Posts Tagged ‘Smart Factory’

Energy Data Management: Insecure cloud? Disadvantages and concerns

Friday, January 15th, 2016

LockAs tempting as the implementation of an EDMS solution in the cloud appears, there is some cause for concern. After last weeks’ blog articles describing EDMS solutions in the cloud, I’d briefly like to discuss these concerns.

Internet access is absolutely necessary because the service is only available online. The connection should ideally be stable, quick and synchronous.

In addition, the data is outside your own area of responsibility and some companies fear that they can no longer fully monitor it. The access to data also appears to be a weak point if it is transferred using the internet. In addition, data could get into the hands of others or be tampered with through hacker attacks.

However, if we assess these perceived weak points in detail, we understand that data in the cloud is subject to the same risk of attack as data that is stored locally in your own infrastructure. Successful hacker attacks usually are focussed on data that is in local IT infrastructure and not in the cloud. However, as a result of the centralization in datacenters, the danger of an attack is however increased.

Major cloud providers such as Microsoft are aware of this and know that their business model can only work if customers have trust in their products. For this reason, data security is of the utmost importance in Microsoft Azure. A range of integrated security measures ensure data security in the cloud. The exchange of data to the cloud is in encrypted form. Customers can select the datacenter where they want the data to be stored – there are two in Europe, for example. Microsoft provides more detailed information on the security measures for Azure at

Outlook: A short conclusion on the previous blog articles about EDMS in the cloud

The cloud model has passed the start-up phase and established itself worldwide. Most of all, it is small and medium-size companies that can benefit from innovative solutions with the help of the cloud because the cloud removes the need to heavily invest in the setup of a comprehensive infrastructure and staff. The zenon Energy Data Management System is optimally tailored to meet such demands and it is being continually developed. The next version of zenon Analyzer, 3.0, will offer a number of updates such as efficiency class analysis, dynamic normalization of measured data, weather adjustment and much more. Let yourself be amazed!


The Possibilities of zenon and zenon Analyzer in the Cloud

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

The cloud offers some interesting benefits that make moving an energy data management system to the cloud interesting for companies of any size. You can implement the cloud solution flexibly, because both zenon and zenon Analyzer offer secure connections to Microsoft Azure. The following scenarios are possible:

Scenario 1: Data in the Cloud

With this variant, the software components, zenon Operator, zenon Supervisor and zenon Analyzer, are installed locally. The data is stored in the cloud. Energy data is recorded free from error in the LAN and does not depend on the internet connection. Only in the next step is the data stored in the cloud. If the internet connection fails, the data is cached locally until the connection is re-established again. The data that is stored decentrally can be called up from the cloud regardless of location. If the energy manager is not at the same site or if a company has several production sites, this is a decisive organizational advantage. Another plus is that upfront investment costs and running costs are low.


Scenario 2: zenon Analyzer in the Cloud

In this process, zenon Analyzer is installed in the cloud in full. The data is stored locally on the respective zenon Operator or zenon Supervisor. For reports, zenon Analyzer gets this local data and creates the respective reports. This solution is primarily interesting if there are several production sites that record data independent of one another. The investment costs and running costs are low; the solution can be easily scaled up if required.


Scenario 3: Both Data and zenon Analyzer in the Cloud

With this scenario, the infrastructure is almost completely moved to the cloud. The data is stored in the cloud and zenon Analyzer is also installed in the cloud. You thus no longer need to worry about data storage and the server infrastructure. The internet connection is no longer a limiting factor, because the data connection within the cloud is extremely fast. Here too, there is a decisive advantage in location independence: regardless of whether you have several production sites, regardless of where the energy manager is, the data can always be evaluated and analyzed anywhere. With this solution too, the costs are low and the storage capacity and computing power can be adapted individually and expanded quickly.


Big Data in the Production Environment?

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Big Data has been one of the hyped topics in the IT field for some time. But what’s the situation in automation infrastructures? Is the handling of large amounts of data also becoming more significant in the industrial production environment?

In the recommendations for implementing Smart Factory, Big Data is named as one of the future technology requirements. But where are we now? Handling data amounts in petabyte dimensions is currently the exception in production. However, today there are already application scenarios that lead us towards very large amounts of data.

Typical Status Quo

When archiving production data, choices are made selectively in relation to which data is saved. Some data is automatically deleted again after certain time periods. With applications such as Energy Management, for example, a multitude of data points are often archived, but generally with a very rough granularity, which in turn keeps the amount of data low. In HMI applications, machine-orientated data is often saved at the panel directly and, at least in part, exported to central archives or databases.

Possible Scenarios

With Big Data in manufacturing, all relevant data in relation to the complete life cycle of a machine or plant can be saved. Based on this data, completely new possibilities for analysis arise. The operators of machines and equipment (manufacturing companies) can work with the data from their entire production estate. The machine and equipment manufacturers have data from a number of the same machines available for their evaluations.

The Benefit of Big Data

Manufacturing companies can uncover unexploited potential in equipment efficiency and effectiveness as well as quality management with Big Data analyses, which in turn increases the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). Another advantage is that it allows predictive maintenance. Optimized maintenance management has a positive effect on production costs and overall equipment effectiveness.

Machine and equipment manufacturers can also gain additional valuable findings in relation to improvements in construction using Big Data analyses which can, for example, consequently increase the manufacturing capacity and energy efficiency at the same time.

