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By Elian Zimmermann
20 November 2023

Ignition Fundamentals: The Unlimited Platform for SCADA and so much more



Kent Melville
Director of Sales Engineering
Inductive Automation


While we recognise that our community includes many specialists, the Ignition fundamental session served as an introduction to the Ignition Platform for many new members in attendance—the features and benefits and why and how you would deploy Ignition. The recording serves as a fantastic recap for those with limited experience!


That’s me. So we’ll go through this pretty quick. How many of you are using ignition today? Lots of you. Great. Great. And for the rest of you, how many of you have never heard of ignition? You don’t know what ignition is? Anybody? I can’t see because of the lights anyway, so. But it sounds like most of you know what ignition is. So we’re going to go through this pretty quick, and we’ll try to save some time for Q and A at the end as well. But essentially, we’re going to be going through a little bit of company background, a little bit about the industries and customers, and then a little bit about how ignition works. And it seems like we want to talk about digital transformation today, so there’ll be a little bit of that in there, too. But this guy, who’s he?


Steve Heckman. He was a systems integrator. And 25 years ago, he was like, I hate all my options for deploying systems, for integrating systems. And he had all these pain points, and he wrote down all of his pain points. And you can still find copies of that online of his original list of things he didn’t like. But he said, I want to build my own software. I want to build something that’s better, that solves my pain points. I don’t want to do it from some weird perspective. I want to do it from my hands on real world scenario, and I want to build it on new standard technologies. And so we did. He built ignition. And that was 20 years ago that inductive automation was formally formed. What do we care about?


Well, our mission is to create industrial software that empowers our customers to swiftly turn great ideas into reality by removing all technological and economic obstacles. So is our mission to be great in and of ourselves? I mean, we want to. We want to keep getting better and better, but our main mission is not our success, it’s the success of our customers. We want to see the projects that they can build. What is it empowering you to do? And that’s why we talk about case studies a lot. We talk about what people are doing with the software. We really want to see what people are doing a little bit about the growth of the company. I said, we don’t care about our success. I’m going to mention a little bit about it. So we’ve been around for 20 years now.


57 of the Fortune 100 companies are using ignition. We’re in over 100 countries, and you can see our sales growth over time. We’re very healthy as a company. We have about 350 employees now at inductive automation. And we are used in all different kinds of industries. Right? So we’re used in food and Bev, oil and gas, water, wastewater, pharmaceutical. As I knock my battery or my mic back, it’s okay, guys. But, yeah, we’re used in all different kinds of industries. And it’s been fun to see it continue to grow and proliferate as new people find cool things to do with ignition. So what’s our go to market strategy? Right. Well, we’re based in North America, that green section there, right, but there’s different time zones, there’s different languages. People all around the world want to use ignition. How do they do that?


How do they learn about it? Well, we have distributors throughout the world, and element eight is one of those distributors. Right. And they bring ignition to South Africa and do a great job at that. And that is our future of inductive automation is working more and more with distributors and being able to empower people throughout the world to really leverage ignition. Now, in addition to that, people still want to work through us. They want to be able to talk to us at some extent. And having us only operate in one set of time zones has been limiting. Two weeks ago at our conference, or three weeks, I guess. Now, at this point, we announced inductive automation Australia. So we just opened up a new office in Australia that we’re really excited about.


And that doesn’t mean that we’re looking to open up offices everywhere in the world. Like I said, distributors are still our future for how we go to the market. But this is going to give us an office that is in, like, an entirely different set of time zones, so that we can better serve a global community. Right. And that people can have better access to inductive automation corporate, so to speak. Right. And so really excited about that. And eventually, when you call in to support for us, if you ever need to talk to us or whatever, you could get somebody from Australia, you get somebody from the United States. Like it’s all just one thing, right? But like I said, mainly your main focus is eliminate right here. Local can help you out.


The other part of our go to market strategy is through integrators. And we made a decision a long time ago as inductive automation that we didn’t want to do direct implementations. Because Steve, the founder that I was talking about earlier, that was one of his pain points, is that he was working with software companies, and the integration companies would try to hide who their customers were and who their projects were from the vendors, because the vendors would come and sweep in and steal their projects because they were also doing services. And we’re like, that is so dysfunctional, right. We need to have a healthy relationship between the integration partners and us so that the end user is the one who wins. Right. That they are getting a full, unified message from their integrator, from us as the vendor, right.


And that we can provide good solutions. And so we don’t do services. We go just through our integration partners. And we made that true of our distributors as well. We don’t allow our distributors to have a services arm to their company because there’s a conflict of interest. Right. And so, you know, it’s been great to see more and more integration partners come on board with LMN eight and be doing some really cool projects here. And we want to keep empowering them to do so. How do we empower them to do so? Well, we want them to know about the software. We also want our end users to know about the software. We want them to be able to implement it right away. So we have inductive university, we talked about that earlier.


Inductive university is a great way to go and learn ignition for free online at your own leisure. Ignition. So our product is ignition. And what is ignition? Well, it’s a lot of things and nothing at the same time. Ignition is not a bunch of pre built screens that you just take and you implement and overnight. You now have this new system that you get to conform your processes to. Instead, ignition is this blank slate that has a bunch of tools that you can couple together to match your processes. And that’s a big thing for us, is we’re not trying to say you put in ignition and that changes who you are and how you work. Instead, you can augment who you are and how you work by leveraging ignition. And that ignition can make you and your process better.


And that’s been important because we mentioned this is a room full of innovators, right. And you’re not trying to adopt a software that’s going to make you just like everybody else who uses ignition, right? You’re going to have your own niche. You’re going to have your own way of doing things. And ignition should empower you to do those things, not restrict you. And so what is it? It’s an empowerment tool. You know, it’s a platform. It’s not a pre built solution. But what do people like about it? Well, the unlimited licensing model, it’s not about how many tags you got, how many PLC’s you got. How many users are going to be using that? Once again, we want to be able to put it in and then it can grow from there. And so it’s got an unlimited licensing model.


It runs natively on Windows and Linux, and we’ve done that since the beginning. It can run in docker containers, can run at the edge, all that kind of stuff. And just based on standard technologies, web managed, web launched, and is modular. So you can pick and choose what you need, lots of good things about it. But when we first released ignition, it was this middle area here, this orange layer, and that was our standard version of ignition. We call it ignition standard. Now. It’s not really. It’s just called ignition. We call it ad standard now to help differentiate it. But ignition was really designed for the plant floor, for running a site.


And it’s been fun to see the scale of that change where, like I talked about earlier, five or so years ago, we released ignition edge and we saw people saying, I’m not just running at a site, but I’m running it out in the field, right? And I’ve got an oil pipeline with all these, you know, flow meters and all this stuff. And I want to be able to collect data there, send it all out to a centralized system. But I can put ignition at every checkpoint or oil or water and wastewater, right? I’ve got all these lift stations or whatever else, right? I can deploy ignition at every single one and bring that data all up centrally or even.


It could be a factory line that they’re like, I actually need it to be where if I have somebody driving a forklift and they go and hit some wires. And so now my central server that I have on site can’t talk to my line. I still need my line to be able to run and have a local HMI. And so then they deploy ignition edge at each line within their facility so that they have that local control. We see Edge being used in a ton of different use cases, but that was really big for us to see, say we’re not just one server per site, but that ignition Edge can take us to a whole new set of opportunities. And now, just this year, we released cloud Edition, and cloud Edition runs directly in the AWS marketplace or the Azure marketplace.


You can go and spin up ignition. And both standard ignition and ignition Edge are perpetual licenses. You buy it, you own it forever in the cloud. People wanted a different licensing model where it’s a subscription based like other cloud services and you pay per month. Does that mean we’re going to do a subscription model for the other two. We’re never going to replace our perpetual model. People like it too much, right? People want to buy it, own it, and keep it, and we’re going to let you do that. But for the cloud, people like fitting in with how those other services work. Now does that mean that if I want to run it in cloud, I have to use cloud edition? No, you can actually just run standard ignition in the cloud if you want. You own it. You can just run with that.


Later today I’m going to be doing a whole session about the cloud, and we’ll talk about those options, the benefits, all that kind of stuff. So come check it out. So the actual functionality of ignition is based on modules. And we’ve got a bunch of different modules in ignition. I’m not going to bore you by going through all the modules here, but there’s modules for visualization, there’s modules for reporting, there’s modules for alarm notifications. So I can send out an email or a text message, and you’re like, well, I’m never going to send out a text message. Do I have to buy that module? No, you don’t have to. You just buy what you need and go from there. But really, ignition is, we see it as kind of this data hub, right? We can connect to all these different pieces of equipment.


We have different drivers. And then by leveraging open standards, we can then push that data into different sources, whether that’s OPC or MQTT or directly into different ERP systems and all that kind of stuff. We really just are about getting that data and then sending out where it needs to be, which is one of the reasons why ignition can be really useful when creating a unified namespace, which we’ll talk about later. All right? So really it’s interesting because ignition was built by a guy who was very focused on the OT world, right? This integrator who wanted to go and do cool things, but he wanted to leverage open technologies and not make all the data proprietary, a black box, or he wanted to make it open.


