Virtualization Ignites ArchestrA Capabilities

Invensys Leverages Microsoft's Hyper-V Technology to Simplify the Care and Feeding of Control Applications


By Jim Montague, Executive Editor

In the context of process control, virtualization means lower hardware costs and simpler maintenance, but more importantly it means higher-availability systems and better disaster recovery. Rob Kambach, platform and supervisory applications product manager for Invensys Operations Management, explained why virtualization is likely headed to a control system near you in his presentation "Virtualization for ArchestrA System Platform 2012," at the company's OpsManage'11 conference this week in Nashville, Tenn.

"Virtualization isn't just about installing software because there's also some infrastructure that must be added," said Kambach. "Virtualization basically isolates and abstracts computing resources. Virtual applications can run any application on demand on any computer. The virtual presentation layer runs separately from the process. The operating system (OS) of a virtual machine can be assigned to any desktop or server. Virtual storage and backup are done over the network. And the virtual network uses localized dispersed resources."

Invensys unveiled its ArchestrA System Platform 2012 software along with its ArchestrA Workflow 2012 software at the OpsManage'11 event. ArchestrA System Platform 2012 provides a single scalable, open platform for the firm's automation and information applications. Its plant-model-based, integrated configuration environment provides a logical representation of the physical processes it controls and supervises, which enables rapid configuration and deployment of component, object-based applications. When deployed, the software improves performance, strengthens security, simplifies installation, increases operator and engineering productivity and efficiency, and supports new high-availability (HA) and disaster-recovery (DR) implementations using Microsoft Windows Server Hyper-V virtualization.

"The basic benefits of virtualization include server consolidation with smaller OS footprint and reduced costs by using less space, facilities, hardware, maintenance and power," explained Kambach. "Virtualization also provides application compatibility by using OS isolation to help run legacy and incompatible systems and applications, and allows centralized management, faster installation and deployment, and greater use of software templates. For example, users can snap-shot multiple versions of a virtual machine, so if ones goes down, they can just go back to the version from 10 seconds earlier. In fact, users can have a library of different devices and easily set up a virtual network or put together a sandbox of tools to meet the needs of particular applications. To accomplish these functions safely, however, host servers should always have spare resources, about 25% above what the virtual, guest machines require."

However, Kambach added that "Virtualization 2.0" enables more than consolidation. It also permits:

  • Simpler installation and movement of software apps;
  • Lockdown of corporate PC images;
  • Better software distribution;
  • Backup images of virtual machine for quicker recovery;
  • Restacking workload for much easier, quicker DR;
  • On-the-fly work movement;
  • Isolation of hardware differences;
  • Division of functions into smaller virtual servers.

Kambach added that some market predictions for virtualization include the likelihood that the software "hypervisors" that enable them will become commodity items. Users soon will be able to set up private and public cloud servers of virtualized applications—an organized and managed "fabric" that includes optimization and lifecycle control features.

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