Once again I journeyed across the pond to OPC UA day Europe. This year’s event was in Copenhagen Denmark at the new Microsoft Copenhagen office. For OPC UA this is the event of the year. It’s where we learn how much OPC UA use is growing, what’s been accomplished by the various technical committees, and where it’s going the coming year.
The Microsoft Copenhagen office is new and very impressive. Microsoft has moved into the first of three or maybe four facilities at the site. Several other buildings are under construction. At the facility where the conference was held, there are 350 employees, 80% of them engineers, from 43 different nations. This is the office where the Dynamics product line originated. Dynamics is Microsoft’s entry into the world of CRM, ERP, and business operations management.
It was extremely appropriate to have the conference at the Microsoft facility. I attend regularly and Microsoft gets more heavily involved in OPC UA every year.
In my view, Microsoft’s announcements overshadowed everything else at the conference. They announced a number of very interesting additions to their Azure platform:
• .NET Standard cross-platform OPC UA reference stack (started this a few years ago)
• OPC UA on their HoloLens product
• OPC UA Clients and Servers running on Azure
• An OPC UA Publisher Module for Azure IoT Edge
• An OPC UA Proxy Module for Azure Iot Edge
• An OPC UA Aggregation Server for Azure
• An OS Certificate Store for OPC UA.
On top of all that, they announced a Multicast Local Discover Server (LDS). This is the software that registers local devices and provides clients with endpoints and functional capabilities of Servers on the local network. And on top of that, they announced a Global Discovery Server (GDS) operating as multi-tenant, single URL with the capability to do certificate management hosted on Azure.
LDS and GDS implementations have been lacking for OPC UA, and it is has been one of the weak points of the architecture. The Microsoft products vastly improve the OPC UA technology and solidify Microsoft’s position on the factory floor. Most factory floor implementations will need the GDS to handle the certificate management, and that means that nearly all OPC UA installations will have a Microsoft presence.
It was clear from the fact that the conference was hosted at Microsoft that Microsoft is committed to industrial automation and the factory floor and that they see OPC UA as a lever they can use to have a presence in every industrial OPC UA installation around the world.
I was completely blown away by both the depth of their product offerings and how necessary their GDS product will be for every OPC UA installation. This is a brilliant strategy.
P.S. – If you’re new to OPC UA, it’s time to get familiar with this technology. A good place to begin is “OPC UA – Unified Architecture: The Everyman’s Guide to the Most Important Information Technology in Industrial Automation.” This book provides a deep dive into a lot of the technology behind OPC UA.