Big Data applications with zenon

Big Data applications with zenon

Big Data with zenon

zenon already offers possibilities for handling very large amounts of data. Data security, the rapid evaluation of data and ergonomic handling are the main focus. Users can freely choose whether they operate zenon purely on-premises or scale it with enhancements to the cloud. With version 7.20, zenon can be seamlessly integrated with the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

In addition, we are working in both Product Management and Research & Development to make zenon even better at handling ever-larger amounts of data.

FAQs: zenon in the Cloud (Part 2/2)

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

zenon supports manufacturing companies on the road to the Smart Factory. With the connection to Microsoft Azure, for example, companies can create a cost-effective and at the same time highly scalable infrastructure for analyses of data throughout sites. Last week I already published part 1 of FAQs: zenon in the Cloud. Here’s the second part.


How much does SQL evacuation to the cloud cost?

With Microsoft Azure, you only pay for the services you have used. These are billed by the minute. To move data to the cloud, you need a cloud service in Azure that works as a worker role instance and an SQL database. You can find all information about prices, including a price calculator, on the Microsoft Azure website.

How does the real-time transfer of values via the Service Bus work?

Transfer is implemented by means of name-based addressing. The Azure Process Gateway transfers the variable values from the source computer to the Microsoft Service Bus. To do this, you must enter the connection string to the Microsoft Service Bus and stipulate a freely definable name for the queue to be created in the Service Bus and the name of the target computer to which the values are ultimately to be transferred.
You also need an Azure driver on the target computer, which reads off the values from the Microsoft Service Bus. To do this, you need only enter the connection string to the service bus in the driver settings and the corresponding queue from which the values are to be read. As soon as the Azure Process Gateway starts, the selected queue is created in the Service Bus. In this way, only the correct target computer can read the variable values.

How long are the messages in the queue saved in the Service Bus?

You can set the duration of the messages by means of a property in the queue. This means that if the messages are not immediately read by the Azure driver or the worker role instances, they are saved according to the setting in the queue. The default value is one day.

What happens if the Internet connection is interrupted during a set archive evacuation?

This is not a problem at all. If the Internet connection is interrupted, the archive files are cached locally in the Runtime folder until the connection is reestablished. Then all archive files to be evacuated are written to the SQL database in the cloud.

Can I reuse archive data that is stored in the cloud in zenon?

Yes, the archive data that has been evacuated can, of course, be reused from the cloud. The reading of data from the cloud SQL database works in exactly the same way as a local SQL database. This data can therefore be displayed in reports or trends.

What next? What do I do if I still have questions or want to see more functions?

The zenon Cloud Solution has been implemented in zenon version 7.20 for the first time. Further performance enhancements and new functions are expected in future software versions. You can find more information in zenon documentation, in the COPA-DATA knowledge base and in our forum at Your local COPA-DATA sales contact would also be happy to help you.

FAQs: zenon in the Cloud (Part 1/2)

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Cloud_Demo_Startscreen1zenon supports manufacturing companies on the road to the Smart Factory. A significant contribution to this is provided by the newly-integrated IoT solutions, which use the most up-to-date Microsoft technology. With the connection to Microsoft Azure, for example, companies can thus create a cost-effective and at the same time highly scalable infrastructure for analyses of data throughout sites. You can find out how it works, what you need to be aware of in the process, and what costs are involved in the following FAQs.

What requirements must be met in order to use the zenon Cloud Solution?

To be able to use the zenon Cloud Solution, you need a Microsoft Azure subscription, zenon from version 7.20 and the appropriate license.

What options are there to connect zenon to the cloud?

There are two scenarios:

  1. You move historical data to the cloud.
  2. You combine the Azure driver and the Azure Process Gateway and send actual values in real-time to the cloud and have this displayed by using a dashboard, for example.

What data is written to the cloud by zenon?

When moving archive data into the cloud, zenon creates a table in an Azure SQL database for each archive. This is then named with the zenon project name and the archive ID. The following data is saved by zenon in this table: variable ID, aggregation type, time stamp, variable value, variable status. This information is written cyclically to the SQL table in accordance with the save cycle and storage duration that has been set locally.

If the Azure Process Gateway is used in zenon, the above-mentioned information – with the exception of the aggregation type – is compressed into a message and sent to the Microsoft Service Bus. There, the messages are cached until the driver reads this data. Sending takes place either after a change to a value or after the set cycle time (integrity period). The FIFO principle (first in, first out) is used for reading.

How is my data protected on the way to the cloud?

zenon transfers the data to the Azure cloud by means of HTTPS using SSL (TLS) encryption, thus ensuring consistency of data. The one-way connection is created using port 443 and is a purely outgoing connection. This therefore also prevents attacks from outside. If there is a firewall, this should also be configured so that it only allows outgoing connections via port 443 using HTTPS in the IP range of the Azure datacenters.

Where is my data saved physically and can I influence the save location?

The data is physically saved in Microsoft datacenters around the world. It is possible to stipulate which one when creating the respective service (SQL server, Service Bus, etc.). In Europe, for example, there are two Microsoft datacenters, one in Ireland (Dublin) and one in the Netherlands (Amsterdam).

How fail-safe is Microsoft Azure Cloud?

Microsoft guarantees an availability of 99.9 % for the Service Bus and 99.95 % for cloud VMs and cloud services as worker role instances. Microsoft even guarantees an availability of 99.99 % for SQL databases.