Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) has made good the promise made at its October 2009 European Honeywell User Group (HUG) conference in Lisbon to introduce virtualization technology to its Experion PKS process management system in early 2010). Back in Lisbon, HPS EMEA sales support director Jean-Marie Alliet had said that, as there remained doubts as to whether virtualization could be implemented in a real-time, mission-critical environment, the first step would be to introduce the technology in off-process applications and then in non-mission-critical, on-process applications.
However, the company has now announced a range of virtualized offerings that not only includes an Experion off-line testing and development solution that can be used for training, simulation and engineering, but also a suite of Advanced Alarm Management solutions designed to improve process safety and operator efficiency, as well as eServer solutions that provide Web access to the system, all of which suggests that it is pushing ahead with the strategy rather faster than originally had been intended.
Virtualization allows users to sidestep the conventional requirement for separate servers to support their different process control applications by enabling a single server simultaneously to run multiple operating systems and applications on separate 'virtual machines' on the same physical server. Honeywell claims that this approach also improves reliability by insulating the operating systems from hardware changes and improves server utilization rates. For many process industry users, however, by far the most attractive promise lies in the potential largely to insulate their systems from the tyranny of repeated operating system updates and, hence, to simplify overall system management. "Every manufacturer today is being asked to do more with less, and virtualization is a key to helping them achieve that goal because it can change how process control systems are installed and maintained," said HPS vice president of strategy and global marketing Vimal Kapur. "By combining virtualization with Experion, we are enabling cost savings for our customers and improving the overall user experience."