I have had talks with a number of other vendors about how control system life cycles will have to change, and slowly are changing. For a long time it has been buy and install a SCADA or DCS, change it as little as possible for ten to twenty years, and then completely replace the system. In SCADA it is common to have different lifecycles for the control center [realtime server, historian, HMI, EWS, web portal,…] and the field devices, but in almost all cases it is what IT calls a forklift upgrade. You haul the old stuff out and replace it.

When the community decided to embrace Windows, databases, web servers, JRE, sharing process data with the corporate network, sending scheduling info to the control center, … all with many benefits, we gave up the idea that we could install and forget. We just didn’t know it or admit it. But change is hard for a conservative group like our community so it has been avoided or fought for more than a decade now.

The forward thinking vendors are already looking at more frequent upgrades, patching, migration of systems, and very importantly the way control systems are budgeted and paid for. It is not going to be a huge, once every decade or two expenditure. It is going to be larger annual expenditures for the software, refreshing hardware every three years, planning for the personnel cost of testing and implementing more service packs and .upgrades. Actually committing to staying on all supported software, OS, supporting apps and the control system apps.

It is a struggle to convince the customers that this is the way forward, but it is starting to happen, slowly. The other options are to stay with a fragile system or find some vendor that is going to commit to a streamlined, completely purpose built system with all proprietary protocols – – – like the old days