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Snuff Out Downtime in Industrial Automation

3.22.2017IA, IIoTBy:  

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can pay big benefits for organizations that do it right. It’s no surprise that a report by LNS Research and MESA International shows that more than 50% of manufacturers plan to pursue IIoT in the next 12 months. In fact, one of our gas pipeline customers has already saved over $9.8 million in maintenance downtime costs primarily because of IIoT.

Avoiding downtime is a huge motivator for companies embarking on IIoT. Outdated operational technology (OT), such as physical sensors, proprietary control-system software, SCADA, and historians, represent significant downtime risk. When they fail, costs are high. According to the Aberdeen Group, the cost of downtime went up to $260,000 per hour on average between 2014 and 2016.

Here are four best practices about keeping your eyes on uptime as you embark on IIoT:

1. How much uptime is enough?

Downtime isn’t cheap. You already know the direct costs of delayed product deliveries, idle time and overtime pay, and repair expenditures. Your business may also need to factor in damage to reputation, environmental damage, litigation, and more. Stratus has a downtime calculator to get you started.

Once you know the hourly cost of an outage, determine your tolerance level. While 99% uptime may sound fantastic, that’s actually 88 hours of downtime in an average year—or potentially millions of dollars. Or would you prefer five minutes a year? That’s where fault-tolerant solutions pay dividends with 99.999% availability.

2. Protect before you recover

While a disaster recovery plan allows you to return to operation after a catastrophe, it’s not enough.

By the time disaster recovery kicks in, considerable damage is done—and often irretrievably. Data traveling in your production environment is primarily “inflight” data, occurring in milliseconds and requiring instantaneous response. That data is lost in an outage. Controllers, temperature monitors, and failure analytics can’t wait while systems resume operating.

You’ll want an availability solution that prevents outages from occurring, ensuring zero data loss.

3. Keep it simple

When merging IT and OT systems to achieve IIoT, simplicity is critical. Operational staff often doesn’t have the advanced IT skills needed to manage complex IT deployments. So choose an availability solution that is simple to deploy and easy to operate and manage. That way, you can focus on making sure your plants are performing well.

Virtualization is also essential to simplicity. Virtual machines are isolated from unexpected problems elsewhere, and servers can be smoothly migrated offline for orderly upgrades and updates. The challenge is that consolidating IT and OT systems on a single physical machine replaces multiple points of potential failure with a single point, increasing your risk exposure.

You can overcome this risk by deploying a hardware or software-based continuous availability system. Such solutions run on standard-type servers in virtualized environments, and requires no special expertise to maintain.

4. Solve today’s problems with an eye on the future

Most industrial automation organizations are not ready to perform a full-scale upgrade all at once. So phase your planning to solve real problems immediately. A couple of early wins will get your project off to a strong start.

Just leave ample room for future growth and modification. Build on industry standards and proven methodologies. An availability solution you can implement and forget about will pay itself back in future compatibility and productivity.

IIoT is no longer merely for the early adopter. When done right, IIoT can create enormous savings and competitive advantage. As you face this complex undertaking, remember to factor uptime into the equation. You’ll build a solid foundation for achieving genuine, measurable benefits.

Capture Immediate Business Value with Incremental Investments in IIoT

3.15.2017IIoTBy:  

Hydrocarbon producers face extreme pressures to reduce operational costs and boost efficiency. This is easier said than done. Standing in the way are outdated operational technology (OT) infrastructures that run supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, historians, and automation control systems at satellite facilities and remote pumping stations. Often installed decades ago, these systems gather potentially valuable data, but it’s painful or even impossible to extract it for high-level analysis.

Meanwhile, IT teams at these same energy firms are making huge strides with virtualization, connectivity, and data analytics. If OT upgrades continue to be stalled, energy producers are handcuffed from tapping into the power of the industrial internet of things (IIoT) technologies that are redefining the oil and gas industry. Linking machines, equipment, and sensors with advanced control systems and analytics is vital to propelling efficiency gains and unlocking business insights to drive growth.

