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Industrial Control via Application Containers:Maintaining determinism in IAAS

by   Florian Hofer, et al.
Free University of Bozen-Bolzano

Industry 4.0 is changing fundamentally data collection, its storage and analysis in industrial processes, enabling novel application such as flexible manufacturing of highly customized products. Real-time control of these processes, however, has not yet realized its full potential in using the collected data to drive further development. Indeed, typical industrial control systems are tailored to the plant they need to control, making reuse and adaptation a challenge. In the past, the need to solve plant specific problems overshadowed the benefits of physically isolating a control system from its plant. We believe that modern virtualization techniques, specifically application containers, present a unique opportunity to decouple control from plants. This separation permits us to fully realize the potential for highly distributed, and transferable industrial processes even with real-time constraints arising from time-critical sub-processes. In this paper, we explore the challenges and opportunities of shifting industrial control software from dedicated hardware to bare-metal servers or (edge) cloud computing platforms using off-the-shelf technology. We present a migration architecture and show, using a specifically developed orchestration tool, that containerized applications can run on shared resources without compromising scheduled execution within given time constraints. Through latency and computational performance experiments we explore limits of three system setups and summarize lessons learned.


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