Friday, May 8, 2009

OPC Interoperability Conference, UA and Java

In the spirit of catching up with my backlogged blogging (recent personal Japan trip from January), I'll post about a few topics that I missed.

I had a chance to visit old friends at Inductive Automation. They gave me a demonstration of the working Java OPC UA stack that they unveiled back in the beginning of March, at the North American OPC Interoperability conference. The "test program" was a slick AJAX web page that browsed, read, and wrote tags to an AB SLC with no noticable delay.

The Java UA stack is significant for a number of reasons. First, the UA spec is notional. I'd guess that the OPC Foundation hoped, but didn't really expect, to see it implemented independently - at least not right off. (*a Java stack on their C/C++ implementation is planned with a pure jave stack in the dreamy future) - (*correction again - Randy Armstrong points out in a comment that a Java stack is currently available). This leads to the second point about Java being platform and Operating System independent - everything supports the Java Virtual Machine these days. The point is that we have millions of users across continents and lots of reasons to seek Windows alternatives. I'd bet that there's a dissociated army of programmers in the industrial space who are doing their own thing, but would jump on a standards based bandwagon. That's really what our industry needs for: efficiency, simplicity, and cost savings. The idea being that everything "speaks OPC UA" so historically dissimilar hardware, appliances, and applications can talk with ease - securely.

Which brings me to something I heard about at the conference. Reportedly, the UA guys were asked to go home the first day so that all the legacy apps could be set up. This makes me laugh and wince simultaniously! It's not uncommon for a room full of experts to spend an afternoon getting two nodes to talk to each other - it's all about Windows DCOM security, which is equally painful as it is full of gaping vulnerabilities. At the point where you're communicating with a friend, a third party can't see either.

New standards are a funny thing - everyone knows they're coming, everyone knows they'll benefit from them, but you're not ready to commit until the next guy has. Kudos to Inductive Automation for getting the ball rolling. Kudos to Kepware and Iconics for the same. Siemens has comitted to an entire product line! Wonderware's been talking the talk, as has Rockwell (both in 2006). Here's to them coding away in their secret labs! Don't believe me - here's a video of how great and mature OPC UA really is, complements of Eric Murphy of Matrikon! It's a riot - I promise :)!


Randy Armstrong said...

The OPC Foundation has a Beta for the pure Java stack available to members here.

surferb said...

I stand corrected - thanks.

Eric Murphy said...

Thanks for the shout out. Glad you like the 'OPC Mythbusters'. I'd like to do more some time.