What can you achieve as an intelligent, connected enterprise? Consider Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG) (recently acquired by TransCanada Corporation), an operator of nearly 15,000 miles of gas pipelines across the U.S. CPG upgraded its OT with fault-tolerant, SCADA systems that generate real-time operational data and business analytics. In the first year, CPG saved $2.3 million in maintenance and reductions in unplanned downtime and expects to run at 100% capacity with near-100% availability. Today, those savings are over $9.8 million.

How can you evolve your firm into an IIoT-enabled enterprise without pursuing a total upgrade right out of the gate? At Stratus, we recommend a step-by-step approach:

Step 1: Begin at the center

First, upgrade your control environment, such as level 2 supervisory control and level 3 operational and control infrastructure. This enables immediate gains in uptime performance and efficiency, while creating a foundation for incrementally upgrading distributed control systems throughout the plant and at remote locations. While data from level 1 process controllers and sensors remains unchanged, you still use that data for advanced analytics to improve operational and business planning.

Step 2: Expand outward

Extending an intelligent, connected enterprise to individual machines throughout an operational infrastructure—including individual sensors, actuators and control valves—takes automation and predictive management to an entirely new level. Rather than collecting data every few seconds, your environment collects data almost continuously from hundreds of sensors and feeds it to analytics engines. Future upgrades to the level 1 basic control environment and level 0 infrastructures can unlock tremendous value through increased productivity and efficiency, and reduced unplanned downtime.

Regardless of your upgrade plans, a solid availability strategy is essential to capturing the full benefits of modernization. Replacing outdated PCs with virtual servers offers significant footprint reduction, streamlined diagnosis and repair, simplified provisioning of new applications, and reduced systems management workload, among other gains.

Despite the advantages, consolidating control applications on a single physical machine replaces multiple points of failure with a single point of failure, which can increase risk of unplanned downtime. This can be easily addressed with a fault-tolerant, always-on virtualized processing environment. Unlike traditional failure recovery, these fault-tolerant solutions prevent failure from occurring and loss of in-flight data. An uninterrupted stream of data is critical to IIoT, especially as the volume and value of data increases.

While change introduces risk, it’s essential to keep pace with intensifying demands on the hydrocarbon industry to increase efficiency and reduce costs. A thoughtful, incremental approach to upgrading automation and control infrastructure helps you reap the advantages of modernization while minimizing risk. Don’t wait. The sooner you take the first step, the sooner you will capture the compelling financial and competitive advantages of IIoT.

Strategies to Reduce Downtime and Increase Plant KPI’s

3.2.2017Industrial AutomationBy:  

Ask any business line executive associated with a production line, or a continuous process, what is it that they fear the most and the almost universal response is “unplanned downtime”. This is the one thing that can wreck KPI’s and negatively impact overall equipment effectiveness in unexpected ways. Of course, unplanned downtime does not have to be caused by dramatic equipment failures, it can be the result of products that don’t meet shipping criteria, such as being underweight, or having the wrong mix, as some presenters shared during the session on Strategies to Reduce Downtime and Increase Plant KPIs at last month’s ARC Industry Forum in Orlando.

In his opening remarks, Craig Resnick, Vice President at the ARC Advisory Group, talked about the use of data and analytics to improve KPI’s and eliminate unplanned downtime. Storing, accessing and analyzing this data generally means crossing the traditional divide between operational technologists (OT) on the plant floor and information technologists (IT) in the data center. The traditional antagonism between these two organizations is why many plant operations remain completely segregated from the rest of the business, if for no other reason than the fear of cyber threats. However, when bringing these two groups together you can often find that there is significant common ground between OT and IT, and by harnessing common concerns, a cooperative environment can be built.

