Discussions around EDDL and FDT

Automation World magazine’s editor in chief, Gary Mintchell, wrote a post yesterday on his Feed Forward blog. The post, The Saga Continues – FDT v EDDL describes some of his discussions with people involved in both groups about the relative merits of their respective approaches to smart device communications. Lest I be accused of tossing around acronyms too casually, EDDL stands for Electronic Device Description Language and FDT stands for Field Device Tool.

Because I subscribe to Gary’s RSS feed with Outlook 2007, I was able to forward his post much like an email message to Emerson’s Terry Blevins and Tom Wallace for their views. Here is the text of their comments posted on the Feed Forward site.

From Terry:

Gary, It is good to see your interest in EDDL. As you may be aware, EDDL is the international electronic device description language standard for the process industry (IEC 61804).

Through the work of the ISA SP104 committee the IEC61804 standard was officially adopted last year as an ISA/ANSI standard. The SP104 committee worked with ISA to establish the www.eddl.org web site. At this web site you will find information on the benefits of EDDL and the advantages that EDDL has over other technologies.

In particular, you may find the paper and the tutorial that the SP104 committee presented at ISA2007 EXPO to be of help in examining this topic in more detail – please see www.eddl.org/files/ISA2007_EDDLTutorial_Presentation.pdf and www.eddl.org/files/ISA2007_EDDLTutorial_Paper.pdf.

Best regards,

Terry Blevins
Chair, SP104

From Tom:

Gary,

First, some good comments from you, thanks. I have a few thoughts to add to yours. First is a technical clarification. EDDL is the language used to write DD’s. The DD is not in the device, it’s in the host. Next, FDT/DTM is not used by any control host to my knowledge. It’s used for asset management, therefore it’s not in the DCS, the DCS usually is the path for information from the field to the FDT application. Regarding differences, because EDDL is operating system agnostic, DD’s written using EDDL can reside in a handheld. FDT/DTM requires a PC level Windows operating system. As such, it won’t work on devices that use an embedded operating systems such as linex, or Windows CE. Also, control hosts frequently use DD’s. For example, Yokogawa CENTUM CS3000 uses EDD’s to understand and use the capability of FF field devices. To my knowledge, DTM’s are not used in this way. The net result is that the user will need DD’s for intrinsically safe handhelds, and will in many cases also need DD’s for the control host to correctly function with FF devices.

DD’s will provide the functionality to perform maintenance functions on just about any HART, FF, or Profibus PA device in existence. Adding FDT/DTM where it’s not needed adds to end user maintenance cost and time. Both EDD’s and DTM’s must be installed and maintained. Why add maintenance work if it’s not needed? In addition, EDD’s have been forward compatible for many years. What this means is that if a user installs a newer version of device to their plant, an older DD will work with the newer device. It may not know about enhanced functionality in the newer device, but it will perform the basics of configuration and maintenance. When it’s 2AM and you’re trying to avoid a shutdown, or get the plant back up, the last thing you want is to find you don’t have the latest configuration file you need to configure your device. Although DTM’s could be written to be forward compatible, to date most are not. I recommend users of FDT/DTM have a complete set of DD’s available and on tools they use regularly so they can avoid this potential problem. There are some cases where EDDL is not sufficient, and a supplementary technology is needed. Some devices require calculation capability beyond that provided by EDDL for initial device setup. These devices usually have a separate Windows based configuration program already available to provide the added capability. DTM’s have potential use here, but alternate solutions already exist. At this point I think that DD’s will always be in the plant, and DD’s will continue to be needed to perform functions and in environments that FDT/DTM cannot serve. One other issue I’m seeing with FDT/DTM is that it is not being used as a complementary technology to EDDL, it’s being used as a replacement for EDDL to perform functions that have been and will continue to be completely supported with EDDL. These functions include device configuration and maintenance for devices that have been completely supported by DD’s in the past, and continue to be completely supportable by EDDL or enhanced EDDL today. Since EDDL is an IEC standard, I am concerned about FDT/DTM, or any technology that is being used to move users away from standards, especially since the standard, EDDL will provide all the functionality needed for the vast majority of devices in all plants worldwide today. Another concern is that FDT/DTM may be slowing the implementation of the full functionality of EDDL in host systems. As such, it’s not a complementary technology, but a competing one. Finally, I’d like to make a recommendation for the end user community. It strongly aligns with your recommendations, but has some additional points. The first is that the end user community encourage their host vendors to fully implement all the features supported by EDDL in their hosts. The second is that the end user community encourage their host vendors to move with speed and dedication toward the solution being worked by the EDDL / FDT/DTM working group. When this solution is available it should provide the best of both EDDL and FDT/DTM. The third is that I recommend the end user community use EDDL as their standard solution and add FDT/DTM on an exception basis. Since FDT/DTM is being positioned as a complementary technology to EDDL, I encourage the end user community to use it that way. Use FDT/DTM only if and where it provides needed functionality that is not available through EDDL.

Although I am strongly pro-EDDL, and cautious about FDT/DTM, I hope these comments have some merit, and you will consider posting them.

Thanks and regards,

Tom Wallace

If you have thoughts to share, join the conversation on the Feed Forward site or here.

Posted Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 under Asset Optimization, Foundation Fieldbus, Interoperability, Profibus.

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