Future-Proofing Your Enterprise with the Ignition Platform

Achieving Next-Level Business Value Through Limitless Expandability, Scalability & Extensibility

56 min video  /  49 minute read View slides


Don Pearson

Chief Strategy Officer

Inductive Automation

Travis Cox

Co-Director of Sales Engineering

Inductive Automation

Hugh Roddy

VP, Global Engineering & Project Management


What does it take for an industrial system to really be future-proof? It means having confidence in your ability to expand, scale, and extend your system rapidly, affordably, and whenever necessary. That level of adaptability calls for much more than a traditional HMI/SCADA product — it requires a full industrial application platform.

In this webinar, industrial software experts from Inductive Automation will take you on an educational journey through the Ignition platform, revealing how it’s built on a foundation of open technology and interoperability. As you’ll see, Ignition is not another IT cloud platform but rather an OT platform that works in synergy with IT cloud platforms to connect the entire enterprise.

That’s not all: you’ll hear a real case study from Chobani, a leading enterprise customer that has leveraged Ignition to share data from the plant floor to the executive level, improve efficiency, reduce downtime, and implement new projects quickly without running into typical licensing issues.

  • Reimagine your system’s expandability with integrated software modules and unlimited licensing
  • Explore the scalability of adding as many servers as your organization needs 
  • See how far extensibility can go with third-party integrations and Ignition’s Module SDK
  • Learn how the ecosystem around the Ignition platform adds even more value 
  • And much more!


Webinar Transcript

(The moderator, Don Pearson, briefly introduces the topic, Inductive Automation and Ignition software, and then introduces the presenters, Travis Cox and Hugh Roddy.)


What’s Stopping the Progress of Industry 4.0?
Don: Well, let's start us off and really set the table for our discussion today. I'd like to take a minute and think about how much we talk here over the last five years around the Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things, and digital transformation. And really is there, there is a lot of excitement, as well as maybe a little bit of anxiety about what all this means and how to get started. But there hasn't been much real progress towards these goals yet. In fact, digital transformation is stalled in so many places. And people have started gotten stuck in what Gartner describes as "the trough of disillusionment" if you will.

So really a lot of companies are trying to harness the value of data and make digital transformation happen by using cloud IT platforms. However, the marketing for these cloud platforms has led a lot of companies to believe that they can get their operational data up to the cloud, get all kinds of sophisticated analytics and business intelligence. And all of their problems will basically be solved up there in the cloud. However, if you look at it, none of the available cloud platforms can interact with all of that disparate systems that exists on the planet floor. Unfortunately, things are pretty chaotic down at the OT level, the devices and parts don't speak the same language. They're usually no open standards to be found. Companies are trying to drive their Industry 4.0 or their digital transformation initiatives from the top down without a reliable way to access their OT data.

Don: And it's simply not working in the way that they had hoped that it would work. But we'd like to help everyone understand today and to share today is that in order to realize the promise of cloud enabled digital transformation. You really need to address the needs of OT, in the same way that you address the needs of IT. There needs to be similar thinking at both levels. In other words, you need to have a comprehensive platform on the OT side. In fact, without a platform on the OT side is basically impossible to leverage a cloud platform. You simply can't get at the data that you need. Without Big Data Access, you can't have Big Analytics. Bottom line: there needs to be that OT platform and the Ignition is the definitive OT platform.

Don: It was intentionally built with a similar philosophy as an IT platform. It empowers you to tame the chaos at the OT level, so you can then connect up to IT quite easily. Travis will explain all that in more detail in a minute. But first, I just like to share an insight about the importance of platforms and ecosystems for the future of the industrial sector in this digital transformation. It actually comes from a book called Industry X.0: Realizing Digital Value in Industrial Sectors, written by a guy named Eric Schaeffer from Accenture, and he emphasizes that “ecosystems are often open networks of strategic business partners with the common aim of driving growth and fostering innovation … A company's competitiveness network consisting of cooperators, suppliers, institutions, customers and other stakeholders. Typically, ecosystems are built around intellectual property stemming from one core partner.” Travis and Hugh will tell us more about the benefits that the Ignition Platform provides for manufacturers. And then I'll come back a little bit later and talk more about the value that the Ignition ecosystem adds to the platform. So with that as sort of an introduction, Travis, over to you. 


About Platforms
Travis: All right. Well, thank you, Don. So today, we're going to take a journey. And we're going to really explore the Ignition Platform in more detail to understand why we chose Ignition to be a platform. And we're going to look at all the reasons that Ignition helps future-proof your systems as you look to the different applications into the future and what you're trying to accomplish. But first, we really need to take a look at what a platform means. The definition of a platform is a group of technologies that are you used as a base upon which other applications, processes or technologies are developed. So Ignition really has a vast toolkit for building any kind of application. And it uses a lot of different technologies work, which we're going to talk here about today.

Travis: But it's really the bringing together of these different processes, different technologies and applications and being able to build upon them is really what makes a platform so important. Now, why did we Inductive Automation choose to make Ignition a platform? Well, we rewind back before 2010. From 2003 to 2010, we had two legacy products Factory SQL and Factory PMI. They were two separate packages that you had to install and configure one was written in .NET and one was written in Java, so two different languages as well. They were extremely effective and they solved a lot of problems, but we're not really super easy to deploy for new projects.

