Choosing to virtualize your control systems

As we review our current facility control systems status we contemplate whether virtualizing part of or all of our control server/workstation environment is possible.

02/26/2014


As we review our current facility control systems status we contemplate whether virtualizing part of or all of our control server/workstation environment is possible. With the looming concern of the retirement of Windows XP and the discontinued support from Microsoft after April 2014, virtualization of those legacy workstations will allow a more controlled migration to new operating systems and software platforms.

I’ve seen an uptick in requests from customers on whether to virtualize or continue with a physical server environment in their new control systems. A lot of the drive behind the customer’s request is the increased interaction with the customer’s IT organizations and their control system organizations. IT organizations have embraced virtualized environments and have deployed them for many years in the business environment. One note of caution is to not approach a virtualized environment from a business environment perspective and apply it to your control system. The reason being business systems typically do not have a 24/7 high-availability requirement, which is common for all manufacturing and process control systems.

So when you start to build a virtual environment with either VMware or Microsoft’s Hyper-V you can reduce the number of physical servers and still provide redundancy and high-availability with backup. For example, when you implement HMI/Data Server/Historian/Domain Controller server redundancy that could require eight physical servers, which you can reduce to three virtual servers (primary, secondary, and a third virtual server to provide backups) using the native software redundancy included in those products. That’s not to say that all of the servers could not be hosted on one powerful virtual server, but having three virtual servers removes the single point of failure in your virtual control system environment.

One of the trade-offs with virtualizing your control system is that you will need support from your IT organization, which is in short supply, or you will need to invest in training of your control system engineers so they may support the plan of a virtualized control system environment. Virtualizing some workstations, such as Windows XP, for obvious reasons will solve some of the problems with the obsolescence of that operating system, and allow you to continue to use applications that require Windows XP that does not mean that those applications are necessarily compatible with a virtualization. There may be no choice but to run an application on Windows XP in a virtual environment even though it is not officially supported by the vendor. I highly recommend that you do your homework and check with your control system software to make sure that they support virtualized environments. The last thing you want is to get on a support call with your software vendor and to find out that they don’t officially support virtualized environments and they cannot help you.

My last piece of advice is: Don’t go it alone, seek out a great integration partner with deep multiple vendor experience in virtualized control systems.

This post was written by John Boyd. John is the Technology Leader at MAVERICK Technologies, a leading automation solutions provider offering industrial automation, strategic manufacturing, and enterprise integration services for the process industries. MAVERICK delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, business process optimization and more.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
World-class maintenance: The three keys to success - Deploy people, process and technology; 2016 Lubrication Guide; Why hydraulic systems get hot
Flexible offshore fire protection; Big Data's impact on operations; Bridging the skills gap; Identifying security risks
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me