Bill’s Deep Dive: Prometheus Multivendor PLC Configuration and Management Software from Wonderware

January 032017
Bill’s Deep Dive: Prometheus Multivendor PLC Configuration and Management Software from Wonderware

By Bill Lydon, Editor, Automation.com

In this week’s Deep Dive, we’re going to look at the new Prometheus multivendor configuration and management software from Wonderware/Schneider Electric.  Prometheus is configuration and management software for defining HMI and multiple vendor PLC and control code. I got a chance to see the software in action at the Wonderware Live! 2016 User Group conference through a great proactive demonstration by Scott Clark, Director of Control Configuration at Schneider Electric and Pankaj Swami, Senior Software Development Manager Prometheus at Schneider Electric.  The demonstration displayed how the software suite could create an application logic and control program that ran on Schneider PLCs, Rockwell Automation PLC, Siemens PLC, and Raspberry PI. 

Single Engineering & Configuration Platform

The Prometheus concept is to create entire applications that can be targeted to multiple vendor controllers, both proprietary and open, using a single uniform high level open programming environment for project engineering, configuration, HMI, MES, and other functions.   Prometheus is also enabled to use software, from any vendor, through a software interface, termed a “Loader”, which is written to interface with the program. 

This creates a software engineering development environment that is interfaced to other software applications with software ‘Loaders’.   These programmed Loaders can then bridge various software systems with Prometheus.  ‘Loader’ seems to be a bit of an imprecise term, since the effort depends on the other software application being interfaced. This could lead to a complex programming process, particularly with proprietary systems that have only rudimentary programming interfaces.   

The function of the loader is to convert the application code created by Prometheus into code that the development platform of the target PLC (ex: Siemens Simatic Manager or Rockwell RSLogix5000 software) can import for application compilation. The PLC vendor’s logic editor must support an open Application Programming Interface (API) which Prometheus can use to import application code into the PLC vendor’s software. This is done because major vendors typically maintain their compilers as proprietary and/or patented intellectual property. 

At the present time, ‘Loaders’ have been developed to support Siemens Simatic Manager, RS Loader for Rockwell RSLogix5000, an ArchestrA Loader for the Wonderware System Platform, a ClearSCADA Loader for Schneider Electric’s ClearSCADA, Raspberry Pi, and Linux.

Open Embedded Control

The most seamless interfaces are generally to the Raspberry Pi and Linux systems since there are no proprietary barriers to hinder programming those targets for control. Schneider has written their own embedded control engine software for these open targets.  Prometheus’ Raspberry Pi and Linux implementations means this software can serve as a means to create embedded intelligence in devices at the network “edge”, where sensing and control is performed.  Processing at the “edge” preforms automation, data refinement and analytics at the lowest level in the network in order to achieve reliable and effective system performance.   Dramatic advancements in hardware and software are making this practical and economical.  Other suppliers with this capability to run on open platforms includes COPA-DATA, GEB Automation, 3S-Smart Software Solutions GmbH, IsaGraf, PHOENIX CONTACT SOFTWARE GMBH (formerly KW), Infoteam, and logi.cals. 

This article provides more information: Embedded IEC 61131 is Enabling Industry 4.0 & Industrial Internet of Things 

Programming

The system programming development environment conforms to IEC 61131-3 supporting Structured Text (ST), Ladder Diagram (LD), Function Block (FB), and Sequential Function Chart (SFC) programming.
    
Ladder Diagram (LD), Function Block (FB), and Sequential Function Chart (SFC) programming are intergrated into the development program.

Bill's Thoughts & Observations

I like the concept of what Prometheus is trying to do with this software. That said, with the process of importing code into other vendors PLC programming, there is a high dependency on the import capabilities of the other vendors’ PLC logic editors, which can lead to a few issues, namely:

  • Configuration control is required to make Loader updates based on changes in third party software interfaces and Prometheus.
  • Online debugging linkages through Loaders may be difficult or implausible in some third-party targets.  User could continue to use existing PLC programming software for troubleshooting problems an debugging additions to control applications.
  • Vendor specific functions such as Rockwell Automation AOI (Add-On Instructions) may not be supported.

Yet, a ‘Loader’ conforming to the PLCopen XML interchange standard would open the product for use with software from a number of vendors that support the standard, giving it a far wider potential user base.

By far, the most intriguing feature of the software is the seamless interface Raspberry Pi and Linux to use as controllers.  This capability may provide a hint of where Schneider is headed in the future.

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