Travis: And our founder Steve Hechtman, who had worked as a system integrator for over 25 years. He really dealt with many, many pain points that made it difficult to solve his customers challenges. And the idea, that of building his own software, is to eliminate all of those pain points. And those pain points are what drove us to creating the platform that we have here today. So some of these pain points that I know a lot of you may have come across as well, are ease of installation upgrade. As I was saying with two different packages, it was important to be able to have one thing to install, have it be open and standards-based, so that nothing's proprietary or locking into a particular piece of technology. Having it be cross platform, to work on any kind of operating system, so that it can run on anything and leverage existing hardware, is extremely important.

Travis: Having a rapid design and development and deployment model so that we can easily develop new projects and bring that information to people quickly. Some of the most important parts of a platform are the fact that has to be scalable, it has to be able to  scale that up, to be modular and extensible. What we're going to talk a lot more about that here today. But also backwards compatibility, you really need a platform that has that fundamentally built into it. And if you look to your phone as a platform, where you can add new applications and really extend the functionality, you look to new versions of that. And you want to be able to continue to use everything you had before. Any sort of platform you're putting in place, you want to be able to grow with that. And backwards compatibility is incredibly important.

Travis: So what we're really looking here today and the most important thing that I want you to take away is how using a platform like this can help future-proof. It's really driven a lot of decisions that we have made with how we develop our platform and the technologies that we're using. First and foremost, we definitely use platforms every day. And that's not just in our professional lives but in our personal lives as well. A platform is something that you cannot just use, but you can also contribute to. And some of the biggest drivers for using a platform are — one is innovation. There are a large ecosystem of users and partners, and collaborators and producers who contribute and generate extremely innovative ideas that are willing to share and to make the platform better.

Travis: Of course, faster response times. Platforms help you respond to technology shifts, we know that new technology is coming out all the time and it's changing very rapidly. And we need to have a platform that is set up to adapt to those new technology shifts quickly. By doing that, it gives you a lesser risk. There's more stability with platforms because of the fact there's more users and contributors, more people building on that. They're as you go forward, but it also gives you the ability to get to where you need to go even if it was something that wasn't necessarily inherent in that platform at the beginning. And lastly, as I was talking about the community. Having a larger community around the platform provides case studies and ideas, or there's trainings that are out there.

Travis: There's templates that people are building, there's building blocks and skeletons that you can start from. And that provides you a leap ahead when looking at providing solutions that you need. So these drivers become really important when looking at a platform. And what I really want to do is kind of differentiate a product versus a platform. And the thing that is really important when you look at platforms, they have to have these tenets that we're talking about. And they are definitely different from a product and that a product is generally closed or proprietary. And it only keeps the consumers in mind. Now sometimes they'll use open technologies or have API's that you can work with. But fundamentally, they're not built to be open to allow that collaboration between others.

Travis: Whereas platforms that is inherent to how a platform is already architected from the very beginning. And we're going to go through this in a lot more detail. But platforms are centered around a core piece of technology that is open and standards-based, and it keeps both producers and consumers in mind. So it's not just the consumers that you have to use the product. It is also the producers that want to be able to develop on that platform and contribute and be able to bring in new ideas and new projects as you look to the future. So let's talk about a couple of the real core platform tenets that platforms have. And the first as I was alluding to, is the open access interfaces. And that is incredibly important. It has to be built from the beginning to have that and we're talking about open access interfaces. We're not talking about insecurity.

Travis: We're talking about having the ability to use standards and to open up the platform and to have the ability to expand onto that, in a secure way. But have it be fundamental to how the platform was architected. All these building blocks really provide the success of the platforms that are out there today. Another thing is connectivity, you have to have connectivity both in and out of the platform. So we got to be able to go and connect to a lot of different sources of data, for sure. And if, of course, there's some connection that doesn't exist, we’ve got to be able to add that ability to do so. But we also need to be able to have things connect in. So other systems as well get integrated with other packages, because there is not a one-size-fits-all for any tools. Any solution that's out there, it's really about bringing things together and having them work as one big application at the end of the day.

Travis: Another important piece is the modularity. And you have to build platforms that have modularity at the very beginning. And it's really hard to add (modularity) on later, it has to be fundamental. So we rewind back to 2010 for Ignition, we had those two legacy products Factory SQL and Factory PMI. What we decided to do was to bring, to combine those two products into one universal platform. But we didn't just do that as another product. We actually made Ignition modular, where those two legacy products were modules of the new system. So they became these pieces that you can use independently. And that them there we had a platform that we think continued to build onto, we can add new modules and extend the functionality. We'll talk a lot more about that here today.

