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Chief Flunky
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This is something that the contractor who normally works on our plcs ran across and sent to me. No idea how powerful ect it is but man they make it look easy to pull some data. No idea how expensive it is either, seeing as it's made to work with Allen Bradley I'm sure they are proud of it.
Something similar from GE Fanuc is $40,000. AB sells RS Metrics which is similar.

The big key with these type of products is that you are buying a bunch of prebuilt templates. The configuration you do is mapping the PLC tags to the templates and keying in some information such as how many product lines you have. However what they don’t tell you is that all of these products have s particular plant model. If your plant doesn’t match the model, it doesn’t work. And you will spend a lot of time adding monitoring code to the PLC to get things into the order expected by this software. And if you want to do some kind of analysis not supported by it, it doesn’t work.

If you go this route you need to read over every bit of documentation carefully to fully understand what tags it is looking for and how everything is structured. It is rare that these template packages actually work as advertised and often they don’t work at all. By the time you work around them you may as well have done the work yourself without the templates. For instance I developed my downtime data collection by reading the RS Metrics manual and realizing by time I did what it needed to work I could do my own. And it only worked for production lines making things like automotive. The moment you had a continuous process or couldn’t track product flow it broke down. So I got a reports package and did the test in house.
 

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Water treatment plant maintenance
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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
I've looked at it very briefly. Mentioned it mostly in case it would help someone else out. My thoughts on it were similar to yours; in that it probably works great for a few certain instances but becomes a giant pita as soon as you get out side of those examples. Plus then your locked into a bunch of proprietary software ect. If I could bring myself to accept that I'm a nerd I would try to learn Linux so I wasn't forced to use garbage windows but I'm not quite there yet.
 

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Chief Flunky
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I've looked at it very briefly. Mentioned it mostly in case it would help someone else out. My thoughts on it were similar to yours; in that it probably works great for a few certain instances but becomes a giant pita as soon as you get out side of those examples. Plus then your locked into a bunch of proprietary software ect. If I could bring myself to accept that I'm a nerd I would try to learn Linux so I wasn't forced to use garbage windows but I'm not quite there yet.
Funny. I worked with the predecessor to Linux (Minix) and lots of BSD systems such as Sun (source of Java). Linux at first was a big improvement but I reverted to Windows once 98 came along. I mean it just got frustrating having to recompile things all the time and all the compatibility problems. Windows was a dog and a virus sucker but I had fewer problems with it.

Moving forward then I bought a brand new laptop that came with Windows Vista. All I can say is I bought one with screaming fast hardware for the time but it was an utter dog. Slow as molasses. I tried hardware checking, everything. Finally on advice of an IT friend and knowing Linux is great at solving hardware problems I downloaded it onto USB, rebooted and…wow! That was the screaming fast PC I bought. Ok but then there is the compatibility thing. So when I opened a file or went to a web site it popped up a message that was something like….hey I see you are trying to do X. I don’t have the software loaded for that but I can install it for you, OK? Wow! Windows never did that. Keep in mind this was before packages and “app stores”. Everything just worked every time. I could even run a lot of Windows stuff. I went to permanently install dual booted and it corrupted the Visra Virus partition. I was kind of mad about that but never looked back!

Today I run it as the base OS. I run Windows legacy software like PLC software inside VMs. It actually runs faster than Windows by itself. And if Windows crashes I can just reboot it in seconds…much faster. And I have few compatibility problems because each Windows program is in a separate isolated VM. And I still have my nice fast laptop with no software compatibility, able to run Unix and say Wireshark natively. It’s a dream setup.
 

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Water treatment plant maintenance
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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
@paulengr curious as to what Linux distros you use? I broke down yesterday and loaded Ubuntu onto an old laptop we had around the plant just to start playing with it. Thought I might play with some of the other ones (Debian,mint)in virtual machines to try them out. The reason I’m interested at all in Linux is just for the stability aspect of it, well and I like the philosophy of open source software. Looking at it from an industrial side as far as running a database, etc. I’m not exactly super knowledgeable about computers but even I know that most industrial softwares like to completely crash every time windows updates. We have one SCADA computer that blue screen of death every time you restart it, and has from day one. Seems like Linux can offer a more robust system if a person wants to learn just a little bit.
 

