This article was originally posted here on August 14, 2018.
What do you know about industrial control systems? These control systems are the nerve center of almost every operation, from mining, refining, oil and gas to waste water systems. The seemingly simple job of maintaining a specific temperature in a refinery distillation column requires a complex system that knows the position and status of every single valve to ensure steady operations.
Controlling the control systems
Honeywell’s Process Solutions provides the control systems for a wide range of industrial operations. In the past, we built the control systems on physical servers where everyone, including the client, had to be present. We then moved to our Open Virtual Engineering Platform (VEP), a virtualized environment where we develop the control system on our own internal cloud. We then gave our clients read-only access to the system so that they could collaborate with us without needing to come on site.
This method worked for a few years, but then our clients started asking us to provide them with full access so that they could create new efficiencies by working on the systems themselves. They wanted their own virtualized off-premises lab, where they could execute their own projects, and then bring the results to Honeywell to implement. We’re talking about projects like small changes to units, adding a new piece of equipment to the control system or even training new personnel.
Control systems are massive, with millions of lines of code. Our options were limited. We lacked the capacity to replicate multiple clients’ systems on our existing cloud. Our network could not handle the bandwidth required for clients to access a replicated, virtualized system through the internet and giving them full access to the actual system was not an alternative.
IBM Cloud delivers flexibility and efficiency
We needed to come up with a new way to give our customers the access and efficiency they were asking for. That meant providing access through a system outside the Honeywell network.
We looked at several cloud providers, but most wanted us to build on their existing software stack. We needed to control the stack from the microchip up, so that we could continue to manage everything we’d already built. We also needed seamless VMWare portability. During our initial research on other cloud platforms, we would take our virtual machines, export them and then try to import them and they just didn’t work. In some cases, it took us weeks just to get one VM working again in a different platform. That’s when we started looking at the IBM Cloud.
By seamlessly moving our VMWare-based Open Virtual Engineering Platform environment to the IBM Cloud, our customers can now build and test engineering processes in a highly reliable and security-rich cloud-based environment. They can collaborate internally and work on elements that typically take months to design and build then send us the changes to deploy to the live, operational system.
A clear win for customers
IBM Cloud is helping us redefine the word agile for our customers by providing them instant access to our four decades of experience building complex control systems, and the same virtual, collaborative process we use for our own projects. Already, our customers are developing and deploying their own projects in a matter of hours.
I think the virtualized solution on the IBM Cloud is a game changer not only for our customers, but also across industries. They’re going to demand this kind of flexibility from their control system providers, and Honeywell is stepping up to deliver it.
Improve productivity, increase efficiency and gain agility by seamlessly moving your VMware workloads to the IBM Cloud. ibm.biz/vmportability
Watch how Honeywell is bringing new efficiencies to control-system management using the IBM Cloud