Inductive Automation
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News / October 13, 2010

Strong Showing in Nuremburg Bodes Well for OPC-UA

The proof is in the numbers. There was a substantial increase in the number of OPC Unified Architecture (UA) products tested at the OPC Foundation’s recent Interoperability Workshop in Nuremburg, Germany. With UA products outnumbering classic OPC products for the first time, the focus was clearly on the next-generation specification that promises increased security, platform independence, and easier configuration.

The OPC Foundation hosts three interoperability events (“interops” for short) every year in the United States, Germany and Japan. Inductive Automation recently sent two of its key OPC-UA developers, Colby Clegg and Kevin Herron, to the international event.

“We go every year because it’s very effective,” Clegg said. “In one week we can test with all of the main servers on the market. If something doesn’t work, we have someone right there who can look at it and figure out why.”

The Inductive team was happy to see more companies participate. “We’re getting closer to having more UA products on the market,” said Herron. “There’s a big difference between the number of UA servers and clients coming to the Interop. There were very few UA products last year, and most were in early development. This year, there were about 14 or 15 each. It was pretty encouraging.”

Herron went on to explain that attending the Interop is key to any OPC product’s success in the market: “I tell everyone it’s crucial to go to the Interops, because it’s the best way to get issues resolved. Interoperability between products is the most important concern for OPC-UA and OPC in general. That’s why OPC came about in the first place, to create a compatible standard between all the vendors.”

What is the purpose of the interop?
The Interop helps vendors get on the same page. While there is a standard specification document for OPC-UA, every vendor is liable to interpret and implement the specs differently. Companies that attend the Interop events are striving to ensure the compatibility of their products, so in the end, users can be very confident about using the products.

Compatibility Results

Inductive Automation’s
Ignition OPC-UA server
successfully tested against
the following vendors:

Beckhoff Automation
Certec EDV
Ing.-Buero Allmendinger
MSIndustrie Software
OPC Foundation
Progea Srl
Prosys PMS Ltd.
Siemens AG
Unified Automation

UA servers tested: 9
UA clients that tested: 10

“The Interop is a chance to see how things work in the real world,” Clegg said. “These events are unique in how transparent they are. All of these companies are at the event to work together and make sure that everything works. With key technical members of the OPC Foundation on hand, specification questions and problems can be resolved quickly. We’ve been going for five years, because we know that if we work with the companies at the Interop we can be pretty confident it will work well in the field.”

Passing the Test
Inductive Automation brought their server, Ignition OPC-UA. It tested successfully against nine other OPC-UA servers, and 10 OPC-UA clients.

“We were able to verify that we function well with the products from major vendors that are already in the market or will be coming out in the next few months,” Clegg reported. “Our customers can be more confident that when they pair our product with other products, it’s going to work. That means more options for what customers can tie into.”

In addition to ensuring that the product will work for users, Inductive Automation places a high value on attending the Interops because they were the first independent organization to write their own OPC-UA stack. It’s written completely in Java, making Ignition OPC-UA and the Ignition platform 100% cross platform.

“We’ve gone to multiple events this year because of the rapid rate at which OPC-UA is maturing,” explains Herron. “Maintaining our own implementation is a lot of work, but it’s great to see the promise of industry standard, cross-platform communication take hold.”

Going Strong
Ignition OPC-UA has seen a continued success in 2010. With thousands of downloads since its release early in the year, users around the world have discovered the flexibility and power of the Ignition platform. The Ignition OPC-UA server is available for free: Simply request a free activation key, download the software, and get started using OPC-UA on your control system. It's cross-platform compatible (Windows, Linux, Mac), features an open driver API, and includes free Allen Bradley and Modbus TCP drivers.

The activation key and download page can be accessed here: