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Plant Floor Virtualisation

What is Virtualistaion?

In short, virtualisation sees a ‘virtual’ version of something ‘real’ being created and implemented.

Most manufacturing and processing plants, and industrial facilities already utilise applications that can benefit from virtualisation. For example, manufacturing execution systems (MES), human machine interface (HMI) applications, process data historians and many other reporting and analytical reporting applications can all be virtualised.

For example, if a company has ten physical servers doing a job, but each is only using 10% of its capacity, virtualisation enables that work to be transferred to one, two or three physical servers to get the same amount of computation out to users.

It is often used by companies to create entire virtualised IT infrastructures which means that IT departments can automatically organise resources wherever they are needed but with a minimum of facilitation resulting in a significant reduction in overheads.

Virtualisation can be applied to operating systems, network resources, device drivers, and practically any other physical item for which a virtual snapshot can be made.

Using hypervisor technology (the most well-known of these being VMWare) users can manipulate these virtual versions in such a way that would not be possible for their physical counterparts. Therefore, virtualisation opens up a whole new realm of possibilities in terms of power and flexibility for users, particularly in the world of industrial automation.

Thin client architectures achieve something very similar to virtual systems. They consolidate computing resources and give the user the capacity to manage applications much more easily. It is no surprise to see that the two very often go hand in hand.

Right now the leading edge manufacturing systems consist of thin client technology running in a virtual environment on fault tolerant hardware. These systems are delivering many benefits to manufacturing businesses, but it is important to note that poorly planned virtual projects can have extreme adverse affects on a business very rapidly, so working with specialist distributors that can advise on specific requirements is vital.