A roadmap to the cloud for FactoryTalk Design Hub

June 16, 2022

“You can use your laptop, wherever you may be, to connect to your desktop on-premise.” At this week’s ROKLive conference, Rockwell Automation’s Steve Briant previewed FactoryTalk Remote Access Runtime, which enables the benefit of a VPN tunnel.

FactoryTalk Design Hub will soon have cloud-native features available remotely for collaboration. Rockwell Automation’s Leo Kilfoy, director, SaaS and digital design; Chris Como, principal platform leader, FactoryTalk Design Hub; Steve Briant, visualization platform leader; and Adam Gregory, software commercial leader, FactoryTalk Design Studio, explained the dynamic changes that are coming to the suite during this week’s ROKLive conference in Orlando, Fla.

FactoryTalk Remote Access with Stratix Runtime is available in Q2, offering secure remote access for industrial equipment via hardware and software communities. FactoryTalk Vault & Design Tools will be launched in the third quarter, giving users cloud-based data management, version control and analytic tools.

Just in time for November’s Automation Fair and an official launch before year’s end will be FactoryTalk Design Hub’s Project Digital Engineering with cloud-accessible Logix Designer application, Emulate3D and FactoryTalk Logix Echo; FactoryTalk Design Studio for cloud-native, multi-user, scalable, system-level control authoring; and FactoryTalk Optix for hybrid multi-user, multi-protocol visualization authoring in the cloud or on desktop.

“There are five ways the cloud can help you transform your business,” explained Kilfoy. “You’ll securely access production systems from anywhere in the world. You’ll be able to maximize collaboration across stakeholders to increase speed of innovation. On-demand scaling—not only hardware, but scaling your team as well as your capabilities—will let you easily add or remove compute power and users to reduce time to value.”

Software as a service (SaaS) has unique business models, and you can pay for what you use, which reduces hardware, software and IT costs, said Kilfoy. “And you can get higher throughput with access to the latest computing hardware, which improves performance. All of this is wrapped in security by providing unpatched software, using centralized management and end-to-end encryption.”

Enabled by the cloud, FactoryTalk Design Hub provides a good, common user experience, explained Kilfoy. “It has an on-demand platform that provides you and your customers with design automation that reduces risk, accelerates schedules and enables better agility,” he said. “FactoryTalk Design Hub is built on Microsoft Azure and uses the cloud to increase scalability, reduce capital and maintenance expense and deliver new tools that increase productivity.”

The cloud-accessible Logix Designer application will allow access and edit capabilities to new or existing Studio 5000 files from anywhere. FactoryTalk Logix Echo will enable collaborative testing and troubleshooting of emulated code without target hardware in real time. And Emulate3D will build models that interact with controls from your browser that will scale to more complex equipment.

It's in the vault

FactoryTalk Vault is where you can create a storage location for your team with modern version and access control, explained Como. “It’s your application,” he said. “Everything is rolled up into a solution. It’s important to understand who did what, why and when.”

The cloud-based industrial file storage, available in Q3, will include role-based sharing within organizations, organized solutions to maintain file history of changes and version control to keep work safe and recover files whenever and wherever needed.

“It’s about learning and viewing your project in a way you haven’t seen before,” said Como.

Controller programming and emulation will also see some innovations by the end of 2022, with the ability to test and design Logix-controller applications with Studio 5000 Logix Design and FactoryTalk Logix Echo. And projects can be accessed directly from FactoryTalk Vault.

Where’s the remote?

FactoryTalk Remote Access is already available with the Stratix router. “We’re introducing FactoryTalk Remote Access Runtime, which enables the benefit of a VPN (virtual private network) tunnel,” explained Briant. “And you can get a remote desktop view. It also integrates with our human-machine interface (HMI) panel, but that will be coming out in the future. The benefit is you can use your laptop, wherever you may be, to connect to your desktop on-premise.”

Other new features will be available in the cloud, added Kilfoy.

FactoryTalk Design Studio will have no downloads or installs required because it’s connected to the cloud. “All you need is a web browser for access to the system anywhere, and groups can work together simultaneously,” explained Kilfoy.

“We’ve been building things up through FactoryTalk Hub,” said Gregory. “We’ve got version control in the Vault. We’re deploying things in the Hub, so you can do everything all in one place.”

The next step is designing something totally new with cloud-native, software-defined industrial-automation design, Gregory added. “Instead of running locally in a virtual machine, these are running in Azure.”

FactoryTalk Design Studio’s Q4 update will be modern, multi-user and multi-controller, proclaimed Gregory.

These enhancements will include integrated library management and browser-based access. “Enhanced modularity means the FactoryTalk smart-object concept brings contextualized data into your system,” said Gregory.

Native multi-user collaboration accommodates people who prefer different workflows. “We support both at the same time with text-to-graphical language flexibility,” he added.

The system includes multi-controllers in the same project with flexible firmware compatibility and logical, hardware-abstracted design. “It gives you the ability to see a system view. You can look at what your system is doing, rather than what it’s executing,” said Gregory. “We’ll be able to manage multiple firmware versions. We’re doing that for you through the power of SaaS.”

The FactoryTalk Optix HMI visualization platform’s official launch will be at Automation Fair, with general availability before the end of the year.

“ASEM has been in the market for more than 10 years with that remote-access solution,” said Briant. “And we’re bringing it to market through FactoryTalk Hub. You can invite others to collaborate through an email, to collaborate and share content inside FactoryTalk Design Studio.”

FactoryTalk Optix features include browser editor/desktop editor availability, version management, remote-access integration, package and deployment on any operating system, object-oriented design, native OPC/UA connectivity, open APIs and C# availability to extend them, plus open communications and a licensing model that will allow users to pay for only what they need.

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