Introducing the building blocks to enable IT/OT convergence

13 March 2012

Suzanne Gill spoke to Curt Schacker, chief commercial officer of Real-Time Innovations (RTI) about the recent launch of a new product family called 'Connext' which, it is claimed offers a solution that can overcome the technical barriers to the convergence of operational and information technologies.

The company has been developing high-performance communication software solutions for real-time, mission-critical operational systems for over 10 years. Traditionally, its products have been designed to meet the data distribution needs of the defence and aerospace industries. More recently, the company has identified an opportunity for its expertise to benefit other industry sectors, such as industrial control applications. Schacker explains: “Our expertise is in understanding how to efficiently move data in a deterministic way, between applications and systems.”

The Connext family of communication products, which are said to provide seamless, enterprise-wide integration to improve efficiency, responsiveness and real-time business intelligence, are the result of the company extending the capabilities of its existing product family in a fundamental way in response to a real and important market trend.

“The key factor in all RTI projects is that data will be essential to the system. This data will be produced at a high rate and in large volumes. Moving it from the point of production to the point of consumption will be of vital importance to the correct operation of the system.”
Schracker went on to explain that the motivation to create the new Connext product offering started when the company began to receive more interest from the industrial automation sector. “These customers were looking for ways to deal with increasing quantities of data and to bring it into their back-end enterprise systems where the business analytics applications are run. They needed to be able to achieve this in a co-ordinated fashion so that it did not overwhelm the enterprise system. They needed to process the information and to do something intelligent with it,” he said.

Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory company, was thinking along the same lines. It had already created a category for this trend, which it has identified as IT/OT convergence. Gartner believes that the benefits of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) convergence, alignment and integration include optimised business processes, enhanced information for better decisions, reduced costs, lower risks and shortened project timelines and has stated that there is a business imperative to merge these two systems to enable businesses to operated in a more efficient way in the future.
Explaining why integration has not already taken place, Schracker said: “There has, traditionally, been a significant technical barrier to prevent IT/OT convergence emanating from the fact that operational systems and IT systems are very different in nature. There is an impedence mismatch in the way the systems work.”

RTI believes that, with its Connext family of products, it now has the fundamental building blocks to enable this convergence to take place. “Connext represents a bridging of the gap. It provides an infrastructure that can support the performance and scalability of operational systems while also supplying the integration capability and the flexible communication that are prevalent in the IT world and bringing the two worlds together into a single infrastructure that enables convergence to happen.”

RTI Connext solutions are said to provide a flexible data distribution infrastructure for integrating data sources of all types. At its core is an ultra-high performance, distributed networking DataBus, which is RTIs implementation of a set of supported standards. DataBus is the foundational technology for RTIs solutions, being the part that moves the data around in a deterministic, scalable manner. It connects data within applications as well as across devices, systems and networks. It also delivers large data sets with microsecond performance and granular quality-of-service control. RTI Connext is standards-based and an open architecture connecting devices from deeply embedded real-time platforms to enterprise servers across a variety of networks.

Siemens Energy, a provider of solutions for the generation, transmission and distribution of power, has already made the decision to standardised on RTI for its next generation of wind power solutions and is using RTI's messaging software to deliver resilient, high-performance and scalable data distribution capabilities that are necessary to meet the demands of its SCADA systems for wind power delivery.

The RTI Connext family of products:
? RTI Connext Integrator delivers rapid integration of operational systems with enterprise-wide IT without requiring modification to those systems. Connext Integrator is a service bus, similar to an enterprise service bus (ESB), but designed for the demanding real-time environment. It provides the backbone of a real-time Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

? RTI Connext Messaging provides a universal messaging infrastructure for ultra high-performance and real-time systems, including machine-to-machine (M2M) and human-machine interface (HMI) applications.

? RTI Connext Micro is a small-footprint messaging solution for resource-constrained devices and high-assurance applications.

? RTI Connext DDS is the leading implementation of the Object Management Group (OMG) Data Distribution Service (DDS) specification, with over 70 percent market share. The proven technology is the foundation of the RTI Connext product family.

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