Wonderware releases bring HMI into managed applications world

To ensure harmony between its past and future—i.e., to support the installed base even as it moves firmly into the plant SOA era—Wonderware introduced in early September version 10.0 of its InTouch human-machine interface (HMI) software, which “brings it into the world of managed applications,” and version 3.


To ensure harmony between its past and future—i.e., to support the installed base even as it moves firmly into the plant SOA era— Wonderware introduced in early September version 10.0 of its InTouch human-machine interface (HMI) software, which “brings it into the world of managed applications,” and version 3.0 of its System Platform.

Use of PCs running Microsoft operating systems to manage industrial processes began 20 years ago with a handful of software vendors—with Wonderware among the first to market. Today a business unit of Invensys , about 450,000 Wonderware software licenses can be found in more than 100,000, or about one-third, of the world's plants.

Commitment to Microsoft technology remains central to Wonderware's business, but just as Microsoft has become much more than a provider of PC-based software applications, Wonderware extends Microsoft infrastructure elements for industrial use and has solutions to manage multisite plant production and performance, not to mention dams in China, communications networks in Greenland, and airports in Spain.

Most recently, the advent of services-oriented architecture (SOA) is leading to fundamental changes in plant operations software in which point solutions or even loosely bundled manufacturing execution system (MES) suites are being replaced by application suites based on common services platforms.

Invensys' ArchestrA, based on a Microsoft .NET kernel and wrapped with a layer of industrial services, is at the core of the Wonderware System Platform. Wonderware Production and Performance Management software modules sit atop the platform. Common services include distributed applications processing and deployment; record keeping by the Wonderware data historian; and content integration via Web portals.

“What we have,” says Wonderware President Mike Bradley, Sr., “is production execution and performance practices joined in a single, scalable system, including a robust system platform, and functional modules for batch operations, work-in-process, and quality management—chosen by the user based on the scope of the engagement.”

What's new

What Wonderware now has done is make InTouch software the universal visualization client for the System Platform, while ensuring backwards compatibility for all generations of InTouch HMI applications.

In addition, all Wonderware applications, including InTouch HMI, are now served by a common, collaborative development environment, called the Wonderware Development Studio, used to configure and extend applications, and that reflects in its approach the growing involvement of IT departments in plant-based projects that were traditionally the exclusive domain of engineering.

Newly announced Wonderware System Platform 3.0 software supports consistent operations across facilities through use of a hierarchical data model that by abstracting physical equipment and systems becomes a powerful production application development environment.

“This is one of the biggest InTouch software releases ever, and a huge time-saver for those of us in the development world,” says Bill Sherwood, president, Progressive Software Solutions , an industrial automation systems integrator and Wonderware ArchestrA Certified integrator, “with InTouch software becoming a networked application based on a common, collaborative development environment, use of standards in deploying and propagating distributed applications, and incorporating powerful scripting for extensibility that together will result in at least a 25-percent savings in development time.”

Intelligent graphics capabilities in InTouch 10.0—along with direct support for Microsoft .NET technology—enable enterprisewide visualization for real-time applications.

Don't touch my InTouch

Wonderware VP of Development Pankaj Mody notes that beginning with the release of InTouch 9.5 software, its integration with ArchestrA was deepened, and within 15 months of that release about 125,000 upgrade licenses had been issued. Yet faced with the prospect of further opportunities, users insisted they didn't want to see “their” InTouch changed so as to invalidate existing applications howsoever far back in time they might stretch, leading to Wonderware's commitment to backwards compatibility.

Thus, the two major releases are said to be the culmination of more than 115 person years of development time, and to have led to inquiries by corporate bean counters as to the thousands of dinners provided to developers working late into the night over the course of the last several years.

Rick Bulotta, Wonderware VP and CTO, who recently rejoined the company following stints with Lighthammer and SAP , says what's impressed him most about what Wonderware is doing now is “the extensibility of the Wonderware System Platform via smart graphical objects that have real intelligence and power in managing and extending applications.”

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