Travis: The other thing that's important about platforms is the fact that they can provide all types of solutions. And there's endless possibilities with what you can do. Essentially, when we have a platform that has these open access interfaces, has modularity, has all these building blocks, it's very amazing to see what people build on that, and what they're able to achieve with having this access. And, lastly, is a vibrant ecosystem. And this is something Hugh is going to talk a lot more about in terms of Ignition, but this is how value is really created around the platform. You have a platform that has all these core tenets. But if you don't have a vibrant ecosystem, it's really not going to succeed. You're not going to have momentum around the product or not going to see where that value can really be created. Again, we're going to dive in a little bit more of that, as we look in to this webinar here today. 

Travis: Let's look a little bit more into Ignition, into what we decided to do there. And let's take a journey through how Ignition can fit in as a platform in your systems. We often describe Ignition as open, interoperable, and a secure platform that is standards-based, that's collaborative and transparent. And all these points are important because a platform has to have all these qualities in order to really be successful.

Travis: And I really want to echo the collaborative and the transparent piece of it. It has to be transparent, you have to understand and everything has to be laid out on the table so you know what to expect. And that is something that we've really focused hard on Ignition to continue to make sure these are at the forefront of our decisions as we look to the next iterations of the product. Now Hugh from Chobani is here. And in your experience, what makes Ignition effective as a platform for OT?

Hugh: Well, I think it's been amazing, Ignition as a whole and the platform side of it and the fact that it's very modular. And has given us great flexibility in terms of providing data across the whole plant and manufacturing plant floor. Like it's, we bring data down to the platform, we also provide data backup to the executive level. It's really something that's flexible and allows us to have great collaboration across all the different departments within our company, whether it's the innovation, sanitation, QA, finance, we've actually integrated applications across the board. It's really not just a controls/HMI piece of software. It's something that brings a plant together. So when we look at the OT, IT environment, when I first came to Chobani, we immediately segregated OT from IT. We have that middle ground right in the middle and that's really where Ignition is ... It's OT side but it's also the main piece for integrating the IT and the OT environments together.


Ignition Expandability
Travis: Perfect, thank you. So one thing that's really important here and today we're going to focus on some different areas, that really all make Ignition a future-proof platform. I want to look at the expandability of Ignition. This is something that a lot of people who've come to Ignition have really, has attracted them. The fact that Ignition's licensing model is unlimited, unlimited tag screens, projects, device connections, and more allows you to add more to the system as you go along. So once you have a system in place, you can continue to add more to it. And in terms of data as well as in terms of projects and getting, of course, information to people. And from the get-go, it's always been designed to be open. So you connect a lot more systems, and the modularity is the fact that we can add new pieces, a new modular system that can add new functionality without disrupting your, the service that's there.

Travis: We're going to go into that level in more detail. But expandability is important for a platform, as well as scalability. Systems are only getting larger these days. And we have to be able to respond to that in a very cost effective way. But in a way that is natively set to scale. And that may be with adding additional servers, it might be adding things locally, it might be adding things at a low locations, or of course, even getting to the cloud. And the last thing is the extensibility. Platforms they may not have all the core functions built into them, but they have the necessary building blocks to do integrations with other systems, or to build upon that platform by adding extra functionality.

Travis: Look at that a lot more detail with Ignition's Module SDK here today. So one thing that I want to mention is also platforms need to be simple. They have to be easy to install, they have to be easy to work with, to configure, to design on. You can't take weeks or days to get something installed. And just to start developing on it has to be something that is really easy. And Ignition always had a very quick, simple install. And it's three minutes and some critics of Ignition say that because the software can you can download, you can install in three minutes that it can't be capable.

Travis: And really what I want to point out here is that you can't confuse simplicity with capability. Ignition is easy, fun and affordable because we had to solve these pain points that we talked about earlier. And along the way we've had to pay our technical debt and so we have fix whatever is necessary or restructure the platform to bring into new areas, so that it continues to be simple and easy to install, easy to upgrade, and easy to develop on. And as an example, for Ignition, all the installation files are contained in a single folder with that. And so that's really simple to backup and really easy, of course, to see what those dependencies are. And that shows that how easy it is to get that installed going.

Travis: And of course, being cross-platform is huge, to be able to run on Windows, Linux, Mac OS, or even Raspberry Pi's or constrained devices that are ARM-based. That's really driven a lot of the Onboard program for Ignition. But that allows you to leverage what's out there as well as to get into virtual environments, both on-premise and in the cloud. And again, back to compatibility is incredibly important. And that's something that's always the forefront of Ignition. And so really, just because in Ignition it’s simple to do all these things, that doesn't mean that it's not capable. And simplicity is if it's — With the simplicity there, that really proves the point of the power and the uniqueness and the capability that Ignition has to offer.

Travis: One thing that makes Ignition really powerful is the fact that it can connect to so many different sources of data. We often talk about it as a communications hub between these different sources. And that's about keeping it open, being able to have that connectivity to other systems. And with this, we can connect to any sort of PLC. We have drivers built into Ignition for various PLC and we continue to develop on that, as well as we support OPC to the core so that we can connect to a third-party system, bring data in from that. As well as talking to SQL databases, allows us to integrate with other systems not only for us to store data and work with it, but to connect to others and to bring in more context into the application. Looking at MQTT is huge for digital transformation, to be able to use an open-standard technology of getting data to infrastructure.

