System Virtualization Now and Going Forward

The week of Emerson Exchange was a blur. I’m thankful to have had Emerson folks taking great notes at many of the workshops. David Walker, a manager in the Systems and Solutions Middle East organization, shared his notes on a presentation on virtualization with the DeltaV system. DeltaV product manager, John Caldwell, and DeltaV technologist, Mark Nixon presented this workshop.

John highlighted the applications where virtualization would be beneficial together with the advantages and disadvantages. Today, the key area where virtualization can help process manufacturers is in the area of training and development systems. He highlighted a way of implementing a virtual multi-node simulation system , consisting of DeltaV Simulate running on ProfessionalPlus workstations, Applications Stations, Operator Stations and Mimic simulation software. The virtualized approach provides easier setup, easy reconfiguration, reduced footprint and power consumption. From a support perspective, it also simplifies the hardware needed for a training system since any PC can be used, including thin clients and connections across the internet.

John noted that electronic marshalling in the latest DeltaV release could also be simulated. DeltaV CHARMS I/O simulation is supported using either an actual CHARMS I/O card in simulate mode, or via a virtual CHARMS I/O card running on a PC connected to the DeltaV network.

Mark had a chance to conduct some virtualization research for future versions, by spending several weeks at the DELL facility, here in Austin. He had access to as much hardware and resources as he needed to do some performance testing on physical DeltaV systems compared to virtualized systems. He ran a 42,000 I/O system both physically and virtually and found the performance was much the same between the two systems.

Mark highlighted another example where virtualization can helpful on a project. The project team had upgraded the University of Texas Pickle Separations plant. Before beginning the upgrade, he took a snapshot of the running system with a physical-to-virtual (P2V) converter and was then able to refer back to it during the upgrade to ensure any changes he made worked the same as before.

John closed the session highlighting some of the areas, which may benefit from virtualization. He described how the team is looking at the problems encountered by process manufacturers in the lifecycle of their process and how virtualization can potentially solve them. He suggested opportunities such as extending system life, particularly among pharmaceutical, biotech, and other regulated industries to avoid re-validation efforts. Other examples where virtualization helps includes cost effective workstation deployment, reduced power consumption and air conditioning usage, and complexity reduction in systems migrations and upgrades.

David also shared his notes on a session given by Scott Thompson, with Emerson local business partner, R.E. Mason. They used virtualized systems to support 80 customer system configurations. David wrote:

They had 30 different hardware platforms spread about their offices, which made support difficult. Now they have four servers running VMware server hosting 17 Virtual Machines and 4 ESXi servers running 31 Virtual Machines. He started this process two years ago, when budgets were very tight. This meant they had to reuse hardware and add more memory. Most of the time the computers are waiting for the user, so why not use the spare processing capacity.

One only has to do a search of blogs discussing virtualization to see how this technology is being increasingly applied to reduce footprint, reduce energy consumption, and simplify updates and upgrades.

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Update: Thanks @NCLonghorn for the tweet that the local business partner is R.E. Mason and the Emerson Exchange presenter is Scott Thompson. I’ve updated the post.

Update 2: Scott was kind enough to let me post his presentation into the Emerson Exchange SlideShare account. Here it is:

Update 3:

John and Mark’s DeltaV Virtualization presentation has been narrated and is now uploaded in Slideshare.

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