Factry Historian V4 - An interview with our CEO

Jeroen Coussement, Frederik Van Leeckwyck on , updated

factry.io · Factry Historian V4 Mixdown

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Frederik: Hello, with me is Jeroen Coussement, our CEO, to talk about Factry Historian’s latest release and features and what that means for our customers. Thank you for joining us. Before we dive into the features, could you quickly explain what Factry Historian is and what it does for customers?

Jeroen: Sure. Factry Historian is a platform for collecting data from industrial systems like a production plant or remote assets. You can run it both on-prem, on your own infrastructure or in the cloud. And it scales from very small setups like a single plant with a few measurements to a multi-site setup, like more an Enterprise style Historian over multiple factories. Our users use it to do historical analysis, to do energy monitoring, line monitoring and so on. So a lot of use cases, as it’s a very generic data collection platform for the industry.

Frederik: Ok, and right now we’re at version 4. Um, what’s the focus of version 4?

Jeroen: The focus was improving what was already there. So we have a lot of improvements around performance on one hand, but also around usability on the other hand. So it was really about improving existing features and taking them to the next level.

Frederik: OK. But still, there are 3 features that really stand out, right? The first one being bandwidth management. Some tremendous results there. Could you elaborate on what we managed to achieve there and especially what that means for our customers?

Jeroen: We switched the protocol that we use for sending data points from the collectors to the historian back end. We switched that from a REST style communication to gRPC. That means for the same amount of data points, you get up to 5 to 10 times reduction in bandwidth usage. That’s a lot. It’s especially useful for customers that have historians running in the cloud or customers that are pushing data over 3G or 4G mobile connections, which tend to be unstable sometimes. Even in reduced bandwidth situations, you can still get your data through because it’s just a lot lighter.

Frederik: Ok, that’s impressive, 5 to 10 times. Then the next main feature is OPC-DA connectivity. Not exactly a new protocol. Why the choice to implement it?

Jeroen: Because although it’s very old, it’s still heavily in use. So we have customers that have legacy systems that you can’t upgrade and they’re stuck with OPC-DA only. But there is even software that is still being released today, not having OPC-UA. And for those customers, we wanted to have an option to get up and running with data collection without having to install any third party protocol translation software or something like that to get up and running.

Frederik: Yes. And number three is an improved workflow, right? What does that mean?

Jeroen: Usability tweaks across the whole workflow in Factry Historian starting from the installation. Whereas it used to be kind of technical, you had to configure a lot of parameters and do stuff to get the services up and running. Now it’s just downloading a file, issuing a single command, and everything is configured with sensible defaults. So, in terms of user experience in the installation, it’s a big improvement.

Secondly, the management of data collection in the back end, so the configuration of collectors measurements and so on has been improved and now you can create, pause, delete. All these actions you would expect are a lot more fluent within the historian administrator console. We also have Excel upload for bulk uploads, for example, so a lot of usability tweaks. Ok. We now also exchange a lot more information between the different components. So the collectors do not only send the data they have collected back to the historian, but they also send statistics of the host system. They send buffer sizes and so on. So a lot of useful information we can later on use to troubleshoot is now also available centrally at historian level and not locally in the automation layer.

Frederik: So general improvements all over the place and three main features that stand out. That was or is release number four. That means there will be a release number 5 as. Could you elaborate a little bit on what V5 will bring?

Jeroen: This release was about improving what was there already. In V5, we’re really adding new features. The goal is to have some kind of automated way of adding a layer of context on top of the raw data you’ve been collecting from the process. Ok. That’s all I’m going to say for now, but more more news on that will come over the coming months.

Frederik: Ok. And so with V4 still lots of features, how will our clients get access to that functionality?

Jeroen: Some of them have already been upgraded, and over the coming weeks & months, we will get in touch with all our clients and propose to upgrade their Historian as a part of the service model we offer them.

Frederik: Ok. All right. Thanks. Well, that’s it about Factry historian and version 4 of Factry Historian. If you’d like to know more about our software or Factry in general, you can reach out to us through the regular channels.

Header photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash.

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