Travis: Decoupling applications from devices becomes important too for large big enterprise systems as well as getting data to the business side or to the cloud, as also injectors directly to the cloud. Web services to build, integrate with other applications, like ERP or maintenance management or whatever it might be. Be able to connect to barcode scale scanners to be able to bring your device or your data to any sort of person or device. So that's their PC, touch panel, TV, Smart TV, mobile device, phone or tablet. You have to be able to do all of these things and the platform has to be fundamentally set up to allow that kind of communication.

Hugh: I can interject there for a minute there Travis. I actually think the communication side of this and the simplicity of this whole system within the Ignition Platform is phenomenal. And tying our new SAP system, we upgraded our ERP system within the last year, tying that into Ignition from what we had previously, speeding up all our commissioning and startups. We're in the middle of right now and a large platform and addition to our shelf. And really, we've got automation integrators on the floor with handheld touch screens, starting/stopping motors, pumps. We're pulling data across up to our R&D departments at present, and they’re instantaneously able to evaluate the data that's coming out of our tests and everything that we're doing, it's phenomenal. The speed, I didn't really believe it back in the early days in 2012, that we could do it so quick, with so many clients and not have all of the licensing issues. So yeah, it's fabulous.

Travis: All right, thank you. It's really all about breaking down barriers. And getting solving those pain points and having as a platform, having the ability to bring innovation and to bring any kind of idea to reality. So what we're going to do here now is really talk about the Ignition's platform, what it can do, how we can extend onto that. And how we can scale it up to a larger system. Because Ignition can be anywhere from a local HMI, it can run an entire plant, it can be a full enterprise-wide solution. And it's really because of the fact that it's a modular platform that allows you to do this.

Travis: So first, I think it's important to peel back the onion to look at what does the platform itself do, if you install it and you have no modules in there? Again, Ignition is a modular system, which we’ll cover the modules in a moment. But if you have no modules at all, what does the platform allow you to do? And so that is what this diagram here is meant to illustrate. The platform has the web servers built into the platform and all the configuration environments. The connectivity to databases, or OPC servers is fundamental in that platform. Having the authentication systems logging and auditing, having the designer or be an integral part of the platform that's integrated that comes with it. That is, as you add new things, it's just more stuff allows you to be configured in that designer.

Travis: Having redundancy be a part of the system. The tag database, alarming core functionality, store-and-forward configuration, scripting, and most importantly the Module API, so that we can develop and add features to that platform. So the platform provides all of this if you actually, if you have no modules whatsoever, it actually can do quite a lot by itself. But it's really the modules that provide the meat into what you're trying to do. Now you can think of the Ignition Platform much like your phone, it’s a platform to add applications to your phone, to add new functionality, Ignition is the same way in terms of modules. But your phone has pieces and building blocks that it provides, that allow it to be extensible. It can do things on its own, but there's also that ability to get you into new realms because of those fundamental building blocks.

Travis: And that's really what Ignition is as a platform. It's how it's architected from the beginning. So if you look at the software stack this is the module software stack, it really illustrates the sort of a hierarchy of how Ignition is architected. From the operating system being cross-platform, to that core platform layer with all that core functionality in there. And again, then from there you can plug in modules that add that functionality. And we designed Ignition to be modular for two main reasons. One is customers want to pick and choose the modules of the functions they want. They're designed to be independent from one another, so you can use it on their own.

Travis: They're also of course designed to work with each other. So if you want a bigger system, if you want to add on to your system over time, you can continue to add new modules or add new features to the system. And then the most important thing is we can't predict the future. We don't know when new technologies are going to come out. We need to have a platform that's ready, that's set to scale horizontally, as that new technology comes out. Perfect example of that was MQTT. I think four or five years ago is when we first got introduced to Cirrus Link, our partner for the MQTT modules. They had the idea of the technology and over a weekend using the SDK, they built modules and the rest is history. We were able to add that functionality very easily to the platform. That goes with any idea whether that's a partner or that just anybody who wants to go to module out there has that ability to do so.

Travis: At the end of the day, we're taking these modules and we're going to be building the application that we're dealing with. Let's take a look at Ignition and in terms of those modules, kind of what sort of examples of things that we can add to Ignition? Well, first and foremost, maybe you want to add a driver to a PLC, so that we can connect to devices and bring the data into Ignition. And we do that through an OPC way. We've built an OPC way server Ignition so that other applications can connect to us as a client. And Ignition can just handle that we have a lot of people who use it as an OPC server. And it could just be that function. But if you want to go further from there, you can start adding more modules, adding more functionality. As example we have a SQL Bridge Module that provides transaction groups.

Travis: It's a kind of "Swiss army knife" where we can move data between PLCs and databases or any source really, to do lots of different kinds of things like contextual event logging, or even just basic history, as well as recipe control or synchronizing values, wherever it might be. You can add the historian in. To have a process historian log to the SQL database using the data that's coming into the system. And then maybe want to visualize that, we have a desktop visualization that we can bring into the mix. And you also know that with these modules, modules can then have things that are added to it. So there are web browsers example that we can add to the Vision and the drivers or we can add to OPC server.