Cyber-security, standards-based, scalable and upgradeable, no unscheduled downtime and future proof are some of the key attributes valued by both IT and OT. At Stratus, many of these topics are a common theme we hear from our customers. The combination of a simple, integrated, redundant solution that is fault-tolerant, a service model that proactively detects potential failures, automatically sending replacement parts that are easily swapped, and experts who are constantly monitoring anomalies in overall operation to supplement OT/IT resources are the key things that draw companies to Stratus.

So what are some of the things that end users in the session have done improve their operations? This ranged from using data to understand where pre-mixed weight in raw materials and product mix in the final product were impacting quality and profitability (compensating low weight in cheaper raw materials with higher cost mixers) to providing constant feedback to plant floor operators via local HMI’s so that instant adjustments could be made in sensitive product environments to greatly reduce product wastage and increase overall quality. In all cases, one factor that stood out was the importance of the data, something that Stratus is ideally suited to protect, and a vital element in the move to IIoT and improved KPI’s.

Major Gas Pipeline Company Boosts Safety, Reduces Costs

2.2.2017Fault Tolerance, IABy:  

When it comes to utilities, we as consumers find interruptions to electricity, heat, water, and phone service as extremely disruptive and even dangerous. For utility providers, the impact of such outages also is severe when it comes to lost revenue, customer dissatisfaction, and liability risks. In the natural gas industry, downtime incidents can present even more dire consequences.

This became abundantly clear when a compressor station operated by a North America gas pipeline company suffered a catastrophic failure. The result was a fire that cost more than $550,000 in damages and lost natural gas. Because the station was in a rural location, fire and damage fortunately was contained to the compressor and there were no fatalities.

While the pipeline company highly valued safety and reliability, this frightening incident was a lightning rod to take continuous operations to the next level. The pipeline company engaged in a detailed analysis of 15,000 miles of pipeline and facilities across 16 states, which transports over one trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year to customers.

The resulting modernization report recommended significant system upgrades to comply with the Control Room Management (CRM) regulations issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). For example, the pipeline company implemented compressor stations with fully redundant systems, such as compressor pumps, turbines, valves, and safety and control systems.

A bigger challenge was creating a continuous availability computer solution to operate the company’s SCADA, historian, HMI, and related control system applications. The pipeline company also wanted the solution to support big data analytics that would proactively predict, detect, and resolve compressor station problems before unplanned outages occurred.

Initially, the pipeline firm planned to deploy six or eight servers to support the full range of applications but discovered this approach had several shortcomings. For example, there were significant space and power constraints and lack of IT support at the compressor stations. If a server failed, automation staff at the headquarters location would need to reconfigure the server’s operating environment, physically deliver it, and perform the install. The unacceptable outcome: two to three days of server downtime and data loss that would generate sub-par analytic results and decrease operational efficiency.

After considering various options, the pipeline company chose a Stratus ftServer, a virtualized continuous availability solution with integrated redundancy. This centralized, easy to manage solution reduced the number of servers and associated service burdens. Automation engineers now remotely run virtualized applications from the primary control centers without requiring trained IT staff at the compressor station to conduct maintenance. Uninterrupted access to real-time analytics also provides the firm with complete operational visibility, eliminating “blind moments” and further improving availability and efficiency.

In fact, since implementing the ftServer three years ago, the pipeline company has run operational systems without any downtime or data loss. According to a lead automation electrical engineer at the company Stratus provides an added benefit: “We can get a lot more flexibility by adding applications in the compressor stations without the need for IT expertise.”

Are you looking to improve the safety and reliability of your operations while reducing costs and increasing efficiency? Stratus offers a compelling solution with virtualization, continuous availability and integrated redundancy.

NEXT STEP: Watch this video and learn more about how this pipeline company added value to their critical operations

Peace of Mind for Pinellas County Utilities with Always-On Industrial Control Systems

11.30.2016IABy:  

Lately, people have been asking more questions about the safety and reliability of their water supply. That’s because recent incidents of system contamination such as the crisis in Flint, Michigan and storm damage from hurricanes Matthew and Sandy have thrust water and wastewater issues into the public eye. And that’s put increased pressure on municipalities and counties to get a better handle on their water and wastewater operations.

