Data exchange comes to the Ethernet

The OPC Foundation is to develop an OPC Data Exchange (DX) standard for the Ethernet.

The OPC Foundation is to develop an OPC Data Exchange (DX) standard for Ethernet.

ControlNet International, Fieldbus Foundation, Open DeviceNet Vendor Association and Profibus International have agreed to support the OPC working group that will produce the DX specification.

‘Automation market developments have resulted in multiple communication protocols that do not communicate,’ said David Bauman, Technology Leader, Corporate Engineering, at Procter and Gamble.

‘Automation systems that we have been designing and developing over the last several years require the exchange of data between and among systems using different protocols. With the OPC Foundation expanding its scope to develop a standard for exchanging data between Ethernet based communication protocols, end users will be provided with a simple solution to a real world need.’

The OPC DX standard will provide interoperable data exchange and server-to-server communications across Ethernet networks. It is an extension of the existing OPC data access specification – backed by a majority of today’s leading automation suppliers – which provides interchange of HMI and controller data. The OPC DX standard extends this data sharing exchange during run-time, independent of the real-time application protocol that is being used.

Tom Burke, president of the OPC Foundation, explained that reaching an agreement with the leading fieldbus organizations to extend the OPC data access specification was crucial. Multi-organisation support will ensure broad acceptance of this standard.

‘OPC was the obvious choice for Ethernet data exchange because many automation companies already use OPC standards,’ Burke said.

‘These standards provide a way to create plug-and-play software components from different automation suppliers that easily integrate into corporate-wide automation and business systems.’

The DX standard complements the parallel efforts of OPC to provide tighter links to the enterprise and MRP systems and facilitate the availability of data business-wide. ‘We want to be able to move data anywhere and anytime independent of the underlying communication technology’, Burke said. The creation of the OPC DX specification is key to that end. The OPC DX standard will leverage commercially available technology as the basis for the extension.

The first step, to establish the working group and gain commitment of leading fieldbus organizations is complete. The specification and sample code will be available in December 2001.

The extension of the existing OPC standards will not impact the specifications of the networking organizations. Prototypes from multiple vendors will be demonstrated in April 2002 at the Hannover Fair in Germany as well as other key tradeshows globally.

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