Travis: But then, of course, there's Perspective to bring the visualization to the browser to pure web, native HTML5 and CSS, with native apps for iOS and Android. So we can see that data that we're bringing into the system. And these are some examples of modules that are in that core layer that we're providing. And there are many other modules that you can start playing around with and as you add these things in, they really start building up the kind of functionality you can work with. These modules can be used anywhere, you can deploy Ignition wherever you'd like. And you can use one or two or some subset of these modules, or you can have one server does everything and allows you to bring all that functionality into one place. And with that, the applications that we can build are really limitless.

Travis: And we say that it's sort of the sky's the limit and with what you can build, because it's really true. It's as a platform, any kind of application that can be built. And that HMI/SCADA is very prominent or MES, but IIoT dashboards, applications, reporting solutions, mobile solutions, edge computing solutions, being a data aggregator, collecting information, injecting into different places or into the cloud, third-party integrations, database front-end applications and much more is possible there. And Hugh, you talked about a couple of applications a minute ago. What are the types of things that you have built at Chobani?

Hugh: Sure, when we first started the — back into 2012, my initial concept was to put a dashboard in. We call it our Cho-Dash, or Chobani Dashboard System, which we have actually expanded a hundred times over, which really ties in the quality departments to have their own screens and data from the plant floor as well as we follow from our SQL databases and our process historian. We built a financial dashboard for finance in order taking real-time data from the plant floor that ties right up into them. We built a project management, CapEx project management system in order to manage all our projects, which integrates seamlessly to our financial department. And management of changes is another thing where people on the phone, it's a difficult thing to try and manage and maintain.

Hugh: And whether it's a short-term change or a long-term change. So we built a management-of-change tool that people seamlessly have on their cell phones, mobile devices, laptops. And we sort of manage that across different departments and different levels. And we built a CIP scheduler, to manage all the CIPs across the planet. That's we've got large 65-inch screens in all the control rooms. And we just literally expanded that into the plant in Australia, in Melbourne, Australia. And similarly for our production scheduler. So we're tying all these different functionalities together. We built a wastewater plant management/utilities management tool for the facility in Twin Falls, and we're expanding that across the other sites. And today, we're currently working on an electronic paper system.

Hugh: So I know there's many different software applications out there that can do all these different things. But we chose to use our Ignition OT operating system to build them all together ourselves. And if we find that we want to go somewhere else down the roads and it can't do it, then we'll look at it then, but right now Ignition is limitless to what we can actually do.

Travis: Yeah, thank you. That really speaks to the expandability of Ignition and other platform in general. Where we can add more connections, add more projects, add more to an already existing system. And be able to bring more value and to be able to get data to more people very easily. And so that having the licensing model for Ignition beyond limited is really allows us to do that we can leverage this system as what with the license we've already put in place, as we look to future applications. That is one part of the platform.


Ignition Scalability
Travis: The next part really is, of course, the scalability. And this is where you might bring Ignition at the beginning to solve some sort of problem. And then later, you're going to bring that into a whole new realm. And where it needs to get really big, a lot more data you want to bring in.

Travis: What we may start out at the beginning would be to have, connection to some PLC, have the historian in there, a lot of people will start with just logging some data. They need data in an open format that they can query in other places. Later you can easily then as we're saying a Vision (Module) and Reporting (Module) can really make that one server allow you to do a lot more in terms of those functions. And one note to point out is that when you add a module into the system, you're adding that new functionality, but it's hot-swappable. You're not having to restart the Gateway. There's no disruption of service and it gives you that functionality. And you can work with that same single designer to do all that development. It's not like you're developing something that's on the side. And it's very easy to work with. You would be very disappointed on your phone if you every time you had to add an app, you had to restart the entire thing.

Travis: The same thing would be true, of course, with your OT system, you want to be able to add those modules without having to do that, where you can start immediately developing upon that new technology.

Travis: You have this system, you have a server it's been able to, that you can expand onto, you can add more tags, you can add more projects, so you really started taking use of it. But now you're starting to bring in data from all over to the plant, different PLCs, and you're pushing the boundaries of what Ignition can do on that piece of hardware. A server can only do so much. Our licensing model is unlimited but unfortunately, computing power is not unlimited. And we need in some cases to have more infrastructure to be able to connect and bring all that data and to get that data to people.

Travis: So what's really great with Ignition is you have that one license, and there's modules for the back end, there's modules for the front end. If you look at this diagram, the left is the back end the right is the front end. And it's really easy to basically split that into two different licenses, there's no additional cost because you've already purchased the modules. But you can put them on two servers or virtual machines, and you can connect them together through some open communication protocol, such as our Gateway network, which is Ignition-to-Ignition communication, or it could MQTT, OPC UA, it can be some standard some way of being able to bring those two together. So really, it's still one big system but you happen to have it across two different machines that allows us to really start scaling the system up.

Travis: And I mentioned a moment ago, our Gateway network. And that is a really important piece for Ignition-to-Ignition communication. And allows multiple Ignition Gateways talk together over your network. And it opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of remote tags or remote history for alarms and notification. Remote tag history, messaging between the systems and most importantly the ability to manage. So when you start adding more servers, because of the size of your system, you need to be able to manage all that. It needs to act as one big unit and you need to be able to manage it as one big unit. You're able to do that, you can provide a lot more in terms of what is possible by having the separation of those. So I may have my one IO server connected to a certain set of PLCs, and maybe I'm bringing a quarter million tags or more on that.

Travis: And all of a sudden, we build a whole brand new sites, or line and we have a whole bunch of new data we want to bring into the mix and we might need another I/O server, or back-end server to be able to fulfill what we're looking at. So we then bring one of those into the mix and other virtual machines. Physical machine with those particular models of the back end, we get that license, that's where we have that one additional license, but just for what's needed, we get access to more data. And we bring that into our same infrastructure. And now we're able to look at that and all of the clients and use it and the applications so people can work with it. And then of course, EAM, the administration piece, will help check the health and diagnostics of all that, make it easy to synchronize configuration and licensing as we go forward. Because you can continue to scale out those back-ends horizontally, as well as you can continue to scale out the front end horizontally.

Travis: So you do that, you have a pretty big system that might be at a plant or at a particular site. At that point you may be you're bringing in some remote locations, data or there's critical assets you want to bring into that infrastructure. And you start deploying more systems out there. And all of a sudden, you bring another plant other sites and you connect that together and you start bringing in, it becomes this big network of systems that you're really coming together to be one big infrastructure for you, where we can easily manage and view data across all of that and solve problems everywhere that we're trying to look at solving those problems. So the platform can really scale up to something that is a complete enterprise big solution across lots of locations, lots of data being brought in and being stored.

Travis: And it's possible for every piece of that along the way. But the other day what we're trying to look at is that be one big system, and make it easy for people to work with it. So today, people are building much more complex systems with all these enterprise type features. Bringing more into our system bringing more value, as well as potentially using Ignition Edge and MQTT to push pulling out just distribute that even further. So they can bring more data into the system they ever done before. And it gives you that the platform allows you to accomplish that. So Hugh, you talked about some of the applications that you have built out there and all the beginning you had one server, and you did a lot of different things on that one server, but how has your system scaled over the years? And you treat them as one big unit today?

Hugh: Yeah, it's phenomenal. I mean, when I first embarked and was introduced to Ignition back in 2012, I was skeptical. I was like, can this be real? How can this cost the value of the amount that it does? Unlimited clients, unlimited licenses, and I used all our ... All the other modern systems that are out there today, and I didn't believe it was real until I really got my hands onto it. So we started with that Chobani dashboard. And we had opened our eyes to what we could actually do. And it just really went and expanded and expanded for us. We had one server we now have enterprise servers at each of our locations. We have a main enterprise server linking all the sites together. So we can link everything and multiple I/O servers tied in and currently today we've embarked on a multimillion-dollar new platform that Chobani is launching in December.

Hugh: And we're in the middle of commissioning and we took the leap and we're putting the whole system on our Ignition, we’re 100 or 200% confident that there's no problems whatsoever and just looking over the last six weeks on site and the Twin Falls (plant), the ease at which were able to do things is really taking us to a new level.


Ignition Extensibility
Travis: All right, thank you. So we really touched upon now the expandability, where we can add more to the system and have that bring us a new, to new innovations. We've talked about the scalability where we can go from something small to something really large, the kinds of things you can bring to the mix and, last, to talk about the extensibility and that is another important tenet of the platform. And has to be architected from the beginning that way, and with Ignition that is done through our SDK, to be able to build modules to add pieces to it. And really everything all the commercial pieces associated with Ignition all the modules that are talking about that we provide in that core layer are built on that API.

Travis: So our OPC server, our Vision, our Perspective modules, and so on, are built on that as well as our partners, Cirrus Link. They're using the same API's to add value to that platform. They're not building separate pieces of technology that has its own configuration environments, they're bringing into that core Ignition Platform. So when we look to the future and adding features, we have to evaluate, very clearly, does this go into the platform that is universally something that the platform should support, or are these modules and functions that are going to plug into the platform? But it's a very thoughtful exercise we have to go through to make sure we're keeping that core platform as you future-proof as possible.

Travis: With the SDK for Ignition, it is written in Java, and really highly, highly extensible. You can add anything you want to Ignition with that SDK. And these are some examples on the screen. Such as maybe new components you want to add to our visualization systems or you want to add new logic engines, or configuration pages, or connections to external systems, scripting functions, expression functions, wrapping libraries into Ignition, all sorts of things are possible with that. You look at some examples of what I've seen customers do. One is Kafka people want to get into Kafka. Now, we'd love to have a module that we provide in our core layer for talking to Kafka, but it's easy to actually do. There's external libraries, we can wrap that we can add module and provide that connectivity pretty easily.

Travis: People that want to log historical data to Influx time series database, rather than the sequel database that's possible. Add a tag edge provider to Ignition to do so. And we have to look in the future as to what areas we're going to do when we expand it and adding new modules. And so there are tons of examples out there, like on our GitHub site, and there's also a module development community, open source community, as well as there's a module showcase that brings all of these modules to the forefront of what people are building there on this platform. There's a vibrant ecosystem that's around that. So to talk more about the ecosystem, I'll hand it back over to Don.