And so the people that he hired to develop the software were IT professionals to come and develop it in a meaningful way. And so from the very beginning, we’ve had it where underneath the hood, it’s all it design, right? That it works really well from an IT perspective, but from a usability standpoint, it’s been driven by OT leaders who understand how things actually need to work, right? It’s positioned ignition to work really well for customers that are trying to do this OT. It convergence, because we can come in and we can help the OT find the real value and do the processes that they need to do.


But it can come and talk to us about how are we going to manage this, how are we going to deploy this and how can we do that in meaningful ways, how we can do so securely. And ignition works well for both. Out of curiosity, how many people here would consider themselves on the OT side of this? Most people. How many would consider themselves on the it side of this? One? Two. Ok, we got a couple. Nobody beat up the IT people. No, it’s going to be great, but ignition is very focused on both. All right. So we talked about, we have these modules, but you get collections of modules. What does ignition really do for you? It is going to act as a Scada system, as a local HMI, right.


So you can use it to build out your screens, to control facilities, to monitor things, to do alarms, give you different metrics on screen, all that kind of stuff. Right. But it can be that local premise. And this is kind of where we started. We started with really a focus on SCaDA systems and with alarming. You know, it was not just is somebody there on premise that can see the alarms, but if an alarm goes off and no one’s there to hear it, does it really make a sound? I don’t know. It also sends out notifications, email, text message, phone call, so that the right people can be notified at the right times so stuff can be handled. And then it’s a big reporting solution.


And so we have a reporting module so that you could not just have reports that somebody logs in and sees on screen, but once again sends the data to people where they are. So it could send out an email or save to a network, driver, printer, FTP server, whatever you want to do. Right. But the reports can be done ad hoc or they can be done on a schedule and that they can be generated from whatever your data source is. So it can connect up to all different kinds of data. It’s also mobile solutions. Right. So ignition is mobile, responsive. I talked about the project that was the room in the inn, right. And that they needed to be able to deploy on phones and tablets, and they were able to do so with ignition.


But we also have increasingly, we have people who have big facilities. Maybe they’ve got a campus with multiple buildings. We started having a lot of data centers that have multiple data centers. And as they walk around, the GPS on their device detects where they are and changes their screens automatically based on where they’re at or grants them control access based on what their geofence is, what they’re near. So I can’t control it if I wouldn’t be able to see it, that kind of stuff. On a tablet, we also see people who are leveraging the camera. So I walk up to a piece of equipment that’s got a QR code, and I scan the QR code and it automatically brings me up the details of that device.


And we’ve also seen a couple people start implementing stuff with the gyroscope that if the device drops or something like that, it sends alerts out to people. All kinds of interesting stuff that people are doing with it. Yeah, it’s been really cool to see ignition be on phones and tablets and to have a lot of help with that. One other thing with remote access, which we’ll talk about in the cloud session as well, about how to do remote access in a secure way. But being able to, when you get an alarm via text message, to then be able to pull out your phone or tablet and to be able to access a read only version of your application to really see what’s going on can be really impactful as well. We also talk about enterprise administration.


So it used to be, once again, we just started with one server at a plant. Now people have a whole enterprise running on ignition and they need to be able to manage that centrally. So ignition is also an administration tool to be able to see data from all your sites, manage all your sites, push updates out to all your sites, monitor the health of all your sites. Ignition is really helping people get visibility across their organization. It’s also an IIot platform. We’ve partnered with Cirrus Link. Sirislink is our strategic partner that makes the MQTT modules and also cloud connectors and things like that. And so we are able to move data using some really nifty things that are in the world today. And so ignition is not just for local control. Right.


But sending data into the it space and being able to have visibility into all of that. It really shines there too. We also have Sepasoft, they make mes modules. And right after this, I’m going to be talking about, well, after a break, you’ll get a break, but I’ll be talking about Sepisoft. They’re another one of our partners in our stack here, and they unfortunately weren’t able to make it here to South Africa. But when you get beyond just the real time status and control, but you actually want to run a plant and actually track production and see the results of that track efficiency and all that kind of stuff. It can be an MES solution for you. It’s a database solution.


You can have data in any SQL database, bring that into ignition and do some really interesting, meaningful stuff to transaction manager and all kinds of stuff here. For the sake of time, I’m going to skip through some of this can do protocol conversion, cloud injection. But the bottom line here is that ignition gives you all these tools that are unlimited, it’s not restricted. And then you can build whatever type of application that you need that’s going to benefit you on that platform. And maybe today you just need ScADA, but then tomorrow you need iiot to publish that data somewhere else. And then you need to add on the reporting solution, because now more people don’t want to log into this, but they want to see a daily report, right, of the totals of certain things. Right. You can add that on.


