Munich based Software Defined Automation (SDA) and VMware implement real-time virtual Programmable Logic Controllers (vPLCs)
Munich, Dec 7, 2021: The execution of deterministic real-time control on virtualized edge servers in combination with a comprehensive vPLC management interface in the cloud is aimed to be a unique solution enabling customers to improve productivity, utilization, and security while at the same time gain independence from vendor-specific hardware and silicon.
The SDA solution will help improve industrial automation with the full virtualization of PLC controls on the VMware Edge Compute Stack that supports virtual machines (VM) and containers running on conventional IT servers at the edge. The real-time control on a VM will commission, monitor and manage vPLC instances on servers located in factories. The virtual real-time controllers, that will be installed and managed by SDA at the edge, have already shown to achieve deterministic control cycle times of <10ms.
Many recent innovations developed by the IT industry have not been adopted in the area of PLCs.
Traditional PLC implementations in hardware are costly and lack scalability. Since the emergence of the standard IEC 61131-3 in the 1980s, PLC technology has advanced very gradually. Current trends improve the PLC’s memory and processing power while shrinking their size. Yet, the technology still relies on on-site monitored and individually programmed PLCs that must be taken out of operation in order to change the code – leading to operational downtime and reliability risks. This common practice is due to the lack of alternative technologies and tools that could reduce the software limitations of PLCs and free them from the need to being manually managed on site by automation engineers.
Virtual machines and containers transform hardware systems into software systems, in which all elements run on local off-the-shelf IT infrastructure. The VMware Edge Compute Stack in combination with SDA’s vPLC management and monitoring services will enable improved security, reliability and resilience while allowing for intelligent and deterministic real-time responsiveness.
The vPLC solution aims to bring the benefits of cloud systems to the shopfloor, increase resilience and security, while preservering real-time capabilities
The solution is based on a hybrid architecture between a cloud system and an industrial workload on the edge. The hardware resources located at the edge will be efficiently used with VMware’s Edge Compute Stack, that manages the resources according to each vPLC’s needs. SDA is working on extending this technology stack with a management system for fully virtualized PLCs based on CodeSys technology to incorporate the industrial control layer as a software. The management system will simultaneously hold virtual PLC twins in the cloud.
The offering can then help to generate value for all sorts of industry processes controlled by PLCs. Software-based PLC implementations will end up being more flexible, simplifying the delivery logistics and reducing software commissioning time. The vPLC’s runtime at the edge can be updated over the cloud via the SDA management console. vPLCs will be handled as IT workloads and state-of-the-art IT best practices are applied to bolster automation IT security. Furthermore, the integrated monitoring service ensures that allowed vPLC response time thresholds are not exceeded.
Customers will benefit from improved utilization and productivity in times of semiconductor shortages, as well as reduced dependence on vendor-specific hardware
The offering will help increase flexibility by virtualizing real-time controllers and increase the price-performance by overcoming traditional hardware implementation in terms of equipment costs, personnel expenses and engineering efficiency. In addition, the vPLCs may help manufacturing companies overcome the current semiconductor shortages which lead to significantly longer delivery times of specialized PLC silicon compared to conventional IT servers.
Dr. Josef Waltl, CEO and co-founder of SDA, stated, “Today’s technological advances in software and cloud computing allow management of real-time control systems in a pure software fashion. The SDA vPLC service is able to meet sub 10ms performance, required for the many of industrial applications currently controlled by conventional PLCs.”
Muneyb Minhazuddin, vice president of edge computing, VMware, notes, “The pandemic has shown how vulnerable manufacturers still are at the edge despite having implemented latest industry 4.0 and cloud technologies. It’s the last mile that is still dependent on human intervention and vendor hardware, yet it is a vital part of production process controls that needs to be addressed. Together with SDA, VMware Edge Compute Stack will help manufacturers optimize PLCs in a time of semiconductor shortages, enabling resiliency, flexibility and effectivity at the very heart of their edge operations.”
To test the upcoming features, indicate your interest in a beta access by getting in touch via www.softwaredefinedautomation.io/contact-us.
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VMware makes no guarantee that services announced in preview or beta will become available at a future date. The information in this press release is for informational purposes only and may not be incorporated into any contract.
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Anke Henrich, +49 171 4162840