With increasing digitalization, automation systems also need to become increasingly powerful and more flexible. Modular control systems such as u-control web can take on both automation tasks and IIOT tasks. Thanks to modularity and the use of newly integrated container technology, u-control web provides the best prerequisites here. The development of new applications is made easier: In-house or 3rd-party software solutions can be easily installed on u-control web, thus enhancing the functionality of the control system in line with the specific application scenario.
IoT projects are really gathering speed in the industrial sector. And as varied as these might be, they also have lots in common: They should save on time and resources, make processes faster and safer even for small quantities, increase flexibility in production, and enable the monitoring of production at all times.
The worlds of IT and OT (operational technology) are moving closer and closer. So technologies and methods that are already established in IT are increasingly used in industrial systems. One example here is container technology, which the u-control web control solution now also supports.
Becoming an all-round talent with container technology
The flexible automation solution u-control web was developed by Weidmüller on the basis of open, platform-independent Web technologies for use in machinery and plant engineering. The control system is particularly suited to small and medium-sized applications and forms part of the automation range.
The usage area of u-control web ranges from small and medium stand-alone machines to large plants in which it acts as a decentralized control unit. In the case of u-control web, the Web server is already installed, including the u-create web software, which integrates the different software modules: The development environment for the automation, the development software Node-RED, visualization software, and an OPC UA server. With the newly integrated container technology, the user now also has an open system for running their own software or that of third parties on the controller.
In the case of IoT applications, many companies still use custom software solutions for data processing. A serious disadvantage here is the dependency of the software solutions on a single operating system or on specific operating system versions. This means that the flexibility desired by many users to port these software solutions to other systems is not available. In such circumstances, it takes a lot of effort to maintain and distribute the software.
Virtual machines (VMs) have provided an alternative to this in the past: Devices, operating systems and services can be replicated virtually through the inclusion of an abstraction layer. This allows for the improved usage of existing resources, and multiple virtual computers or operating systems can be operated at the same time in a single physical system. However, virtual machines require a lot of memory, and each contains a full operating system. In addition, they reach their limits if a high data throughput along with simultaneous flexibility are required in the industrial sector.
Container technology for flexibility in industrial applications
Container technology is increasingly making a name for itself as an alternative to virtual machines in industrial environments, too. Containers can be easily transported and installed as files, since they contain all of the resources required at runtime. This means that they need significantly less CPU power and working memory, making them more efficient and kinder on resources than virtual machines. Container content can be modular, making it flexible and compatible with later adjustments. And the applications can be installed easily and securely with container virtualization.
The "Docker" system used by Weidmüller is an open source solution for container control. It allows containers with all required solution packages to be easily provided, transported and installed in the form of "images".
The provision of the automation solution u-control web using containers therefore has a host of advantages for users:
- Execution of in-house or 3rd-party software in a container
- Custom enhancement possibilities for the software spectrum for u-control
- Possibility of saving on additional hardware
- No need to install system software for hardware configuration
In addition, it facilitates application development, since even in-house and 3rd-party software solutions can be easily installed on u-control web. This means that the user can explicitly adjust their control system in line with their application, whether for a machine controller or as a control and cloud-based information system for water treatment plants, for example. Users can program their own software solutions, use existing open source software from a container hub, or draw on solutions such as Microsoft Azure, AWS Greengrass, Anyviz by Microsoft, or others. In this way, the functionality of the control system can be flexibly enhanced and constantly adjusted in line with its specific purpose.
Weidmüller's u-create web Web-based development and configuration environment supports an easy implementation, setup, and project planning. The engineering software for configuration, system parameterization, and programming has an extensive range of functions, so further engineering tools are not required. This avoids version conflicts. The application is simple, and has a standard browser which means that even less experienced users can concentrate fully on their application.
u-control web can be easily enhanced with 3rd-party solutions
Right from the start, Weidmüller developed the flexible automation solution u-control web on the basis of open, platform-independent Web technologies for use in machinery and plant engineering. Thanks to container-based provisioning, u-control web provides the user with a modular control system that can be easily and successfully scaled up using in-house or 3rd-party solutions, uses few resources, and can even be used in hybrid networks.
The Weidmüller u-control web control system forms part of the company's extensive, future-proof and coordinated u-mation range. This allows users to model automation tasks efficiently, easily and in accordance with needs.
u-mation combines powerful hardware with innovative engineering and visualization tools for data capture and preprocessing. Thanks to the use of open technologies and systems, it can be integrated into any automation process flexibly and easily. Weidmüller's engineering specialists support users in the optimization of their automation systems and smooth the path into the Industrial IoT with an intuitive, future-proof portfolio.