And so ignition can come and meet you where you’re at, but don’t expect to stay there. It’s gonna keep building for you. So what does an architecture look like? You know, this is kind of a standard architecture I talked about. We started with a single server for most people, right? And for those who have implemented ignition, how many people just have a single ignition server running a plant? One, two. Okay, so it’s already scaled out for a lot of people. But some of you start with this architecture, right, where you’ve got ignition and it’s connecting up to your plC’s, and then from there you’re historizing that data to a database to canary wherever it’s flowing. And then you have visualization clients and you want to add another user. Do I need to go and buy another license? No, it scales. It’s unlimited.


And this is good, but why would I ever, if it’s unlimited like you say, why would I ever buy more than one server? What would I do there? Well, you’d buy more than one server for a couple reasons. One is going to be for high availability, for redundancy. So you can see here the servers in orange, those are reflecting. Maybe I want to have two servers so that if one goes down, the other one can take over. The other reason is, well, now I’ve got two sites. I don’t want to run both sites off of one server, because what if I lose my connection to the other site? Suddenly that site is blind. And so then you might buy more than one server because you just have geographical restrictions.


And then the other reason why you might buy more than one server is if the system was so large that it didn’t make sense to run it on a single server, that it just starts to be. That you’re allocating more and more resources to your vm, or the single box is just churning through 10gb of memory every few seconds. And that’s just not a good idea. And so even though the software is unlimited and you could keep allocating resources and keep trying to tune it, at some point it makes more sense to break it up. And ignition allows you to break out back end servers, front end servers, scale the front end separately from the back end, all that kind of stuff. So it’s very flexible. I mentioned I was going to talk a little bit about digital transformation.


So digital transformation is not technology for technology’s sake. And it’s also not just covering up stuff with band aids of just stacking new technologies on top of old ones every time. But really what it is it’s a shift in your thinking of how you do business. And that’s why we talk about it. It’s not a product, it’s a way you’re thinking about things. And really it’s about, like I say, on the slide, identifying areas of improvement and then making improvements in an intentional, methodical and measurable way by leveraging modern technologies. And we kind of break that down into processes, people and programs. Three P’s, because we need to have everything have alliteration these days. But the digital transformation is really about your processes. And I talked about ignition is not out of box solution that you put in and then you conform to it.


But instead, ignition is something that you look at your existing processes and you can tie this into that so that it’s augmenting what you’re already doing and what makes you who you are, right? And digital transformation is the same thing. Look at your existing processes. How can they be improved? How can you iterate on them and become an even better version of yourself as your company, which then ties into people, because you can redefine a process. But if people aren’t going to follow that process, what are you doing? Part of digital transformation is getting that buy in from the people, which happens at an operations level, that happens at an it level, happens at an enterprise level, and everybody has to buy in on what you’re trying to do. Otherwise it’s going to fail, right?


Or maybe the project will be successful, but it won’t be maintained long term, or only a subset of the business is going to use it. And true digital. True digital transformation requires, for the whole organization to get on the same page. And then programs, you could call this tools or technology or whatever that you wanted to use. We use programs because I needed the p. But this is where now, after you’ve already established, what is the process that I’m trying to change? Who are the people that I’m trying to influence with this? Now you start looking at what the technologies and tools are, they’re going to help you achieve that. So many people do this backwards. They find a new technology and they’re like, how can I leverage that to fix my organization?


And if you’re doing that, you’re doing it wrong, because so many times it’s that example. Like I said earlier today, I need to get data to the cloud because I hear that’s cool. And so then they do that. And we’ve seen organizations have projects that have completed all of their requirements but were failures. And thats crazy, right? Like that means that there was a fault in the definition stage because you go and you define something, youre like, all right, were going to do this project. Were going to achieve something, and then you achieve it, and it doesnt actually drive any value. And don’t be those people. Don’t go and have projects that you achieve what you were looking to do, but that it doesn’t drive any value.


Focus on the processes and focus on the people first, and then let the technology be informed by those decisions. So a big part of this is still data, though. We have data, and we’re trying to make sense of the data. And people say I have a lot of data, and so I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know how to take action on it. Artificial intelligence is going to take care of that for me. Right, problem solved. I don’t need to worry about how to use my data. My computer is going to tell me what to do with my data. That ends up not panning out for the most part. And so instead with data, part of it is, we say, we talked about not just throwing data over the fence, but still it’s finding the right data out there.


