Inductive Automation
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News / July 13, 2011

Why OPC-UA Will Be On Every Automated Control System In the Future

OPC-UA is often seen as an evolutionary upgrade to the previous OPC specification, and one that will take some time to roll out into use. Many companies have been using classic OPC products successfully for years, and envision that the upgrade to OPC-UA will occur as part of a generational upgrade, “down the road”.

However, in the context of today’s modern manufacturing environment, it is evident that OPC-UA is really more revolutionary than evolutionary, and offers a number of very compelling features that are well worth investigating immediately.

If your company is dedicated to being more connected, more informed, and more efficient, OPC-UA will play a critical role in your system’s future. With a wide range of products now on the market, you might consider making the jump sooner rather than later.

Here are a few ways that OPC-UA can already play a critical role in improving your company’s control systems, and why it’s bound to be a major player in the automation scene in the near future.

Companies Want... Accessibility
Everyone knows that good data is at the heart of improving efficiency. Accessing, collecting, and managing data is central to any modern control system, but has traditionally been costly and difficult. Companies are turning away from proprietary systems and are flocking to robust, open solutions like SQL databases in order to manage and analyze data in a way that fits with their existing IT systems.

OPC-UA is a perfect complement to this trend, providing a standard, open mechanism for collecting data. Like databases, it is IT friendly, using technology that is modern and secure. Making it easy to collect data from the plant floor in a way that eliminates IT department headaches is a tremendous step forward.

Companies Want... Security
Control system security is a critical topic, and one that is getting a lot of attention. OPC-UA provides a critical upgrade to security over classic OPC, and enables communication that is not only easier to configure and more flexible, but vastly more secure. OPC-UA supports the latest encryption and validation techniques with minimum configuration, ensuring that data arrives safely and without modification.

Better support for modern operating systems means that IT departments can keep systems properly updated, without fear of breaking the system. Any security conscious company that uses OPC should have OPC-UA in their sights.

Companies Want... Choice
Companies are tired of being restricted to Windows, or to old versions. They want the freedom to choose the operating system that offers the greatest benefit, and fits the best into their corporate strategy. Whereas OPC was previously tied to DCOM and Windows, OPC-UA as a specification is completely platform independent.

Products are already available for all of the major operating system. Ignition by Inductive Automation, for example, offers OPC-UA connectivity that works equally well on Windows (including the latest versions), Linux, HP-Unix and OSX. Companies are no longer forced to spend extra resources supporting out-dated or extraneous operating systems, but instead can extend their standard computing policies all the way to the plant floor.

Making the Transition
There is no need to wait for the future to reap the benefits of OPC-UA. There are already many server and client products on the market, and the barrier to entry has never been lower. Most products support integration with previous standards, allowing you to make a gentle transition. Inductive Automation offers their OPC-UA server at absolutely no cost, with drivers for Modbus, Allen-Bradley, Siemens and more included. The server can be used with any OPC-UA client, including Ignition SCADA Software by Inductive Automation, a powerful HMI/SCADA package offering unlimited web-launched clients, unlimited tags, alarming, reporting, powerful database integration, and platform independence.

Regardless of the primary control system used by your organization, OPC-UA opens the doors to huge range of new possibilities that your company will want to take advantage of in the future. The only question is, why wait for the future?