Automation professionals have always kept a close eye on developments in the Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) worlds. With the ongoing convergence of these computing domains, there is a corresponding need for actionable production data. Plant and factory operators require proven solutions unifying the availability, transport and visualization of data for both IT and OT stakeholders.
Since 2011, FDT Group and OPC Foundation have collaborated on a uniform approach to device- and network-level data access for higher-level enterprise applications. The two organizations are in the process of finalizing an update to the existing FDT OPC Unified Architecture (UA) companion specification. This specification, which employs a Universal Device Information (DI) Model at the server-level, supports the cloud-based FDT 3.0 data-centric platform for the process, hybrid and discrete markets. It is a key technology development enabling the transmission of uniform business and operational information for any OPC UA Client.
When it launches mid-year, the new FDT OPC Universal DI Model will underscore FDT’s strength as a standardized IIoT platform serving uniform IT/OT data to the enterprise. With the FDT 3.0 Server Architecture natively integrated with an OPC UA Server, it is now possible to mix and match devices and device information models from any vendor, and communicate on any network, while the FDT Server transparently unifies all the device information and moves it up to the enterprise level in real-time for any OPC UA Client.
The built-in OPC UA Server has full access to all device and network information and metadata associated with the FDT Server. Standard OPC UA browsing techniques are used to expose this information so that authorized OPC UA Clients can connect to the FDT Server to browse, collect and take action on the data as needed. Optional support for a Publish-Subscribe environment allows for efficient, real-time data monitoring and exchange.
From a data visualization standpoint, the Universal DI Model is closely aligned with the requirements of major end user associations and their recommendations for an open architecture to make production data easily and securely usable for plant and asset monitoring and optimization. The universal device information model leverages FDT’s history of data integration and works across any industry, network or device. It allows critical information to be utilized throughout the enterprise for a host of IT/OT-related tasks.
In summary, the FDT 3.0 platform with its FDT Server and built-in, “pre-wired” OPC UA Server solution enables robust IT/OT integration and provides a secure gateway to make network/device data and health information available to higher level enterprise systems and applications. Developed from the ground up with best-in-class security and an operating system agnostic environment, the FDT Server is fully deployable in the cloud, on premise, at the edge, or in a desktop environment.
Glenn Schulz, Managing Director of the FDT Group