With the emergence of advanced technological developments, especially in cloud technology and data analysis, the general industrial sector and process automation plants, could have greater capabilities to solve business challenges and utilize the rapid spread of internet based service models. Cloud computing provides a way to exploit virtualization and consolidate computing resources, with minimal upfront investment, thereby enabling the worldwide availability of services and information. Further, these technological advances can also be utilized to offer prebuilt solutions and services. Big data analytics, for example, enables managing, consolidation, summarization and analysis of high volume and variety data with multiple variables. Many industrial automation applications are made suitable with cloud computing technology including historians, condition based maintenance, predictive maintenance, asset management, and more. This article provides a brief cloud technology overview and discusses how cloud computing technology is transforming industrial automation for the future, enhancing plant productivity and cost optimization.
The Basics of Cloud ComputingThe cloud computing model enables network access, on-demand, to a group of shared computing resources such as servers, networks, storage devices, software applications and services at the user’s convenience. This is achieved through the efficient configuration of computing resources and interaction with service providers, all with little management oversight required. Cloud components typically include:
- Servers: For computation of common resource sharing and to perform other services including resource allocation and monitoring, and data security.
- Storage devices: Redundant / distributed system for file storage purposes. If one file storage fails, data can be extracted from redundant / distributed storage making cloud computing highly reliable.
- Software: Management and virtualization software (as required), deployment software, virtual machine manager, network; etc.
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
The Technologies of Cloud ComputingA plethora of technologies have combined to make cloud computing a reality in industrial automation, including: Virtualization Virtualization occurs when a solitary physical instance of a resource or application is shared between multiple companies or customers. This is enabled by assignment of logical names to various physical resources and providing pointers to respective physical resources based on demand. Utility computing Payment established on usage, or pay-per-use, is the basis of designing utility computing model. Computation resources are offered as a measured service, based on demand. The utility computing model is widely used in IT service industry. However, improvisation in transparency, scalability, intelligent monitoring, and security need to be considered while utilizing this technology based on application requirement. Service-based architecture Service oriented architecture enables use of cloud services for multiple applications, regardless of technology used, product type or vendor. With service oriented architectures, data exchanges between different vendor applications are exploited to the maximum possible extent. Grid computing Grid Computing is described in terms of discrete computing, wherein a set of computers from different locations are interconnected to achieve a common business task. These computer resources can be geographically distributed and generally heterogeneous. Grid computing enables the user to break complex assignment into multiple miniature fragments. These fragments are allocated to various computers existing within the grid.
Cloud Data Consolidation and AnalysisWe have seen a huge leap in the implementation of cloud computing systems, across various applications and in all sectors. The specific impact of cloud computing in industrial automation can control has been seen to improve data management and performance. Cloud technology has opened opportunities for the industry to understand seemingly random/unforeseen events, which were difficult to predict in the past, due to lack of data and the right predictive data models. In present day, these models have been deployed in production units and are collecting large amounts of data, which is efficiently sharing data and empowering industry professionals with validated data engines and analysis tools. Thus far, cloud technology has been an effective and important tool in helping make the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) a tangible reality and helping the process industry reap benefits through higher efficiencies and superior quality. As stated previously, this technology has resulted in the creation of process-related applications for a number of purposes including:
- Data historians
- Analysis tools
- Alarm management
- Asset management
- Performance management
- Training simulators
- Remote diagnostics