Winning the battle for interoperability

In a special-to-the-web article for OPC Connection, OPC specialist Eric Murphy presents his thoughts on what it will take to achieve the mission of true interoperability.

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The Big Guns
In addition to these activities the OPC Foundation is currently in the process of ‘rolling out their big guns’ in the form of independent testing labs. This will further assist member companies with interoperability and will provide end users with a known set of tested interoperability criteria for any given OPC product. The aim of the test labs will be to provide testing beyond basic interface compatibility. The tests would include features such as a fixed reproducible testing environment, functional tests for both servers and clients, behavior tests for normal and exceptional operating scenarios, performance tests for long term and loading, unreliable operating environment and failure recovery testing, as well as usability, installation and configuration testing. This is an important major improvement in the overall OPC certification process that end users will significantly benefit from in terms of truly seamless interoperability.

Rallying the Troops
When Tom Burke, President and Executive Director of the OPC Foundation was asked about the response from the OPC community to the rallying cry for interoperability, he had this to say: “The commitment from the vendors and end users alike has been clearly demonstrated through the volunteer effort developing the specifications and process to truly guarantee and improve multi-vendor interoperability achieving the highest level of quality.” Tom went on to say that “ The message from the end users and the reason for the OPC Foundation Enhanced Certification Program is to provide a solid foundation for certifying products to meet and exceed the end-user expectations with respect to the OPC Foundation technology deployment.”

Lock and Load
The plan is firmly in place and deployment is underway, but achieving the mission for interoperability will be a series of actions on multiple fronts, at different times. Not only does the Enhanced Certification Program aim to greatly improve the quality of existing OPC products, it must also ensure the interoperability of products developed on the new OPC UA specifications. The scope of OPC UA products extends throughout the enterprise, and will present even more interoperability challenges. Significant resources from the OPC Foundation member companies have been committed, and the necessary processes, specifications and tools that will serve as the foundation for certifying all OPC products, including OPC UA, are being developed. The inevitable outcome of the OPC Foundation Enhanced Certification Program is the establishment of a testing methodology that ensures secure, reliable and interoperable high-quality OPC solutions for the end-user community, now and in the future.

  About the Author

Eric Murphy, BSc, PEng (Alberta), is a chemical engineer with a process control specialization and an OPC expert. Eric has been a part of the OPC community since its early beginnings in the mid-1990s. He is heavily involved with the OPC Foundation and currently acts as the chair for the OPC Historical Data Access (HDA) working group. Eric is also a member of the OPC Technical Steering Committee (TSC) and an active member of the OPC Unified Architecture (UA) working group. Visit Eric at his Blog, the OPC Exchange, to follow the latest trends and discussions about OPC technology, or click here for free downloads.

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