Comparing EDDL and FDT/DTM Communications Enablers

I had the opportunity to visit with Emerson’s Tom Wallace who was here in Austin recently. I like to joke with Tom that a post I had done with him comparing and contrasting HART and Foundation fieldbus caused such a stir, that it produced one of this blog’s highest monthly visitor totals to date.

So let’s see what we can do this month! Tom takes a comparative look at some of the swirl that surrounds EDDL and FDT/DTM in a new paper, FDT/DTM, and Enhanced EDDL, what’s best for the user. These are both technology enablers for field devices, automation systems and asset management applications.

If this is all acronym soup to you, here’s Tom’s brief description of these technology enablers:

Device functionality is invoked using Electronic Device Description Language, EDDL or DTM’s [Device Type Manager]. The DD or DTM tells the host what functionality the device has, and how the functionality is invoked. It also tells the host how to do common maintenance functions such as calibration, trims, tests, and other device activities.

I’ll start with Tom’s conclusion and then highlight some of his supporting points. He concludes:

In my opinion, there is a better technical implementation based primarily on ease of implementation and support. That solution is to use EDDL for all devices where EDDL is technically capable of delivering complete device functionality, and to use a DTM or a snap-on application to handle only the exceptions. I make this recommendation because it is simpler to implement a single solution than a combined solution. EDDL is a single solution that will work for the vast majority (95%) of HART, Foundation fieldbus, and Profibus PA devices.

Tom’s point for commissioning Foundation fieldbus devices contrasts installable programs versus data files:

Commissioning Foundation fieldbus devices on most control hosts require DD’s [device descriptions]. Most control hosts have a set list of applications that are considered safe to install on the host engineering or operator station. Each DTM is an application, and the testing required to ensure hundreds, or potentially thousands of DTM’s are compatible with a control host user interface is not practical. EDD’s are files, not application programs. Therefore there is no program installation risk loading EDD’s on a control host.

On data availability, Tom writes:

…EDDL is the path for data availability that originates from a device, or is going to a device. The OPC Foundation support for the enhanced EDDL will broaden the use of EDDL for applications such as ERP, maintenance management, and other applications.

For the display of data in field devices, Tom notes:

EDDL is supported in the host by DD services. DTM is supported in the host by a frame or FDT. For many applications and hosts either EDDL or DTM can be used for data display. For hosts that are not based on a windows operating system, EDDL will be used as DTM requires a windows operating system. EDDL has defined display objects such as charts, graphs, etc. DTM is more of a free form environment using a variety of programming languages.

The choice for the enabler technology to use is EDDL or a combination of EDDL and DTM. Tom lists some considerations for your discussion based on operating systems, operating system version management, functionality and complexity of the device and if a custom display needs to be created.

Tom sums all this up with the following recommendation:

The final recommendation is to use EDDL as the required standard since each device must have a DD. Allow the use of DTM’s on an exception basis where the functionality is required, and EDDL cannot provide it. Make sure that all the functionality to replace a failed device, or place a new device in service is available in EDDL. This will simplify implementation and maintenance, mitigate operating system migration issues, and provide a lower risk more error free working environment.

Update: Welcome readers of Gary Mintchell’s Feed Forward blog! Join the conversation and add your comments below or on Gary’s post.

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