Amazon Web Services: The Next Industrial Automation Software Disruptor?

  • May 29, 2019
  • Feature
Amazon Web Services: The Next Industrial Automation Software Disruptor?
Amazon Web Services: The Next Industrial Automation Software Disruptor?

By Bill Lydon, Contributing Editor,

Back in the 1980s Microsoft caused dramatic disruption in the industrial automation industry, revolutionizing the HMIs, historians and production middleware first leveraged by Wonderware, due to Windows software. Turn the clock forward to today, and I believe Amazon Web Services (AWS) is on a similar disruptive course. Amazon is clearly focused on manufacturing and, based on industry events, interviews, analysis, and briefings with users applying AWS technology, is causing another round of disruption in industrial automation.  The accelerating integration of OT into IT coupled a high adoption rate of AWS by Enterprise/IT gives them high credibility.


The Microsoft Windows Effect

The major leap forward for industrial & process system architectures in the 1980’s, due to Microsoft Windows, enhanced PLC and DCS HMI (Human Machine Interface) software and opened the door for a wide range of creative and valuable applications.   Prior to this change, each automation vendor had proprietary closed software.   Yet, the openness of the Windows platform enabled a number of upstart companies to create software add-ons including, PID tuning, optimization and other software which ultimately improved automation.  In addition, the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) interface, by Microsoft, enabled applications to access data in database management systems by using SQL to facilitate control of enterprise information sharing between production equipment and business enterprise systems.  The Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE), introduced in 1987, facilitated inter-process communication under Microsoft Windows allowing one program to subscribe to items made available by another program - for example a cell in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet - and be notified whenever that item changes.   Along with the release of Windows 2.0, DDE enabled a range of functions, including PLC/DCS, to spreadsheet interface so that one program could communicate with or control another program.


Inside the Amazon Effort

Amazon is clearly focused on the IoT edge-to-enterprise computing applications, including manufacturing, as one of its segments and is causing disruption in the industry right now.  Amazon had another great booth at the 2019 Hannover Fair, featuring partners who demonstrated a wide range of applications to improve performance, profits, and lifecycle return-on-investment for manufacturers.  The booth also featured AWS Use Cases presented by users.


Caption: Optimizing production and asset optimization at Georgia Pacific with AWS


2019 Hannover Fair Amazon booth featuring partners demonstrating a wide range of applications.

AWS has an architectural framework & platform which includes building blocks and development tools, designed to make it easy to apply their technology.  AWS has already created an ecosystem with a large number of users/developers to build and extend capabilities.

AWS Manufacturing Reference Architecture is a model for open systems.

Amazon AWS has an entire stack of building blocks from the embedded edge, enterprise, to cloud.

Device Software


Control Services


Data Services

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