To do that, utilities like our long-time customer, Pinellas County Utilities (PCU) in Florida, rely on industrial control systems such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), historians, and human machine interfaces (HMIs). PCU monitors and controls about 20,000 assets, including valves, pumps, and temperature gauges, 2,000 miles of pipe, 13 well fields, five surface water sources, three wastewater treatment facilities, and 350 lift stations. These systems simply cannot go down.

To maintain high availability, PCU previously relied on clustered commodity servers but the problem was that they were getting old and expensive to support. So PCU decided to replace them with Stratus ftServers. Ken Osborne, PCU’s SCADA supervisor, explained: “Keeping the water on is a public health and safety issue. We can’t tolerate any downtime. Replacing clustered failover servers with ftServers saved us a lot of money and simplified the entire operation. I’ve never looked back.”

The utility deployed eight ftServers in three geographically dispersed control sites and their central control room. The ftServers run PCU’s Wonderware environment supporting SCADA, historian, HMI, and other applications, as well as Microsoft SQL Server and terminal services. PCU also virtualized almost everything with VMware.

By running virtual machines (VMs) on ftServers, PCU achieved several important benefits:

  • Efficiency was improved by centralizing remote access to the entire SCADA system. This lets technicians monitor physical components across water and wastewater operations anywhere, any time. It also gives them visibility into how everything is working or any issues that require attention. PCU management also analyzes real-time and historical operational information for insights that help further improve performance and efficiency of water and wastewater systems.
  • Protecting critical VMs with ftServers made good economic sense. Osborne figured that using server clusters instead of ftServers would have doubled his project costs and taken weeks longer to implement. The fault-tolerant virtualization solution also makes it easy for PCU to consolidate other applications and add new ones by simply creating another VM instead of facing the capital expense of buying additional servers.
  • Perhaps most important, PCU doesn’t have to worry about unplanned system downtime for its critical SCADA and other industrial control systems. Ken Osborne put it this way: “Our operation has relied on Stratus systems with no unscheduled downtime caused by a server failure. The server always runs and we never lose a thing. That’s peace of mind.”

If you’re looking for a similar level of confidence in the reliability of your industrial automation operations, talk to Stratus. We’ll show you how to eliminate unplanned downtime and modernize your infrastructure for better efficiency and higher return on assets.

Modern Water Control Systems Boost Public Safety, Plant Efficiency

11.23.2016Industrial Automation, ManufacturingBy:  

Water is getting a lot of attention lately. Whether it’s contaminated water in Flint, Michigan or environmental impact from hurricane-damaged wastewater facilities, incidents like these raise serious questions about safety and reliability.

That’s where industrial automation systems, such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), historians, and human machine interfaces (HMIs), come in. They’re critical to seeing how your operations are performing. And they yield valuable data that, when combined with analytics, can help improve efficiency and predict maintenance needs before problems arise.

A common issue for water and wastewater facilities is their SCADA and HMI systems are getting old. They’re going down unexpectedly, which leaves operators flying blind. And older systems typically lack critical hooks into analytics.

In a recent InSource Solutions webinar, I laid out a plan for how water and wastewater facilities can modernize their industrial automation infrastructure, eliminate unplanned downtime, simplify management and maintenance, and gain greater insight and control over critical operations. Stratus, which has 35 years of providing continuous availability systems to a variety of industries, recommends that it’s industrial automation clients first virtualize their SCADA/HMI systems.

Unlike traditional implementations that run each industrial automation application on a dedicated physical PC or server, virtualization lets you run multiple applications on a single machine, with each application isolated on its own “virtual” machine. That saves you a lot of money on hardware. It simplifies management. And it lays the foundation for introducing new applications and technologies without needing to overhaul your infrastructure.

When you move to a virtualized platform there are many factors to consider, including proper sizing and configuration. But one of the most important considerations is how to protect your virtualized systems from unplanned downtime. Equally important is ensuring you have a solution that simplifies management and maintenance, and which does not re-introduce new complexities to prevent outages.

