Wind River Virtualizes the IIoT

March 29, 2017
The company is looking to virtualize the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) with its Titanium Control platform.

Many industrial systems feature older hardware and software that tends to be brittle from a system perspective, often delivering poor component interoperability and insufficient security. Wind River is looking to change this with a virtualized Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform called Titanium Control.

Titanium Control is an on-premise cloud infrastructure that would combine services currently distributed among traditional physical subsystems. The system is designed to sit between Wind River’s Helix Device Cloud services and physical subsystems (Fig. 1).

1. Titanium Control is designed to sit between Wind River’s Helix Device Cloud services and physical subsystems, providing a virtualized environment to run subsystem control applications.

The approach is designed to reduce integration and maintenance costs, improve interoperability, and reduce obsolescence while providing improved security. The system takes advantage of open-source projects such as OpenStack and Linux to host virtualized, fault-tolerant, high-availability services. 

The physical devices are connected via real-time network services to a host running Titanium Control (Fig. 2). The platform provides storage, management, and control of the virtual environment that runs isolated virtual functions. The real-time virtual containers can be used to implement features like soft PLCs. It allows features like secure boot and Enhanced Platform Awareness (EPA) to be utilized by virtual machines (VM) that would be difficult to incorporate into many current and legacy systems.

2. Titanium Control runs applications like soft PLCs that communicate with their hardware counterparts via a real-time network.

Titanium Control would protect the real-time network connections from the rest of the network in addition to running production services. It also allows IIoT management features to be run on the host where resources are less confined than on individual devices. It also allows centralized security to be implemented on the server so that legacy subsystems do not have to. This also makes service updates easier.

The industrial-grade Linux on which Titanium Control is built provides real-time extensions to VMs. It supports Intel’s Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) with deep packet inspection support and routing capabilities that work with the VM virtual NICs.

The system provides advantages, such as the ability to extend the control loop beyond the factory floor. It makes additional analytics easier to implement and allows aggregation of multiple control loops. It potentially provides support for incorporating machine learning and deep neural networks (DDN) in control and monitoring scenarios.

By decoupling the application layer, Wind River allows developers to improve industrial operations from a more centralized virtual environment. The challenges are distributed real-time control, and there are limitations even when using high-speed, real-time Ethernet. There is no way to beat the real-time speed of a microcontroller attached to a device, and these will still be needed for operations like motor control. Still, there are many parts of a control loop that do not require millisecond latency. Titanium Control can address these in addition to incorporating intelligent devices that perform high-speed tasks.

The system is designed to be scalable so more than a single server can be linked together, with each running multiple VMs that can communicate with each other.


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