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Hackenschmidt
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If you want to play with linux distros, I highly recommend making some boot CDs / boot USBs. Far less commitment. The distro that you want for your desktop may not be the one you want for your server. The desktop environment etc. is not really important for the server. Redhat for example is popular for servers but not so much for desktops.

A few years ago I was really impressed with some of the Linux distros efficiency. You could run some of the leaner Linux on hardware that was marginal for WindowsXP - XP would run but painfully slow, say a 512MB RAM system - and Linux would perform well. Some had such a small footprint you could boot to run from RAM and those old clunkers would run really fast. But the Linuxes have mostly bloated along, just a generation of bloat behind Windows.

But Windows bloat has somewhat peaked, I don't think there was all that much from XP to 7, and I think 10 is actually leaner than 7. It's now easy to throw enough hardware (RAM and solid state drive for the OS) at Windows to make it perform well. In other words slightly better efficiency is not a big deal any more.

I have been using Unix for a very long time, and followed Linux from the beginning, and I really don't find it superior to Windows 10. No lie. With Windows 10 I think Microsoft has finally pulled ahead of MacOS. MacOS IMO has always been a better Unix than Linux.

I usually keep quiet because Linux devotees are basically religious zealots, it would be easier to talk them out of their gender than talk them into Microsoft. But as long as I am cocking off ...

Linux and mySQL are IMO popular because they are free, and good enough for a lot of things. They are popular with kids, students, academics, etc. Also web developers, developing for small sites selling salsa and whatnot. Kind of like OpenOffice / LibreOffice. For most people, anything will work, they don't need much. If your database is for your online salsa store, run Linux and mySQL. Once your ass is on the line, you will develop an appreciation for Microsoft and care a lot less about a couple thousand dollars software cost. There is a reason that far more businesses trust Microsoft for critical systems, and it isn't because corporate IT guys are dumbasses.

Now oddly Linux has a place again at the outer limits, highly specialized applications; IBM does some crazy stuff with Redhat, things that are beyond the reach of everyday corporate sorting, searching, recording and reporting transactions. I hear about it and read about it but it isn't really at my end of the pool.

So for the bread and butter stuff, between the salsa store and the space program, if I have to choose between Windows Server and Microsft SQL Server, and Linux and mySQL, I won't have to think long, it's going to be Microsoft.
 

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Chief Flunky
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@paulengr curious as to what Linux distros you use? I broke down yesterday and loaded Ubuntu onto an old laptop we had around the plant just to start playing with it. Thought I might play with some of the other ones (Debian,mint)in virtual machines to try them out. The reason I’m interested at all in Linux is just for the stability aspect of it, well and I like the philosophy of open source software. Looking at it from an industrial side as far as running a database, etc. I’m not exactly super knowledgeable about computers but even I know that most industrial softwares like to completely crash every time windows updates. We have one SCADA computer that blue screen of death every time you restart it, and has from day one. Seems like Linux can offer a more robust system if a person wants to learn just a little bit.
Mint is basically Ubuntu redlined to look like Windows. Don’t expect any huge changes because it’s still Gnome as the Window Manager (WM). Within the Ubuntu skins take a look at KDE Plasma. It’s interesting but the apps it comes with as replacements for the standard ones suck and it’s not very stable quite often which is why I dropped it.

Going in another direction and getting out of the very limited Debian world look at Garuda especially the base and Wayfire editions, or maybe Manjaro. These are Arch based distress so no Debian on site that also don’t suffer from the heavy hand of Debian and Canonical and have more of a server based background like RHEL or Centos.