So what are your options? Using a standard server with hot or cold standby, the best you can expect is to get back into production within several hours. Most organizations we talk to can tolerate no more than 10 minutes of downtime. Alternatively, you could opt for clustering or get high availability from a virtualization vendor. But these approaches are complex and costly, and could still take up to 30 minutes to recover. And with any of these choices you can still expect some data loss.

We recommend putting your virtualized applications on a continuous availability system like Stratus ftServers. Here’s why: ftServers prevent unplanned downtime and avoid data loss entirely. They’re designed with fully integrated redundancy, so even if something does fail, the system and your virtualized applications keep running. The best part is ftServers  run standard off-the-shelf virtualization layers and operating systems, so they look and act like a commodity server. Best of all, they only require a single operating system and application license per virtual machine, so you save money and eliminate complex availability configurations. And with Stratus support and service, you don’t need IT expertise to hot swap components or diagnose problems.

Virtualizing your SCADA and HMI systems offers a whole host of benefits that will make your life easier. But the key is to virtualize on an infrastructure that’s simple to manage and always on.  That way you can spend more time using data from SCADA and HMI systems to make your water and wastewater treatment facilities safer and more efficient.

A Modernized ICS holds the key to reducing unplanned downtime

9.30.2016Fault Tolerance, Industrial AutomationBy:  

Unplanned downtime has long been the nemesis of industrial operations. In recent years, we’ve seen tolerance for unplanned downtime get even lower. In fact, a recent survey by Stratus and the ARC Group reports that almost 40% of respondents said they could handle no more than 10 minutes of downtime per incident.

More than 20% said they could not tolerate downtime at all.

One reason is that industrial control systems (ICSs) produce data that’s become increasingly valuable to the business. A modern ICS can collect data down to the millisecond. When combined with analytics, this data enables initiatives like real-time automation and predictive maintenance, as well as accelerates adoption of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0, and smart factories. Simply put, the more you automate and reduce human errors through real-time system intelligence, the more you improve operational efficiency and drive higher profitability.

Recently, when I led an IndustryWeek webinar, I asked attendees what concerned them most about unplanned downtime. Not surprisingly, 54% identified potential revenue loss, 15% referenced loss of visibility resulting in a safety violation, and 13% highlighted the additional cost to run things manually.

Industry statistics support these concerns. According to ARC’s research, unplanned downtime results in 2-5% production loss in the petro-chemical industry. It costs natural gas companies about $10,000 per hour if a compression station goes down. Across the board, unplanned downtime in process industries costs ten times more than planned maintenance.

Modernizing ICS can lower these impacts and improve operating efficiency. So why don’t more organizations modernize? Many are concerned about complexity. They have numerous applications running on different machines that vary widely in age and configuration. The thought of upgrading such a jumble of systems can be a major inhibitor.

That’s why we see virtualization as the prime way forward for modernizing the ICS. Instead of needing lots of hardware, virtualization can often reduce everything to a single physical machine running multiple applications assigned to individual virtual machines. This makes it much easier to manage various elements of industrial automation, as well as add or upgrade applications.

Virtualization also takes the pain out of modernizing ICS because you can migrate systems gradually. A virtualized system can easily reside alongside your existing systems. Then you just move one application at a time from the traditional environment to the virtualized one.

Now, the infrastructure you choose for your virtualized ICS environment is critical. I asked the IndustryWeek webinar attendees what they considered the most important decision factor. Nearly 40% of respondents identified lifetime value because this is a system that could be in operation for at least seven to ten years. Another 26% of attendees referenced operational simplicity. Automation engineers don’t want to spend their valuable time on system administration; they want to focus on running the plant. And they want an infrastructure that helps minimize, if not eliminate, unplanned downtime.

Stratus fault-tolerant servers address every one of these points and more. So if you’re looking to modernize your ICS, Stratus can provide you with some compelling options.

