Industrial Automation Software Management on AWS—Best Practices for Operational Excellence
Operational and maintenance tasks can become complex, and change control becomes challenging as the number of PLCs and robotics or other automation systems increases. Problems arise when the right version and right configuration of the code is not found. While code and configuration management is a standard DevOps practice for software development, these practices are not as common in the world of industrial automation, primarily due to lack of good tooling. These challenges can now be solved through systematic, secure, and easily accessible solutions in the AWS cloud.
One such solution is Copia Automation’s Git-based source control (Git is an open-source DevOps tool for source code management). Copia Automation brings the power of a modern source control system (specifically, Git) to industrial automation. The Copia solution is deployed in Amazon’s own AWS account. In this type of deployment model, Amazon is responsible for managing and configuring its own infrastructure needed to run Copia’s software.
How Git-Based Source Control Drives IT/OT Convergence
The topic of robust data management is often overlooked in the convergence conversation; however, it is an area of IT expertise that can be easily applied to OT processes, yielding huge benefits. Git-based source control coupled with formalized review practices, a staple in traditional software development, represents an opportunity unmatched in driving OT team productivity and increased code quality.
Using Git repositories and processes as a framework for OT source control can align IT and OT. From setup, participating IT team members gain immediate visibility into crucial OT systems, their file structures, and the processes used to develop control programs. Likewise, OT teams realize the benefits of securing and tracking code changes, unlocking easy review workflows, and quick code recovery during incidents.
Git-based version control is not common in industrial automation environments. The backbone of OT networks are the PLC control systems that drive manufacturing machinery. PLC systems are often written in visual languages (i.e., ladder logic and function block diagrams) using proprietary development tools. The result is a collection of local binary files on an engineer’s desktop or control devices.
Recently Copia Automation has developed new tools to unlock Git’s full power for these file formats. When using Copia, automation professionals can track all changes, visualize the file outside the development environment, and see the highlighted differences between the versions. Add in the power of Git branching and merging, and Copia delivers a source control framework that enables engineers to build code together, collaborate more effectively, and review all program changes quickly and thoroughly.