Ignition Ecosystem Overview
Don: Travis, thanks. And Hugh thanks a lot for sharing just your view of how you're using it and how you're going to use it. To the subject of the platform and the vibrant ecosystem that Travis just alluded to, I just want to share sort of a quick overview because everything you described about the platform really sets the stage for other companies to be able to use it, to basically extend the value of what they're doing and be part of the overall solution that gets offered to the industrial organizations that need it. The Ignition ecosystem is really a network of companies, products and services that all work together. And the whole idea is to fuel innovation and growth. So these contributors from various sources are actually driving the platform, expanding the possibilities of what can be done with it.

Don: The idea here is to bring an incredible amount of value because our community members aren't just investing in the platform. They're investing all of these other services and resources that work with the platform to bring together the full solution to the customer. So the ecosystem of contributors includes our integrators, of course and our end users. And they're working with Ignition. And we have our distributors around the world, Italy, China, Australia, France, we're just continuing to expand as more and more countries come on wanting to do work with Ignition in their local languages, our training division and Inductive University. By the way, Inductive University came about as we started gaining a larger audience globally. We're in over 100 countries right now, as those countries grew, we knew they could benefit from learning in-depth about Ignition.

Don: They weren't all going to be able to come here. And we wanted to sort of take away the paywall or the time barrier, if you will. So even though we were pretty small company back then we spent over 10,000 man hours building this online training resource, and then we gave it away for free. And the reason we did it is because we really saw knowledge transfers being very important. We also have a growing number of educational partnerships, institutions such as University of Arkansas, Arizona State University, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Clemson, and technical institutes and some community colleges. What we're doing is actually empowering these universities working with our head of training and giving them full versions of Ignition so their students can come away with greater knowledge.

Don: Travis mentioned this in passing but we have the Ignition Edge Onboard program. Pre-installing Ignition and Ignition Edge into OEM devices to enable new types of architectures more easily. Our strategic partners provide modules and specific domain expertise. We have third-party module and developers who are building with Ignition using completely free SDK as Travis just went into. This SDK allows people to transfer knowledge put it to work by producing their own modules using their domain expertise. And we just launched the Ignition Exchange, which changes the game by providing any user or group of users with access to this large collection of Ignition assets which have been designed by other users in various industries. So this all expand basically, this ecosystem that's really built around the customer.

Don: I think that's clear. But I want to really emphasize it. The whole goal of the ecosystem is not us at the center of it. We're providing the platform. But the goal is to empower customers with the partners and tools to be successful. I just want to reiterate what I mentioned earlier that Eric Schaeffer point from Industry X.0, where he says, “typically ecosystems are built around intellectual property, stemming from one core partner.” Our desire is to continue to earn your trust and support as being that core partner for you. I don't think it could have been said any better than how Hugh said it with the evolution of what they're doing with the Ignition platform, as he said, is their basic OT operating system. I mean, they're extending it throughout their enterprise from IT down to the OT, and really is that hub in the middle.

Don: And that's our desire to basically bring together that kind of capability. So that a company like Chobani can really take advantage of it to achieve their goals. Ignition is really supported by this entire ecosystem of industrial organizations, integrators, developers, distributors and manufacturers. And the central figure all of that is you as the customer. I just want to mention this and maybe ask you to comment on it, because you've been so involved in it Travis. But we have these collectives that have grown up, really the Ignition collective groups for oil and gas and for a cross industry, and they share their knowledge and provide direct feedback to our engineers. And we fully encourage these collective groups because it's our users who really drive our development. And Travis, you've been so intimately involved with the users connecting to our development team. Can you make a quick comment on the value of these collectives?

Travis: Yeah, I mean, obviously, one of the most important parts of the platform is that has to work for people using it and contributing to it. And so for us we look at that looks at feedback from our customers and we want all customers have a voice. And these collectives are great ways for them to share their experiences together help each other, solve real problems. And ultimately bring innovative ideas to us so that we can iterate the product and the platform to make sure that's continuing to evolve as the community evolves as we look forward. So I think they're incredibly important as we go forward. And I encourage everybody to go and be a part of the Ignition Cross-Industry Collective for sure.

Don: Sure. Thanks, Travis. Now Hugh I'm going to come back to you to bring our discussion to a close. But I also happen to know you've been very active as one of the directors and leaders in the cross industry collective that's emerging, but so as overall since the focus on you the industrial organizations using the platform. How would you summarize the value of the Ignition platform ecosystem based on your experience with it at Chobani?

Hugh: For new people out there wondering whether to broaden their horizons a little bit and move into Ignition, I would tell them straight off the bat, don't be skeptical. And it is unbelievable value, it is unlimited clients and it's very easy settled, it's very easy to go modular. And I travel a lot in my current position. And I can monitor and watch everything while I'm on the road. And the plants and I have all the high levels of security, I'm fully integrated with the IT department. And if no issue with us integrating this and you we have our whole cyber security team, and one in Chobani at the moment and they're very skeptical of all the many systems. You want to bring a new piece of software and they want to scrutinize it and make sure it will actually pass the baseball test and then nothing will get through.

