Virtualization on the plant floor


Building reusable engineering

Using templates with virtual machines can save reinventing your software wheel.

Anthony Baker 

VMware vCenter templates provide opportunities for corporate engineering, system integrators, and other engineering teams to standardize work and simplify deployment of common system elements across multiple sites and customers. Templates provide a common starting point for the installation and configuration of automation software. Deploying a control system can take days of effort per workstation and/or server: it takes time to plan out system architecture, check for compatibility, install and patch the OS (operating system), and configure application content. Each of these steps also introduces risk if not done correctly.

With virtualization, the time and risk can be reduced drastically. Through the use of virtual machine (VM) templates, deployment can take minutes instead of days. Templates for workstations and servers are provided by some automation vendors with predefined software and OS builds or can be created by users for their specific systems.

Duplicate existing configurations

VMware vCenter Server allows system administrators to create templates from an existing VM. Your engineers can build a standardized VM for different defined workstations, such as operator or engineering workstations, that contain a defined build of OS and software content. This standardized VM is turned into a template and becomes a “golden image” for deployment for the rest of the system stations during implementation. It can also be reused in the future should the user decide to expand.

When expanding in the future, the user no longer has to worry about locating the exact installation media and hardware or worry about compatibility with the rest of the system. If the user requires an additional operator workstation, he or she can simply deploy a new VM from the template at any time.

Standardizing an image in such a manner can be extremely beneficial in validated industries. It reduces the amount of effort that needs to go into testing each station—not just on initial installation, but over the lifetime of the system when stations need to be maintained and replaced. Should the hardware (e.g., a thin client) fail at a station, it can be replaced without change to the image, reducing the need to revalidate the OS and software portion of that station.

Choosing the right applications

To determine when it makes sense to create a template, a user should keep a few things in mind. Not all software or services are appropriate for this type of deployment. Microsoft SQL Server and Windows components, such as the Active Directory, should not be installed on a template. Software packages that cannot tolerate changes, such as computer name and/or IP addresses, may cause conflicts if the user would like to replicate multiple instances in the same system.

VMware vCenter Server utilizes Sysprep for creating templates based on Windows OSs. Each version of Windows requires its own version of Sysprep that can be found on the install media provided or downloaded from the Microsoft website.

Each time an instance is deployed from a template with Sysprep loaded in vCenter Server, the user is able to customize the new VM. Upon initial boot, the user will be prompted to enter the information for computer name, network configuration (workgroup/domain), administrator credentials, and Windows licensing as required. Once this setup process is completed, the VM will reboot and bring the user to the desktop of the new instance, ready for use.

As concepts such as reusable engineering are increasingly promoted to improve engineering efficiency, VM Templates will prove to be an interesting opportunity for system deployment.

Anthony Baker is PlantPAx characterization and lab manager for Rockwell Automation.

Anonymous , 02/06/13 11:45 AM:

articulo muy interesante

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 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...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

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.