Editorial: FDT Server to Become Pivotal IIoT Hub

July 25, 2019

Our final membership review of the emerging FDT 3.0 technology platform known as the FDT IIoT Server™ (FITS™) standard is now complete. The Architecture and Specification committee has been busy reviewing all remaining comments that have been received and has given the green light to proceed. With this major milestone behind us, I am pleased to report that we remain on schedule for an end of year release of the FITS specification.

Since 2016, FDT leadership, technical teams and industry-wide experts have taken the time to evaluate and carefully build the next chapter of FDT based off a wealth of industry-driven, feature rich feedback.  After much collaboration and understanding that industrial solutions tend to stay in service for long periods of time, imperative use cases to protect your investment for the future were defined – platform independence, a comprehensive security solution, OPC UA integration, mobile device management, and a repository for DTMs. While there are a host of other important features included, all these requested use cases have taken shape within the emerging FITS platform. This supports FDT’s heritage and future as the open, standardized, platform independent architecture for universal device integration and asset management.

Let’s look.  Within a FITS architecture, the FDT Server becomes the heartbeat, the pivotal IIoT hub empowering the intelligent enterprise.  The Server boasts a web services portal allowing access from authenticated mobile devices or any major browser along with an OPC UA interface for IT/OT convergence and enterprise access. Additionally, rich control features allow for any industrial communication protocol or vendor device to be seamlessly integrated supporting smart manufacturing practices for the process, hybrid and discrete industries. Developed from the ground up with security at the core and an operating system agnostic environment, an FDT Server is fully deployable in the cloud, on-premise, edge or in a desktop environment.  This makes the FITS solution a true information exchange platform and a key enabler for IIoT and Industrie 4.0 applications.

With all the excitement around the new architecture, take comfort that we have preserved the FDT legacy installed base investment. We have calculated that more than 10 million DTMs and several hundred thousand FDT/FRAME-enabled applications are deployed and in use. As the vendor community advances their FDT-enabled stand-alone/desktop applications and system offerings, make note that all legacy DTMs will function in a single user Microsoft FDT Desktop environment updated to the FITS standard. You will be able to freely mix FDT 1.2.x, 2.0, 2.1 and 3.0 DTMs within that Desktop application. If you plan to continue to use a desktop application, check with your system provider about their update plans for that application so that as you begin to receive new FDT 3.0 (FITS) DTMs.

With the launch in sight, now is the time to evaluate your business strategy solutions and to think about exploring how a FITS-empowered solution will provide investment protection as you evolve your system and/or device portfolio offerings to meet the desired needs of your customers for the new era of automation. While our technical teams are prepping the FITS standard for final release, our development tools for DTMs, Servers, and Desktop applications are near final form. To help prepare you, we have scheduled a FITS Developer Workshop event geared towards system architects, product managers, and software developers on the 8th and 9th of October in Stuttgart, Germany. Day one will provide a deep dive into the FITS architecture and deployment scenarios, while day two offers hands-on programming time using the official developer tools. We have had requests from end users to attend the first day of this seminar and we welcome these participants on a space available basis. You must sign up in advance for this event on our website.  Click here to register.

Lee Lane, Chairman of the FDT Board of Directors

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