Edge platform adds industrial strength to software applications

11th May 2018 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

Critical availability specialist company Stratus Technologies has launched an edge computing device that provides high availability for software applications used in industrial environments, such as mines, factories and processing facilities, says Stratus Technologies consultant head Greg Hookings.

The device, which is a dual-node server solution for redundancy and active failover, allows industrial sites – such as mines, pharmaceutical production facilities and manufacturing – to perform monitoring, control and data analytics on site to produce actionable insights and information without moving the data to the cloud or a datacentre.

“The zero-touch computing edge system serves as a way for industries to visualise and analyse their production data for industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), predictive maintenance and automation uses, besides other applications. This also reduces the amount of data that needs to be sent to cloud systems or data centres.

“Cloud is one element of the modern industrial sectors, but is not a suitable solution in all cases to support industrial processing and real-time systems, especially with connectivity constraints. Currently, best practice involves processing as much as possible of the data at the edge to produce real-time information for immediate use on site.”

The refined data is then passed along to the cloud or data centre for additional processing and analysis.

However, the system’s primary function is to ensure the availability of applications and process data for the user’s industrial environment, where standard information technology (IT) platforms are inoperable, making it robust against interruptions and protecting against data loss, emphasises Hookings.

“The hardware and software of the zero-touch computing device are designed to ensure that no data is lost and that software applications operate in a completely stable environment. Should an issue occur with one of the redundant servers, the product communicates with Stratus and ensures that correction or replacement takes place automatically with no special IT skills required.”

Industrial edge computing fits into traditional control architecture, but adds low- latency computing resources for IIoT, the management and processing of data, real-time control, predictive maintenance and increased automation.

These low-latency resources also support a move from using historical data for control and management to using data for real-time decision-making.

“Companies from a range of different industries can use the solution. For example, large mines and aluminium smelters could use the zero-touch edge system for preventive maintenance of machines. Alternatively, pharmaceutical companies and food and beverage companies could deploy the system to ensure critical applications can ride through troubles and do not affect quality and compliance metrics.”

The data produced by industrial facilities are increasingly critical, consistent with the digitalisation and virtualisation of industries; protecting data is, therefore, increasingly important to ensure production, reduce risk and improve performance and efficiency.

“The core characteristics required by industry is speed and efficiency, which is why the system integrates easily into the existing control architectures and can be set up within less than half an hour,” states Hookings.

Processing the data on site provides companies with the ability to manage the plant and processes using information on potential risks before making informed decisions, he adds.

“The edge device enables industrial facilities to move to real-time operations by making their digital applications robust and continuously available so that they can work seamlessly with the control environment,” Hookings concludes.