The path to modern ICS starts with virtualization

9.23.2016Industrial Automation, VirtualizationBy:  

I talk to a lot of people in the industrial automation world, and almost without exception they share the same challenge. They need to prevent unplanned downtime while preparing for the future, which includes evolving to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0, and smart factories.

This perspective was only reinforced when I asked attendees at a recent IndustryWeek webinar what concerned them most about unplanned downtime. In my online poll, the top three concerns were: potential revenue loss (54%), loss of visibility resulting in a safety violation (15%), and additional cost to run things manually (13%).

During the webinar, I laid out a strategy for addressing this challenge. My recommendation: modernize your industrial control systems (ICSs). The first step is virtualization, which consolidates multiple physical machines onto a single hardware system.

Virtualization eliminates the need to run individual control and automation applications on their own physical systems, each of which represents a potential single point of failure. Instead, your applications run on virtual machines (VMs) that share common computing resources across the underlying infrastructure. Each VM is securely partitioned to ensure data integrity, but you’ve eliminated all those points of failure. You also now have just one physical system to manage and support rather than many.

By now, you’ve probably recognized a new potential single point of failure. What happens if that one physical machine with all your virtualized control and automation applications goes down? It would be catastrophic, of course.

So the second most critical step is to protect your virtualized systems.

Here are four options:

  1. No protection. Yes, some people opt to take their chances because historically they’ve never had a system failure. This approach avoids any capital expense, but if recovery is required, it would take many hours if not days and be very expensive in terms of lost revenue and productivity.
  2. Hardware failover cluster. This is a common high-availability approach in IT that can reduce recovery time to minutes or hours. But clustering requires multiple physical systems, which defeats the purpose of virtualization by adding both cost and complexity.
  3. High-availability virtualization software. The approach is essentially the same as hardware clustering, but uses virtualization software to enable failover. You still need multiple systems. And while failover can be virtually instantaneous, it requires an application restart, which can take minutes to hours.
  4. Fault-tolerant server. This is an integrated system with built-in redundancy to prevent system failure. There is no need to fail over to another machine. It’s simply one physical machine that’s always on. Even if a component fails, the server, VMs and applications all keep running.

Plus, fault-tolerant servers are ready for the future of industrial automation today. That’s important because as you upgrade your ICS and move toward IIoT, you need a solution with enough horsepower to process massive amounts of data collected from across your operation. At Stratus, we’re seeing our customers achieve early wins in IIoT with things like predictive maintenance analytics to drastically reduce unplanned downtime. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If you’re looking for the path of least resistance to prevent unplanned downtime and set a course for the future of industrial automation, then start by modernizing your ICS on fault-tolerant Stratus servers.

3 Approaches to Bridging the IT/OT Divide

9.16.2016IIoT, Industrial AutomationBy:  

As companies across the energy value chain look for ways to become more efficient and agile, the Industrial “Internet of Things” (IIoT) offers attractive opportunities. Harnessing sensor data, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and Big Data analytics enables oil and gas companies to take automation and efficiency to new heights, while creating the foundation for new business models.

But to realize the potential of IIoT, companies must first bridge a yawning gap: the technological and cultural divide that often separates their information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) organizations.

Why the divide? In most industrial organizations, including oil and gas producers, IT and OT traditionally have different priorities. For OT, ensuring the uptime of production automation systems is paramount. Reducing risk is the top priority, which is one reason why automation systems are often in service for years, if not decades—change equals risk. For IT, innovation is the top priority, often leading to continual change and upgrading. This difference in priorities helps explain why OT often insists on keeping automation systems completely isolated from IT.

The IIoT changes the status quo, creating a new imperative to share data from machine sensors and automation systems managed by OT—including SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems—with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and analytics platforms managed by IT. How can oil and gas companies bridge the gap between these two worlds, while ensuring that the competing priorities of OT and IT are met?

