OPC Foundation releases Unified Architecture

July 6, 2006
OPC Foundation formally launched its long-awaited OPC Unified Architecture (UA) standard at a June 27 press conference during ARC Advisory Group’s 14th annual forum in Boston, and the organization’s manufacturer and members are lining up to support it.

OPC UA offers a common data model and device communications environment for plant connectivity that uses Microsoft .NET and web services. The new standard upgrades OPC communications from Microsoft COM/DCOM, and reportedly features enhanced reliability, security and robustness, while maintaining a common data model, interoperability, and integration. The new standard reportedly provides the framework for platform neutrality, enabling real-time and historical information interoperability between systems. As a result, OPC users can integrate OPC UA into existing OPC implementations.

Basically, OPC UA enables data acquisition and information modeling/communication between plant-floor and enterprise systems by allowing object and information models defined by vendors, end-users and other standards to be exposed without alteration by OPC UA’s servers.

“OPC technology can eliminate expensive custom interfaces and drivers traditionally required for moving information around the enterprise,” says Tom Burke, OPC Foundation’s executive director. “It promotes interoperability, and, therefore, cuts costs, speeds development, and promotes  increased operating efficiency.”

Shortly after the press conference, several manufacturers and OPC Foundation members announced support for OPC UA, as well as their continuing plans to integrate their technologies with it and build applications around it.

Wonderware, an OPC Foundation charter member, emphasized its commitment to developing OPC UA for use in its plant information and automation software. Its underlying ArchestrA software supports the OPC standard and will support OPC UA as well. 

Another founding member, GE Fanuc Automation, announced it’s building its next-generation Proficy solutions on OPC UA. Proficy software uses ISA-88 and ISA-95-compliant data models that will be able to be shared through OPC UA.

ABB shared its belief that OPC UA helps third-party components, devices and systems integrate with its System 800xA Extended Automation object management infrastructure.