PI in the sky?

OSIsoft’s PI Cloud Connect promises seamless data historian replication via (but not in) Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud. What does this mean for third party PI data service providers?

OSIsoft, developer of the ubiquitous PI System plant and process data historian has just announced PI Cloud Connect (PCC), a novel means of sharing plant and process data with stakeholders such as suppliers and joint venture partners. Speaking at the OSIsoft Users’ Conference in Paris this month, Ray Hall and Brian Bostwick sketched out a use case involving Petrolux, a fictitious oil company, its real supplier of yellow iron, Caterpillar and other stakeholders a performance analytics vendor and joint venture partners.

Caterpillar uses PI Server 2012 for secure access to streaming data and PI Coresight to build custom dashboards for monitoring real time performance and comparing data from geographically dispersed units of the same type. But sharing data with different stakeholders is challenging because many companies are involved and they won’t want to share all their data. Enter OSIsoft’s network operating center service for managed PI, PCC and the Windows Azure cloud.

A publish and subscribe model allows for data streams to be shared with selected partners via the Azure cloud. Interestingly, in its current manifestation, PCC does not place any data in the cloud. The system is a mechanism for replicating data from one PI System to another and to enable assets to be managed by remote experts. The cloud is claimed to be an ‘excellent way of addressing security’ as there are no open public endpoints to the PI constellation.

PCC is strangely familiar, back in July 2011 we reported on Industrial Evolution’s WellShare system that re-allocates streaming production data from PI Systems deployed on Gulf of Mexico assets. WellShare, like PCC addresses ‘complex entitlement issues as shareable operational data may be mingled with proprietary data from other assets.’ We pinged IE’s Simon Wright for his take on PCC.

The cloud message can be confusing, people are used to ‘product’ and ‘service,’ but with the cloud these get blurred. In summary though, we are service company and OSIsoft is a product company. PCC is just another way of getting data into a hosted PI System. Our customers may choose to continue to do that with PI-to-PI over a VPN or may select PCC. We can accommodate all methods including for non-PI data, too.

When PI itself is available as a Cloud service, someone still needs to manage it. With PI in the Cloud, OSIsoft will administer the system (i.e. the product) to ensure it is always up-to-date and installed well and has a good fail-over capability. But we will continue to offer services to interface it to data sources, configure it, build displays and support users and more. We will still do that and it does not matter if it is on the customer’s PI System, on our hosted PI System or on a future PI in the Cloud. More on PI Cloud Connect and from Industrial Evolution.

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