Cloud platforms have turned IT on its head with their ability to deliver rapid scalability, enhanced availability and (generally) high reliability. Based on virtualization technology, these platforms have loosened the bond that has tied software to specific physical systems in traditional data centers. A cloud-based application runs on virtualized servers, or instances, that might be running anywhere in a particular region or even around the globe when the application calls for geodiversity. Not surprisingly, enterprises continue to move applications away in-house data centers to public cloud services.
With its release of its Titanium Control platform, Wind River bends the definition of the cloud back on itself with the delivery of an on-premises private cloud environment. Even more compelling, the offering melds too seemingly conflicting technologies – real-time systems and virtualization – to bring legacy industrial control systems into the IoT.
Titanium Cloud builds on open-source components including Linux, real-time Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) and OpenStack with Wind River enhancements to enhance real-time performance, provide cloud management features and support storage clusters. The result is a software package that provides familiar cloud services while running on standard multicore hardware systems (see Figure). Users can deploy the platform across multiple hardware systems for computational load scaling or fail-over availability. Where a typical cloud platform might need minutes to detect and fail-over a resource, the Titanium Cloud is designed to provide millisecond fail-over availability.
Figure. Wind River’s Titanium Cloud provides an on-premises cloud environment with real-time performance capabilities designed to bring legacy control systems into the industrial IoT. (Source: Wind River)
Intended as more than a familiar cloud environment, Titanium Control is designed to virtualize control systems and processes, providing a consistent management view of operations within the on-premises cloud environment. According to Gareth Noyes, Wind River chief strategy officer, the platform is architected against ISA-95 and looks to take over levels one to three. Those levels encompass sensing physical processes, controlling those processes, and managing the required work flows. Ultimately, this approach lets control functions migrate away from the edge into complete virtual control systems operating in the on-premises cloud. In this model, the cloud-based control system could even provide fail-over of physical control systems to their virtualized representations if the physical systems go offline.
Still, Wind River’s new platform can only go so far in virtualizing control systems operations. Noyes notes that the platform is unlikely to meet performance requirements for high cycle-time control loops or satisfy requirements loops with functional safety concerns. Instead, the platform finds an easy fit with continuous processes systems.
Currently, the Titanium Cloud is designed to bring legacy control systems into a virtual environment without affecting those physical systems at all. The platform simply interacts with them through the local data bus. According to Noyes, however, Wind River is researching options for tighter integration, such as placing agents on the legacy systems themselves to increase visibility and control of the end physical devices themselves.