Approach 1

One approach employed by some energy companies is to effectively merge the two, integrating OT within the IT group. On the surface, this seems like the most straightforward approach, essentially forcing OT and IT to work in coordination. In practice, however, the cultural differences can remain. For example, IT may try to impose its standards-based approach on an OT team used to systems specialized for particular production tasks. Unless IT has a clear understanding of the requirements of these automation systems, the result can be a lack of coordination that decreases system stability. For this approach to work, OT must have a voice in the combined organization.

Approach 2

Another approach is to create a technology team free from these traditional distinctions, responsible for all OT and IT functions. This approach is feasible in an entirely new organization or for a large company spinning off a new satellite organization. But for most large, complex oil and gas producers with established technology groups and lots of legacy infrastructure, it may not be a workable alternative.

Approach 3

The third approach is one we’re seeing more and more in forward-looking organizations, where there is a new breed of “industrial technologists” who have a combined IT/OT perspective. They understand the need for stable, highly available automation systems, but they also understand the enterprise system integration and analytics required to make the IIoT a reality. With a foot in both worlds, these industrial technologists play a key role in ensuring that the priorities of both OT and IT are met.

The benefits of the IIoT are too attractive not to take advantage of them. Bringing OT and IT together in a way that effectively manages risk is the key to unlocking the tremendous potential of the intelligent, automated energy enterprise.

Putting Fault-Tolerant HMI/SCADA to the Test: Three Industrial Examples

9.1.2016Fault Tolerance, Industrial AutomationBy:  

More and more, we’re seeing operations organizations virtualizing critical industrial automation (IA) applications such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and human machine interface (HMI) historians. And whether virtualizing these systems or not, many companies choose to run their applications on fault-tolerant systems. Here are three examples of why:

Water and wastewater treatment facility

A municipal water and wastewater treatment facility struggled with declining income due to a shrinking tax base. On top of that, the EPA was tightening regulations, such as regular testing of field wells and other water sources and assurance of no data loss. Another big concern was control room “blindness” due to unplanned downtime of its SCADA systems.

By virtualizing and running their SCADA systems on always-on Stratus ftServers, the facility eliminated unplanned downtime. The facility also was able to demonstrate to regulatory auditors that continuous data availability was ensured. Plus, virtualizing reduced software licensing costs and the self-healing features of ftServers saved on staffing otherwise needed for system monitoring and support. As a result, the municipality ensures high water quality and satisfies EPA regulations all on a tight budget.

 

Paper and packaging manufacturer

This scenario involves a manufacturing plant specializing in kraft-style paper and packaging. The company was running manufacturing execution system (MES) and sales order processing (SOP) applications on 20-year-old legacy systems. Their biggest concern was unplanned downtime, which cost the business $33,000 per hour.

The company replaced its legacy systems with Stratus always-on ftServers running state-of-the-art MES and SOP applications. Unplanned downtime is now a thing of the past. The Stratus systems are easy to operate and support, so the plant no longer needs IT staff on call. And, continuous operations without any line stoppages helped the company increase profitability.

 

Natural gas transmission company

A major natural gas transmission company operates about 80 compression stations along thousands of miles of pipeline. Most of their stations are in remote locations with limited space and power. Their existing SCADA/HMI infrastructure simply wasn’t built for those difficult conditions, and servers started to fail, causing downtime of two or three days each time.

So the company virtualized and now runs multiple IA applications on a single Stratus ftServer. This eliminated the downtime problem. It also reduced the number of servers at each compression station from eight to one, which decreased their IT expenditures significantly at the remote sites. Plus, the company eliminated data loss. This is critical to their predictive analytics systems, which tell them when equipment requires maintenance to avoid catastrophic failures.

This is a small sampling of how virtualization and fault tolerance benefit both SCADA/HMI and analytics. In fact, data availability of analytics is becoming one of the most important requirements in today’s modern operations environments—a trend that we’re seeing across all segments in the IA space.

 

NEXT STEP: Read more about how Stratus is ensuring fault-tolerance for Industrial Automation

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