And so much data is stranded out in the field. Still people have it in isolated systems, in data silos. And that doesn’t mean you have to remove the data silo. We talked about that it could still exist there, but it should also have a funnel out of that to come into a more centralized system. And also a big part of this is decoupling your infrastructure from your applications. So your data pipeline should be somewhat independent of the tools that you’re using, so that the tools can be swapped out as needed, but your data pipeline stays intact. And using open standards can really help you do that. For the sake of time, I’m going to go a little faster here. Essentially, people then take that data, and they want to leverage all these many tools to do something meaningful with that.


And the proposition looks simple. They look at all these tools in the cloud, and they’re like, oh, people are using all this cool stuff. But in reality, you’ve got a lot of problems to solve on the OT space before you can leverage the IT space, before you can do the cloud space. And that’s evidenced by the talk were talking about adding context to your data and all these kind of things where, like, you want to do machine learning, but you send up all this data, and it’s like, your address is N 1285 or something. Like, what does that mean? I have to go and add context to that data before it gets to the cloud, or it came up, and it’s like, oh, that value is a one. But really that means running or something like that.


How do I add descriptors to this data? Once we handle the OT side and get context to the data, get it in a structured format, then the cloud can start to leverage it. You can start to do interesting things with tools. There’s a bunch of stuff on here about OT versus it data, all the stuff that we need to do to make sure it’s ready for it to take advantage of these things. How you can use those it tools, we don’t have time to talk through all of them, but it really starts with making sure you’ve done your homework on the Ot side so that you can leverage the it side. And so ignition helps you fit all that together. And then you’ll get to some cool architectures like this, which we’ll talk about in the unified name space.


So this is my plug to come to that session, but we’ve just got a little less than five minutes left. I wanted to open it up for any questions about ignition or really about anything. We have gifts we forgot. So we have some really cool water bottles. We have funky socks. We love funky socks. We have some backpacks. So gotta love funky socks. We weren’t wearing funky socks myself. Not today. Not today. Okay, so, yeah, any questions? Knowing now that you might get something cool? Yeah. Okay. You get a pair of socks if it’s a good question, so it better be good. All right, let’s see what I can do at the moment. Ignition is built on jython, still running Python version 2.7. Sure. What is your plan to get out of that hole? We’re going to upgrade to jython 3.0.


And it’s not backwards compatible. And all of your scripts are not going to work anymore. No, it’s a tough problem. You can see why, because people are like, we want Python three. We want to be able to leverage all these things if we upgrade. And that was the only option. We’re not backwards compatible, which that’s one of the things people like about us, is that we’re backwards compatible. You can upgrade without fear of all your stuff breaking. And so do we want to upgrade to jython three as it comes out? Absolutely we do. But what we’re probably headed towards is a, what’s called a polyglot system, a multi language system, where essentially when you go to do a script inside ignition, you’ll have a little dropdown where you can select which language you want to write that script in.


And so that’s going to be really cool because that means when you upgrade by default, all of your scripts will still work because they’ll be selected as Jython 2.7. Right. And so it’ll still work. But then in that system you could also come in and choose Python three for a new script and write something there. And so will ignition ever get rid of Python 2.7? Probably not. It’ll always be a supported option. Now you could go and we’ll probably set up things so that for new systems you could disable it. You could disable which languages are available so that people can just leverage certain ones and try to standardize within their application.


Because we also think a polyglot system is a little bit dangerous, that now you could have different scripts that are all written in slightly different languages with slightly different syntax, and that gets hard to maintain. And so we think people will want to have standards and follow those standards, but we’re going to make sure that we give you tools so that you can leverage the new stuff without alienating the old stuff. Does that make sense? Yes, but also when we go to a polyglot system, we’re not restricting ourselves to jython. And so I think you’ll also see other interpreted languages there so that you could write in Kotlin or some other language as well. We don’t know which ones yet. We’ve been testing a lot right now because this is not a new question.


We get asked this question all the time and we want to make sure that whatever we choose is going to be the right answer because if we just like throw something in and people write a bunch of scripts in it and then we decide that was the wrong choice and we want to take it out once again, we have that backwards compatibility problem and so we’re not rushing into changing the scripting engine because we don’t want to leave you up a creek without a paddle. We don’t want to leave you stuck. Right. And so right now jython 2.7 continues to work. It continues to give people access to do scripting within ignition. But we recognize that there are some libraries and things like that people want to leverage and so we’re looking to solve that problem.


But like I said, we don’t want to rush into it because there’s too many ramifications if we choose the wrong thing. Is that funky socks or camelbak bottle? It was a great question. So which one do you want? He wants the funkiest one. That’s got to be socks. I’m out of time. Is there one last shorter question? Any other questions? Going once, going twice. I’m out of time. Thanks, everybody.

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