Rosemount's venerable RS3 DCS and the even more venerable PROVOX system originally designed for Monsanto by (its then wholly owned subsidiary) Fisher Controls were formally retired last night at a party thrown by Emerson Process Management at Emerson Exchange. This means that, unless you purchase a Retirement Support program from Emerson, you might want to think seriously about upgrading and migrating strategies.
This is a huge pain in the ass, obviously, but no one can fault Emerson for keeping PROVOX and RS3 alive far past their "best by" dates. When they were designed, control systems had an expected lifecycle of ten to fifteen years. Now asset owner companies and end users are trying to squeeze thirty years and even more out of their automation system purchases. Emerson has done a great job keeping these systems alive, but even life support has to end in the face of Cheyne-Stokes breathing on the part of the hardware and software. It was time, and far past time to pull the plug.
Of course, this brings up several questions.
How do you put together a migration strategy that minimizes unnecessary costs while making sure that the system you install doesn't just mirror the old system? Times have changed. Requirements have changed. What worked fine as assumptions and a strategy when you installed your elderly system probably doesn't work fine now, and certainly won't work fine in the future.
How do you make sure you can continue to operate while you're putting together a migration plan? Most automation vendors make more money selling spare parts and service on elderly systems than they do selling new systems. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but if it is, so be it. Boards and board-level components are usually the problem children in continuing to manufacture products that are, well, dinosaurs. When you can't buy the chips anymore you can't make those oh-so-profitable replacement circuit boards. You need to make sure that the Support Plan you get doesn't tie you to just a repple-depple of the existing system, and that you preserve your independence in device and system selection.
And if you haven't been thinking of it, what about cyber security? Your PROVOX or RS3 are probably not as well protected as you think they are, and you probably have them connected to the Internet in ways the original Fisher and Rosemount designers had no concept of. Joe Weiss has blogged recently about this in our Unfettered! blog.
So, let's say thanks for the memories, RS3 and PROVOX, and get busy figuring out a new control system plan that is likely to carry your plant to 2050 and beyond.