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Schneider, Intel and Red Hat join forces on open automation

06 February, 2024

Schneider Electric has collaborated with Intel and the open-source software developer Red Hat to release a Distributed Control Node (DCN) software framework that, they say, will help to drive open automation. The framework, an extension of Schneider’s EcoStruxure Automation Expert, will allow industrial companies to migrate from vendor-specific hardware to a software-defined, plug-and-produce model, allowing them to enhance their operations, ensure quality, reduce complexity, and optimise costs.

The three collaborators say they have worked to create a modern, network-based experience that will lead the way to the next generation of industrial controls. It is aligned with the goals of the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), which is dedicated to driving interoperability and portability.

Schneider Electric and Intel first revealed their intention to develop a DCN software framework to simplify and speed the development of software-defined control systems in 2022.

“This project is the culmination of two years of co-innovation to create efficient, future-proof distributed control systems,” says Nathalie Marcotte, Schneider’s senior vice-president of process automation. “The DCN framework is key to fostering an open automation approach, enabling industrial businesses to grow and innovate for the future. Its interoperability and portability help our customers enjoy the freedom of shaping technology around their business needs – and not the other way around.”

Red Hat, working with Intel, recently announced a new industrial edge platform that helps provide a modern approach to building and operating industrial controls. Since implementing this platform, Schneider has deployed Red Hat Device Edge in its new DCN software, as well as Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform and Red Hat OpenShift at the compute layer, combined with a control infrastructure from Schneider and a reference architecture from Intel.

The framework consists of two main components: an advanced computer platform, which supervises the control workload by providing the content control and automation capabilities needed to deploy workloads securely and programmatically, as well as virtualisation and monitoring functions; and the DCNs – low-power industrial systems based on Intel Atom x6400E processors, that are dedicated to running controls and are designed for workloads of mixed criticality.

“Open and interconnected commercial solutions will help to usher in the transition from fixed-function proprietary devices to flexible, dynamic software-based infrastructures,” says Christine Boles, vice-president of Intel’s Network and Edge Group and general manager of its Federal and Industrial Solutions activities.

The new DCN software framework is an extension of Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Automation Expert. The aim is to replace vendor-specific hardware with an open plug-and-produce architecture.

“Intel has a long history of driving open system approaches across its ecosystem,” she continues. “This collaboration with Schneider Electric and Red Hat to develop a software-defined control system showcasing next-generation distributed control nodes built on general-purpose compute and operating systems, brings about this transition to the industrial sector.”

Red Hat vice-president and general manager of its In-Vehicle Operating System and Edge operations, Francis Chow, adds: “By working closely with our partners like Schneider Electric and Intel, we can help build scalable, software-defined factories and operations capable of advanced automation and interoperability by utilising a consistent platform approach. We’re excited about this collaboration, and this is only the beginning. By taking these steps now, we can help set the industrial sector up to explore all the possibilities AI, edge computing and more have to offer.”

Schneider Electric:  Twitter  LinkedIn  Facebook

Red Hat:  X  LinkedIn  Facebook

Intel:  X  LinkedIn  Facebook

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