Consolidating several discrete systems into a single machine provides a great way to reduce size and cost, as well as deliver new products faster and more efficiently. In the industrial segment though, many applications require real-time performance or the ability to perform in a very predictable way. Ensuring such real-time performance requires secure partitioning of important workloads through multiple virtual machines.
To simplify this effort, Intel recently launched the Intel® Industrial Solutions System Consolidation Series. This is the first pre-integrated, pre-validated embedded virtualization product that allows customers to merge and manage multiple discrete systems into a single machine (Figure 1). The kit is available now through distributors, including Alliance members Avnet and Arrow—Associate members of the Intel® Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Alliance—who can help developers significantly accelerate development of virtualized industrial systems.
Available as an “off the shelf” system, the kit includes an industrial-grade PC (IPC) equipped with a power-efficient, quad-core Intel® Core™ i7 processor and Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT). Already loaded is a production-ready virtualization software stack with three preconfigured virtual machines (VMs) running a combination of real-time and embedded operating systems. Developers can utilize two instances of Wind River VxWorks* RTOS to run applications with real-time performance requirements, while simultaneously running embedded and/or general-purpose applications on Wind River Linux* 5.0.
In this post, I look at the main benefits of the kit, its potential applications, and its key components. I provide an example of how it is already being used in a secure gateway solution for industrial applications in the steel, metallurgy, petro-chemical, manufacturing, and transportation industries. Lastly, I tell you how you can get your hands on both a development kit and production kits to start consolidating your industrial computing devices.
Industrial Applications That Provide Consolidation Benefits
Traditional embedded control systems tend to be a network of small- to medium-scale microcontrollers linked to a main supervisory (SCADA) system. In conjunction with these embedded control systems, an industrial PC running a general-purpose desktop OS is used to provide a GUI/HMI and connectivity to enterprise systems. This collection of disparate systems results in different hardware suppliers, software development tool chains, and operating systems.
The system consolidation series enables significant cost savings and efficiency by consolidating these systems onto a single platform that:
- Reduces the bill of materials and complexity by leveraging multi-core processors and embedded virtualization
- Simplifies security and management by reducing the attack surface and the number of devices to install, provision, and manage.
- Improves reliability by reducing the number of subsystems for fewer points of failure, easier maintenance and repair procedures, and ultimately less downtime
Developers can use the kit to:
- Reduce the design complexity of tape-and-reel machines (such as those used for packaging surface-mount components – see Figure 2) by integrating the HMI, programmable logic controller (PLC), industrial computing, and remote I/O terminal into a single system.
- Simplify management and improve reliability of power substation energy supply and quality monitoring systems (see Figure 3) by combining an industrial PC and HMI with a PLC, remote I/O terminal, and a data concentrator running a real-time OS.
- Reduce the number of devices that need to be managed in an oil refinery monitoring system (see Figure 4) by combining the control room’s industrial PC and HMI with a PLC, a remote I/O terminal, and a data concentrator running a real-time OS.
Another good consolidation candidate is a multi-functional printer. High-end printers require complex control systems integrating multiple microcontrollers and a central controller with separate hardware for the GUI/HMI. Combining these in a single system can reduce complexity and costs, as well as help shrink the overall size of the device to save floor space.
The Intel® Industrial Solutions System Consolidation Series
An application-ready virtualization platform, the Intel® Industrial Solutions System Consolidation Series includes:
- Industrial computer with a power-efficient, quad-core Intel® Core™ i7 processor
- Intel VT
- Preloaded Wind River Hypervisor*, VxWorks (real-time OS), and Linux 5.0
- Support for common I/O interfaces for industrial applications
- Production-ready virtualization software stack with three preconfigured virtual machines (VMs), or partitions, running a combination of real-time and embedded operating systems on dedicated processor core
By providing the components, development licenses, and tools in one tightly integrated platform, the kit gives developers a big head start compared to having to assemble, validate, and test the hardware and software on their own (Figure 5). This head start can significantly speed time to market. In addition, to help developers port applications to the multi-OS environment, a development kit version is available that includes Wind River Workbench* – a complete set of developer tools based on the Eclipse framework.
The first two kits in the Intel Industrial Solutions System Consolidation Series contain the ADLINK MXE-5301, an off-the-shelf industrial computer with a power-efficient, quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with Intel VT. This machine supports common I/O for industrial applications such as RS-232/422/485, USB 2.0 and 3.0, Ethernet, VGA+DVI dual-display output by DVI-I connector, and mini-PCI Express* sockets. The platform is fanless and ruggedized for use in industrial environments and includes a minimum 120 GB solid-state drive and 16 GB DDR3 memory. More complete details on the kit and its components can be found in this product brief.
Virtualized, Consolidated Gateway Solution
One of the first solutions to use the Intel Industrial Solutions System Consolidation Series is the iCentroGate-GAP* (ICG-GAP) product from Baosight. This secure gateway solution uses the system consolidation series to enable data acquisition from a company’s internal industrial network and data transfer to an external network to be instrumented in two separate operating systems running on two cores of a single Intel Core i7 processor. The solution relies on secure partitions in the virtualized environment and is supported by the Wind River Hypervisor and Intel VT.
By providing a one-way data communication path from an internal network to an external network and replacing conventional TCP/IP communications with secure inter-core communications, the ICG-GAP solution ensures task isolation to help users avoid cyber attacks and achieve highly secure and accurate data transmission. Replacing TCP/IP inter-system communication with inter-core communication also delivers greater system stability and performance.
According to Baosight, the use of the Intel Industrial Solutions System Consolidation Series product resulted in considerable reductions in cost and development time. They estimated savings of 60 percent in development time and 50 percent in development cost. More complete details on this application and its use of the kit are available in an Intel® case study.
How to Get the Kit
Kits are available now through authorized distributors, including Arrow and Avnet and other distributors in Asia, the US, and worldwide. These distributors provide integration support and can also help developers determine a production path for their initial designs built on the development kit. They can also help specify alternative deployment-ready Alliance hardware, such as single-board computers and industrial computers.
More to Come
Intel is currently working with Alliance distributors to deliver a software-only version of the kit. In addition, OEMs, machine builders, and system integrators will soon be able to purchase the kit’s software capabilities on a variety of differentiated hardware platforms from Alliance members. No matter what platform is chosen, the Intel Industrial Solutions System Consolidation Series will provide a valuable, accelerated path to implementing state-of-the-art industrial consolidated solutions.
Contact Featured Members:
Solutions in this blog:
· Arrow - Intel Industrial Solutions System Consolidation Series
· Virtualization - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
· Workload Consolidation - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
· Industrial - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Alliance
Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine