Over the past six months, Invensys executives have given the editors of Control some advance looks into the as-yet-unreleased new iteration of the I/A Series DCS. We have had a chance to look under the hood, kick the tires and talk to the beta testers. We have seen a redesign that is an evolution of the I/A Series system, one that includes several new features and is built on other existing technology that has new capabilities.
"It will have a new name that reflects this new technology and new capabilities," says Mary Beth Connolly, vice president of marketing for Invensys' systems business. "But we want to balance the 'newness' with the sense that this is really the next step in the evolution of the I/A Series DCS. We prefer to call it a modern control system, one that extends the life of our customers' investments, essentially future -proofing their technology."
Grant LeSueur, director of product management, and one of the fathers of the Invensys enterprise control system, InFusion, adds, "This concept is an extension of our 'continuously current' philosophy. The modern control system does not require customers to replace everything they have on a regular cycle, but lets them continue to wring as much value as possible from existing technology while leveraging the emergence of our modern control and safety systems."
One of the system's beta testers, Michael McKenzie of BP in Brisbane, Australia, agrees. "The decision to upgrade with Invensys was made for a few reasons. The initial driver was that we were facing a substantial obsolescence issue and we had ranked this issue as a significant risk to on-going operations," he says. "After initial review, we realized that we needed to upgrade the vast majority of our DCS, but like most sites, we didn't have the luxury of a site-wide shutdown to make a full change possible. We needed a solution that would allow us to upgrade components we needed to, without sacrificing functionality or usability for our operators. That was the main reason for moving ahead with Invensys."
Le Sueur says, "In a nutshell, we use a combination of new innovation and existing technology to deliver a modern system that's flexible and easy to use, while at the same time eliminating constraints that would prevent the system from being improved, updated or built upon. This control offering features object-oriented architecture, a completely new visualization offering, new, larger and more capable controllers, a strong virtualization offering and new virtual controllers, device integration, our Intelligent Marshalling universal I/O, and field device management."
McKenzie points to this last as a key feature that BP has already used heavily: "We use the Invensys control-room side software as an offline configuration tool for DCS, Foundation fieldbus and HART. This gives us integrated support for Foundation fieldbus. In our recent maintenance, we moved all temperature inputs from thermocouple input cards in the field to Foundation fieldbus, and set up monitoring of the health of the instruments without the need for an instrument tech to do anything more than plug in the thermocouples to the fieldbus devices."
Le Sueur explains, "BP used our control-room side software for offline configuration because it provided a centralized configuration repository, even though in some cases the control configurations were being loaded into much older systems. However, our control-room side software can be used online too. Because BP was operating an older system in some areas, the software was used to centrally manage the entire system, but exported to the older portions of the system until they could be upgraded. With the new system, these older portions of the control system can be managed online as well."
The system is based on a focused, simple, easy-to-understand design that ensures no single piece of hardware or software can negatively affect the operator's ability to control the plant. "In effect," Le Sueur said, "we've designed a zero single point of failure. The design goes beyond a pure redundant backup philosophy. We've instituted 1-n failure mode, which allows the system to tolerate multiple concurrent failures before the performance of the plant even begins to degrade."
"Having a set of clear layers within the system that are built on standard interfaces allows our customers to mix and match technology and software versions, and gives them the ability to adopt new innovation and technologies, while keeping the plant running," Connolly says. "This also gives them the ability to adapt to changing compliance, regulatory and other operating or production standards, and allows them to increase or change the power of the system without major distruptions of production."
As result, Invensys can update the control room side of the system based on "Internet time," the rapidly changing cycle of hardware and software updates in the IT world, while continuing to update the process-connected components based on "plant time."
"Here's the thing," Le Sueur says, "The value of a control system is diminished if the cost of implementing it is prohibitive. Users and customers don't see the point of a new system if it can't be easily installed, and if it can't make life easier for operators, systems engineers and technicians."
Does McKenzie agree? "In short, yes. The new evolution of I/A allows for much easier upgrade of all components and will ensure that we can keep our system well away from obsolescence, so that we're not required to perform large scale upgrades as we're doing now. The movement of the new system to Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 will also ensure that the operating systems remain supported by Microsoft, and security patches remain available."
Beyond Cybersecurity to Business Continuity
Le Sueur says, "Our clients are moving beyond cybersecurity to focus on business continuity. As we deliver new capabilities in these areas, it's vital that our customers are able to apply them! BP perfectly demonstrates the system's unique ability to provide new cybersecurity hardening and plant design for engineers, management and operators, a new virtualization offering for control engineers, new mesh network capabilities, wired and wireless, for management and engineers, and integrated control and safety for the plant."
Le Sueur adds, "We've created an Instrument Management Suite including Field Device Manager for operators, engineers and maintenance people, and a situational awareness library and a new visualization offering for operators, and we've provided a new tool, based on the SAMA documentation standard, we call 'Dynamic SAMA' for risk reduction and troubleshooting for operators and engineers."
Evolution, Not Revolution
"Our customers don't want a revolution when it comes to their control and safety systems," says Gary Freburger, president of Invensys control systems group. "What they're focused on is reliability, performance, safety and security. They want their systems to work and be dependable for years to come. The I/A Series system is future-proof. What makes our system unique is that it won't ever be outdated."
He adds, "Our vision for the future of industrial automation begins with a modern control system, one that elevates plant personnel with greater situational awareness; one that simplifies effort and predictive guidance as they fulfill their roles; one that can be easily and cost-effectively implemented, configured and maintained throughout a plant's lifecycle; one that is secure and that can evolve and expand. The evolution of the I/A Series system achieves this vision by modernizing the control room, and delivering more robust safety and security systems and next-gen simulation and visualization tools that enable new predictive capabilities and higher levels of real-time performance improvement."
He went on, "As companies confront new problems and issues like the talent crisis, globalization and the emergence of a real-time value chain, they realize they must modernize, manage and control their plants with new urgency. They need all of their components to work as one system, especially as they're faced with a newer, differently skilled workforce. They also want to extend the life of the process-connected components, while being able to change out the control-room elements. Business continuity is a growing issue at every level of our clients' organizations. All companies need to be equipped to handle cybersecurity vulnerabilities, unpredictable natural disasters and unplanned emergencies. That's exactly what our modern control system does."
Freburger thinks there is more in this evolution than just upgrades for Invensys' existing customer base. "We believe at least three elements of the system, and probably more, will be attractive to prospective customers, who today use competing systems," he says.
"First, this is a truly modern system built on a mix of new technologies and existing technologies with new capabilities. It will enable plant personnel on many levels of the organization to contribute to the business success of the company. Because it remains modern, it future-proofs their control and safety investment.
"Second, the system leverages a unique capability that our competitors can't offer: the strength of our software portfolio which provides the best of truly integrated capabilities for visualization, HMI, simulation, asset management and more.
"Third, our reputation for client commitment and service is unique and unmatched and it will remain so, across the system's lifecycle," he concludes.
Invensys expects to release the new I/A Series DCS at its global Foxboro and Triconex client conference in San Antonio, Texas, the week of September 10. Get more information.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The editors of Control will be reporting live on all the newsworthy developments from the Invensys Foxboro/Triconex Global Client Conference to be held September 9-13 in San Antonio. Watch your email for a special daily edition of the ControlGlobal E-News or click here for more information on attending the conference in person.