As far as me personally here’s the thing. I am doing mostly electrical or system integrator type projects. I need to deal with sometimes unruly software, sometimes even stuff that only works on say 98 or 2000. I want absolute stability and reliability. The last thing I want is a customers machine is down and Windows sits there locked up for 40 minutes loading some system update that then makes it not reboot able. This is not fantasy…it has happened. Along with multiple incidents of deathly slow restarts on laptops. So I’m not a fan of KDE for instance…too many crashes and about as stable as Windows Vista or the 64 but Windows 7 on a VM.

When it comes to Distro/OS selection for servers RHEL as an example is the host OS of VMWare ESX servers for a reason. CentOS used to be a good choice too but I’d lean more towards Manjaro (Arch) these days. In terms of LAMP MySQL has gone off the rails. Postgres cleaned up their act and the new fork of MySQL is MariaDB. If you need a good embedded SQL on any OS SQLite is hard to beat. I’m not a big PHP fan but at the application level often that doesn’t matter. The argument isn’t about free especially considering RHEL and VMWare but reliability and compatibility.

In my mind Microsoft has had 4 killer products: Windows MS Basic, XP/NT Server, Office, and SQL Server. In the early days MS Basic was probably the most pirated and cloned program ever. Prior to the mid 80s there were very, very few canned software packages. Basic made the thing widely accessible to a wide audience. XP finally ushered in a “modern” OS that did everything the competitors did such as true multitasking in separate memory spaces. The reason though you wanted XP was die running Office. Although Excel was a poor clone of Lorus 123, Word of WordPerfect, etc., the tightly integrated bundle with VBA made a very formidable package. To the point where despite years of trying to create another “Office” MS dominated foe a decade. The problem though came from Windows at the very beginning. Everything hinged on COM/DCOM which was designed when every Windows PC was an island. Prior to that sockets libraries and software pipes existed but Mac copy/paste was the gold standard. They needed to pass nor just text but objects. This seemingly simple thing is the core of Office. Take it away and the app is fundamentally weakened. You can’t have “Office” without COM and VBA. But it wasn’t built with multiple users or security in mind. So it has become this huge problem. Java was developed in response to COM and recognizing the threat ir in turn creates MS developed .NET. Office was the last major package to walk away from COM ( and Wonderware). But the result, Office 365 pales by comparison. All the macros, apps, embedded goodness, and extensions were erased. What’s left is nothing compared to the competitors, to say nothing of the ribbon thing that makes it hard to do the most basic tasks.

That leaves SQL Server. MS has finally realized that they aren’t competing with Oracle on price (as in who has the biggest gouging) nor on performance/features (roughly equal). In the desktop market MS has a strong foothold but in servers they are competing against the modern version of LAMP where it is hard to charge the customer a higher price tag than the hardware itself with a “me too” product, especially with their legendary fails when it comes to software updates. Hence the reason MS is by far not dominant in the server market.

The big thing you have to contend with specifically with SQL databases though is that ANSI SQL only gets you so far. It is not a universal game. For instance Postgres has a ton of specialized support for GIS (map) stuff nobody else has. MS has hooks into Office apps. MariaDB has a bunch of Java specific features. Postgres does better as a distributed DB. And then we get into Map/Reduce which is an entirely different Non-SQL way of doing things such as CouchDB which has its advantages in it’s application domain (document searching, free form databases) and data historians that are specific to trend data and only have a surface resemblance to ANSI SQL. Even MS SQL has a huge pile of nonstandard SQL features. As an end user to some degree any decent SQL database will do some jobs well but when you peel back the covers and start looking at the wildly different feature sets it usually becomes obvious which one to use. With MS SQL you have one and only one OS choice except if it’s in a VM. But with all the others you have multiple choices.

