Virtualization is running a non-physical computer on a computer which allows a single server to represent multiple computers. While relatively new to the process controls industry, virtualization is common in the IT world, with all the big players using it on their server farms. Cross Company has been involved with virtualization in the controls industry since the beginning. In fact, we helped one of our partners, Siemens, with their very first installation in the United States, at a long-time customer’s distillery.
Benefits of Virtualization
Virtualization has many benefits in a process industry setting. While it’s not necessarily the way things have always been done, the tangible savings that can be realized is worth the effort to change.
- Virtualization allows you to have more computers but take up less space. So if you have two servers, each with ten virtual machines on them, you actually have twenty computers in the footprint of two. This reduces hardware, utilities and maintenance time and cost.
- It allows you to keep fewer spares, as you don’t have to have additional hardware just in case something breaks, reducing overall operating costs.
- It’s also easier to do back ups by taking a snapshot at a particular time, just in case something gets corrupted in your control system. Not only does this reduce risk, but it helps you get back up and running faster.
- In industrial environments, customers frequently have older operating systems which depend on certain hardware to work. Think Windows NT. And when you can’t get that specific hardware that works with Windows NT because it’s been obsolete for five years, it may be time to virtualize. Virtualization removes the hardware requirement because the software emulates the hardware, thereby decoupling the operating system from the underlying hardware, again reducing risk.
- Virtualization is a convenient way to access and manage your computers. Instead of using a viewer to provide remote support access, like Team View or Microsoft Teams, there’s an inherent mechanism for you to access the individual virtual machines.
- When a customer is doing a migration, virtualization lets them save money on computer hardware. ($6,000 for an industrial computer vs. $500 for a license. When you need 40 computers, this adds up!)
- Once you’re on the Virtualization as a Service (VaaS), it’s very easy to manage and expand. If you need another computer, it’s as simple as getting another software license for a base computer
Benefits of Cross using Virtualization
Cross’s Process Solutions Group uses virtualization themselves, providing several benefits to our customers. These include:
- It allows us to do development on the equivalent of a customer’s system using only one laptop. We can code directly in a virtual version of your environment, making us more productive and more accurate.
- For Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT), virtualization allows us to replicate the customer’s environment so we can have higher quality and more efficient acceptance testing.
- Virtualization allows us to support multiple versions of the same software system so when we are developing, we can have different versions of Siemens PCS7, for example, (corresponding to different customer’s systems) all on the same laptop.
Why Partner with Cross for Virtualization?
If you believe virtualization can help you in either your greenfield project or your replacement/upgrade, Cross’s Process Solutions Group is the team to work with.
- All the major platforms that we use, including Siemens, Emerson and Rockwell, offer virtualization so we can work in whatever programming environment is best for you.
- As mentioned earlier, we have been involved in virtualizations since Siemens brought their product to the USA. We’ve been doing virtualizations consistently since then so we are very familiar with the process.
- Finally, we’ve developed best practices for installation to minimize downtime. A virtual system can take as little as just one to two days to install, whereas a physical system can take four or five times as long.
For all of these reasons and more, virtualization is extremely effective in the process controls industry and Cross is your ideal virtualization partner. Start a conversation with a Cross expert!