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The OPC Foundation has always strived to only create standards that users want and believes that any specification needs to be worth more than the paper it is written on.nTo that end, multiple activities have been going on to ensure support from the sideline spectators, namely end-users and other compatible standards bodies. The main forum for connecting with the end-users has been the OPC DevCon conferences that have been held yearly since the inception of OPC UA. The most recent event in June 2007 had attendees from all over the world and showcased current OPC UA developments.
In addition the OPC Foundation has been actively collaborating and partnering with industry standards bodies such as ISA, EDDL, FDT, MIMOSA, OAGi and others. The participation of members from OPC and collaboration organizations in respective standards development ensures OPC UA delivers a communications infrastructure that meets the needs of the industrial enterprise. The success of this program is clear from the recent announcement that the FDT Group would become a member of ECT (EDDL Cooperation Team) and work on defining a common OPC-UA Information Model for device descriptions. Two competing standards for device definition brought together by the OPC Unified Architecture.
Things are running well; so how far is the Finish Line? There is a lot of road behind us, and there is still some to go, but you could say OPC UA is now on the homestretch. The specification parts that define the core building blocks are complete, a solid feature rich OPC UA software development kit is available, and there are several OPC members currently developing OPC UA products. In addition the infrastructure needed for final compliance testing is well underway. There are still a few miles to go. In addition to releasing the outstanding specification parts, several key software development tasks and associated testing need to be completed. As with any significant software development effort, it takes time to fully develop, test, rework and ensure each component meets the expected quality requirements. Feature complete components are made available to OPC foundation members, but must be fully validated and production tested before they can be released to end users. This means that although some vendors from the Early Adopter group will soon provide pre-certification level OPC UA enabled products; there is still work to be done before OPC UA compliant products are commercially available. The parallel activities of; staged specification release, component and sample code development, and creating the certification infrastructure, as well as the collaboration and marketing efforts will ensure the lag time between ‘crossing the finish line’ and widespread product availability and adoption is minimized. The next generation of enterprise interoperability is not something that is achieved in a single burst of energy; rather it is steadily won one mile at a time.