Jun 04, 2020

Server-Centric SCADA Systems Offer Unlimited Growth Opportunities

Server-centric SCADA systems
Server-centric SCADA systems offer unlimited clients, tags and devices, which helps utilities expand SCADA access to their entire team. Photo: © Zstock / Adobe Stock

Modern SCADA systems offer utilities the opportunity to connect all of their systems across their organization, putting real-time data in the hands of their entire team. However, utilities using a legacy SCADA system may face an expensive barrier to reaching their SCADA’s full potential: additional licensing fees.

Many legacy SCADA systems operate on a traditional licensing model, requiring utilities to purchase additional licenses to add project tags, devices or clients. For Henry Palechek, who works as an information systems supervisor for a large water district in southern California, using traditional SCADA software led to significant costs when his team planned to merge their ozone system with their main plant’s SCADA system. 

Palechek’s legacy SCADA system limited him to 3,500 project tags. However, the ozone system alone required 5,000. To expand his tag count, he needed to purchase a much more expensive license, he says.  

“To go over 5,000 tags, we needed to buy a new license that was like going from version 7.1 to 7.1.1,” Palechek says. “For a 1/100th of a change in software versions, the new license cost me a ton of money. It was ridiculously expensive for not much of a version change.” 

Henry Palechek
Henry Palechek

Unlike SCADA systems that are licensed by each client and tag, server-centric SCADA systems, such as Ignition from Inductive Automation, offer unlimited clients, tags and devices. Utilities can expand SCADA access to their entire team, plus collect, track and analyze as much data as they need. Through one license per server, utilities can connect their facility’s PLCs, SQL databases, ERP systems, MES systems, OPC servers and more. Multiple licenses can connect various facilities across an entire organization. 

Removing limits through a server-centric system enables flexibility and fosters innovation, says Jason Hamlin, who served as the SCADA manager for the City of Lynchburg in Virginia and currently serves as chief operating officer at Instrulogic. 

“Our old system had a tag limit, and licensing costs were a part of expansion planning,” Hamlin says. “With that limit removed, our creativity was free to grow whenever needed.” 

Greater data visibility 

Server-centric SCADA systems allow users across an organization to collect, track and analyze as much data as they need. The ability for customers to pull more data is a huge advantage, says Dee Brown, principal at Brown Engineers in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

“More than ever before, you can integrate more of your manufacturing or treatment process data into the Ignition environment so that everyone throughout your organization can see that data in an integrated and holistic way,” Brown says. 

After switching to Ignition more than 10 years ago, Palechek has leveraged the software’s unlimited model to set up several new SCADA terminals without the added licensing costs. 

“We went from seven computers to 16 to 20 machines throughout the plant to give operators more visibility to give them a better idea of what’s going on,” Palechek says. With a traditional licensing model, adding computers would have cost $4,000 to $5,000 per device, he says. 

More tags, more flexibility and innovation

Removing limits on tags also fosters innovation, says Hamlin. 

By using Ignition to launch a CSO Notification project for the City of Lynchburg, Hamlin says his team could focus on what they needed, not on how they’d get there. “With that type of creative freedom, we were able to prototype and build a system with minimal cost and time.”

Dee Brown
Dee Brown

Brown says that by not having to worry about tag counts, utilities can focus on operating more efficiently. “The ability to have unlimited tags means never having to worry about tag counts or limiting the user’s ability to add new data to their system,” he says. “For data-driven operations, it is important to add new information that helps drive the bottom line of the organization.”

With no limits to adding data to their system, Palechek’s district has almost tripled their number of project tags to more than 9,800, expanding signals and alarms and calculating pump efficiency to find energy savings. With more tags, Palechek receives detailed information on his equipment when it goes offline that allows his team to better diagnose and address the situation.

“With our power meters, you’re getting seven tags per motor, so that adds up to a lot of signals quickly,” Palechek says. “VFB’s also have a lot more signals and alarms…If you’re not limited by tags, we can bring all that information into our system.”

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