Rockwell system, and it will automatically configure itself, recognize the devices you've got out there in the plant, and take a guess at what you'd like to historize,” says Roach. “Integrating the two company's products provides value by eliminating engineering time, cost, and complexity.”
News of another alliance came at the Hannover Trade Fair in April: this time, an agreement with Cisco Systems to work with IT and manufacturing groups at joint customer sites to improve plant-level data sharing across the enterprise.
There's no new technology involved in this alliance, stresses Roach. Instead there's the recognition by both vendors that they have each been sending out confusing messages to customers concerning enterprise-to-plant-floor integration. Too many customers, it seems, have been complaining that while Cisco says one thing to the IT department, Rockwell says another to the manufacturing function. In the future, concludes Roach, look for the two companies to agree on and publish what they consider to be best practices in terms of communications between IT and manufacturing.n