One reason to consider a VM regardless of the host and guest OS is this. Ever try to backup a server? How about a running one? You can and Acronis is very good. With a VM I can just click “snapshot” and just like that in seconds I have a saved copy that I can backup. That’s over and above automatic backup systems that do the same thing. Although many SQL systems have excellent rollback/recovery systems what about doing an OS upgrade that fails (Hello MS)? With a VM just clone the VM, attempt an upgrade on the clone, and if it fails delete it. If it succeeds make this the primary. Easy Peasy. You stop thinking of “servers” as physical hardware and more like software modules. The host OS “doesn’t matter” but the best choices are VMWare ESXi (RHEL), Citrix/Xenserver (the original hypervisor), RHV, and Virtualbox. All have been out there a long time and are very stable and reliable. You can make MS Server do it too but it’s always sort of suspect because it’s all closed source snd known to have all kinds of strange back door stuff. As far as performance we’ve clocked it. The overhead is something like less than 1% of all resources (disk, CPU, RAM) despite all the stuff it does for you and your sanity. Actually it’s better. With multiple VMs, you will notice performance improvements because of disk deduping and that you can better utilize idle clock cycles so that with 2-3 “big” servers instead of 5-10 “little” ones the big high end servers come into their own.

Anyway not saying MS doesn’t have its place but if you are wanting to run high performance or high reliability it’s a big problem. Rackspace, Google, Amazon, and all the embedded companies (phones, tablets, cars) all use Linux for a reason. If you are running say Office and only Office or Factorytalk or Wonderware you are stuck with having MS Windows at least in a VM for the servers. But outside that limited environment you can run almost anything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
I appreciate the feedback. I'm constantly amazed at the volume of stuff that members on this site are knowledgable about. I'll have to check out a couple of the arch based distros. Linux has always intrigued me so it's just playing around with them right now. Learning SQL and virtual machines relates directly to being able to maintain our system and that's the path I'm on at this point. Plus there are some really powerful reporting and visualization tools out there. In today's world there is really no sense in not utilizing some of these tools, even if it is just to impress the suits. I'll always be a relay man at heart but if I have to learn how to herd imaginary pixies as well I think I can to a limited degree. It is interesting how the massive advances in technology and hardware capabilities has changed some of the dynamics. Hardware is so overcapable now you can just throw crap at it and it will still work where it use to be you had to optimize every little detail. I still got a long time left in my career so it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.
 

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Hackenschmidt
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Anyway not saying MS doesn’t have its place but if you are wanting to run high performance or high reliability it’s a big problem. Rackspace, Google, Amazon, and all the embedded companies (phones, tablets, cars) all use Linux for a reason. If you are running say Office and only Office or Factorytalk or Wonderware you are stuck with having MS Windows at least in a VM for the servers. But outside that limited environment you can run almost anything.
At the tiny end, Linux wins easily because it can be stripped to essentials and made to run on extremely limited hardware (busybox), and very often with these embedded devices the cost of the windows license would be prohibitive.

Millions of web servers run linux and mysql because it's free. If a web developer can put up an ecommerce site to sell your salsa for $5000 using linux and mysql or $7500 using microsoft, they're going for the cheap. There are zillions of these servers out there for people selling salsa out of their basement etc. so the numbers are big but they are usually not doing custom SQL development and to be honest most are pretty mickey mouse and don't demand the reliability that a utility company or full scale business needs.

Rackspace, Google, Amazon, IBM, etc. are doing highly specialized things on a huge scale and have the staff and resources to take advantage of the flexibility that Linux affords them and also benefit from the performance edge. But comparing these to more bread and butter business / industrial / institutional applications is apples to oranges.

My point here is that the Microsoft Windows Server and SQL Server platform is the best fit for the utility company's situation. Hands down.
 

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Remember:
Don't roll your own, you are not always going to be there. You are not doing anyone a favor by getting creative. If it is something you need make them spend the money for a supported system.
Watch what you use, FT tags for historian are real expensive.
 

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Hackenschmidt
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Remember:
Don't roll your own, you are not always going to be there. You are not doing anyone a favor by getting creative. If it is something you need make them spend the money for a supported system.
Watch what you use, FT tags for historian are real expensive.
AMEN to that!
 
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