Hugh: Well, there's no issue with Ignition at all. We bought at Chobani again on in 2012. And it has allowed us to expand extensively very flexibly and very simple. It's really put new applications ideas and concepts and I embrace people in the plant to say hey, if you got an idea or something that you want to bring or data that you want to see. Come to us and come to the automation team within each of the sites or come to me directly and I'll work with them. And we'll put together an Ignition application that would fit the need and requirement of what they're looking for. And really the world is your oyster is what people used ... What I used to be told in terms of what we could do. And really is once I got a couple of got our hands on the Ignition system itself.

Don: Thanks so much, Hugh. If you want to know more about Ignition, you can download it, try it for yourself. We already talked about the University, there's hundreds of videos there to educate you, it's totally free, go ahead and use it.



Q&A: Cost of Unlimited Licensing
With that, we've got Q&A to go into so let's get into it here. So in terms of — we got one here, I'll start off: What's the cost of the unlimited license, Travis?

Travis: Well I’ll say it again, transparency’s important with the platform, with any platform. And the pricing is on the website for the cost is based on the modules that you're looking for. And that's really easy to kind of put in place on a single server and to accomplish what you're looking at doing.

Q&A: IoT & IIoT Platforms
Don: Okay, that sounds great. Next question is: What differentiates Ignition from the IoT platform that is supplied by other control system manufacturers?

Travis: Well, okay. So again, it's important to look at IoT platforms to ensure that they are really, truly open-standards based and that they're able to get data to all different kinds of systems, not just to their cloud platform, should be able to get it to really any kind of cloud platform to take advantage of that a lot more. Really, with Ignition it's really about decoupling applications from devices, when we look at IoT, about changing the architecture on the OT side of the fence, really solving the on-premise OT issues first before then approaching anything higher on that, before really getting a lot of value out of that data. And you can do this in parallel, and take small steps to really get to that kind of achievement.

Hugh: And from my standpoint, there's IoT and IIoT, and at the end of the day, it's really pulling data together. And data is only data at the end of the day, unless you have a means of using that data, and a tool to actually do analytics on it. Ignition really gives you the flexibility to allow you to not only be the control system, but also do the analytics and broadens the horizon that gives the data to the people at their fingertips.

Q&A: Backwards Compatibility and the Vision Module
Don: Thank you, Hugh. I'll ask, here is another question here regarding backwards compatibility that was mentioned at the top of the presentation. My understanding is that the new version requires rewriting HMI for HTML5. Am I missing something? Is support for legacy Vision Modules supported?

Travis: That's a great question. And I think it's an important one. Yes, the Vision Module has no legacy, it continues to be the same Vision Module that is all backwards-compatible, it works the same way that it has forever with Ignition 8. What Ignition 8 did is it brought a new module into the platform, a new piece of technology that we can configure and work on, and that happens to be the native HTML5 screens that you can build. And there's two modules that the Ignition platform can provide and it's really, it's the power of all of that allows you to bring those applications together. So everything we had before continues to be backwards-compatible in that way.

Q&A: How Chobani Plans to Use Ignition in the Future
Don: Thanks, Travis. Hugh, here's a question for you. It actually relates to the subject of future-proofing that Travis referred to, you talked about where you're going and what you're doing with Ignition Platform. But since you represent the user community here, can you give us a little sense of how you view the future with Ignition and what value it brings to Chobani as you continue to expand its utilization? And maybe also take the opportunity, as we come to a close here, to give us any final thoughts you may want to share.

Hugh: I think it’s a very simple — there is a very simple answer to that question. I didn't think five to seven years ago, I would say this, but as Chobani goes and expands and we're going to build new plants and new facilities around the world and around the US,  they'll be looking to use Ignition as our HMI controls platform right from the get-go. And that's not like an add on to something that we’re, that's been there in the industry for 20 years. So I would go with Ignition straight off the bat if people have small little applications that they want to install and expand their facility. I would encourage them to go and expand Ignition, because people there that I don't want to really get 600 or 700 phone calls, but I'm happy to integrate with people if they want to hear some more about what we've done in the past.

Don: Well, I hope you don't get 600 or 700 phone calls Hugh, but this screen does have your email address on it. So you're likely to get some people contacting you. And I really do appreciate your willingness to share  — 

Hugh: Absolutely.

Don: And also anything you want to say in final wrap-up.

Hugh: Don't be afraid to expand. Go with Ignition. You won't regret it for a minute.

Don: Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. As we wrap up and come to the end. I give you one last shot, Travis, just sort of bring us to a close here.

Travis: So basically I just want to say that hey, our teams here, ourselves and our team is happy to help any way we can. So if you have any questions or need deeper dives, any part of the Ignition and want to help look at architecting especially bigger systems, enterprise systems. Please give us a call.

Don: Thanks so much. Thanks to Hugh. Thanks to Travis, thanks to Hugh for participating and with that we are concluding. Everyone, have a great day.

Posted on October 16, 2019