Future-Proofing Industrial Equipment with Workload Consolidation

By Brandon Lewis, Embedded Technology Industry Analyst

Industrial organizations are facing a dilemma: Innovation is moving at an ever-faster pace, but industrial equipment has lifecycles measured in years or even decades. How can businesses ensure that today’s investments will support tomorrow’s technologies?

Workload consolidation has emerged as a strategic solution to this question. By migrating disparate specialized systems onto a single standards-based platform, industrial organizations gain a powerful tool for future-proofing their operations.

Intel®, TenAsys®, industrial PC suppliers like Kontron, and the middleware ecosystem are partnering to assemble workload consolidation building blocks that allow industrial organizations to capitalize on the benefits of workload consolidation today. Together, they are developing a unique value proposition that enables support for both real-time and non-real-time workloads on the same hardware platform, which opens a world of technical and business possibilities for next-generation manufacturing organizations.

“Guaranteeing real-time determinism is one of the hardest challenges in system consolidation,” says Kim Hartman, VP of Marketing at TenAsys. “We were the first to reach this landmark, and we continue to push the boundaries of innovation through our partnership with Intel.”

Preserving Legacy Investments

Intel® Virtualization Technology is one of the key enablers of this approach. This technology abstracts away underlying hardware complexities, which “allows legacy applications to run seamlessly on modern hardware,” explains Ricky Watts, Senior Director of Industrial Solutions for the Federal and Industrial Business at Intel. “This effectively extends their lifespans and preserves the value of existing intellectual property.”

TenAsys integrates this technology to provide a turnkey solution. “We’ve used our INtime(r) real-time operating system to build a platform that streamlines the process,” says Hartman. “Our mission is to simplify IP migration, minimize the costs, and ensure that newly consolidated systems maintain extensibility for the future.”

Contrast this to traditional IP migration approaches, which often require significant code modifications or complete rewrites when migrating applications to new hardware platforms. By avoiding this step, workload consolidation ensures that IP can be reused without ongoing expenditures.

Enabling Granular Upgrades

When it comes time to update a system, workload consolidation offers another advantage: granular software modification. Traditionally, industrial equipment could only be updated by taking the entire system offline, leading to potential production disruptions. Today, virtualized environments allow individual software components to be updated in isolation, without impacting the entire system.

By updating components individually, businesses can minimize downtime and ensure operational continuity. Granular upgrades also simplify the scheduling of maintenance, making it easier to roll out updates and patches quickly. The end result? Businesses can adapt to changing requirements and technological advancements at their own pace.

Streamlining Development: A Unified Platform for Efficiency

Workload consolidation also simplifies the development process. Traditionally, each industrial system might have its own development environments and toolchains. This fragmented approach can lead to inefficiencies, increased complexity, and potential errors.

By bringing workloads together on a unified platform, developers can rely on a single set of tools. This allows them to focus on delivering value-added features and facilitates collaboration and knowledge sharing among team members. The result is a faster time-to-market and a competitive edge in delivering meaningful innovation.

“At TenAsys, we’ve made it a priority to support diverse workloads and real-time operating system requirements in our toolsets,” says Hartman. “This allows our platform to accommodate the needs of various development projects, simplifying complex scenarios, and enhancing developer efficiency.”

Unlocking New Service Opportunities

Bringing multiple systems onto a single platform also opens doors to a wide range of service offerings. The streamlined development and management that comes with workload consolidation enables equipment manufacturers and service providers to deliver a more integrated and valuable package to their customers. For example, OEMs and ODMs can now offer comprehensive solutions encompassing various aspects of the software lifecycle, from initial development to deployment and ongoing maintenance.

The potential for these services is enhanced by the collaboration between TenAsys and Intel with partners like Kontron, Real Time Systems, and Stratton. Together, TenAsys and Intel have created an ecosystem that ensures businesses have access to the necessary expertise and resources throughout the development and deployment process.

“We’re building what you would regard as a digitalization; We’re collectively working together to create a SKU or a way it’s going to be done,” Watts explains. “So we validate and test it with the applications on this piece of software, in this piece of hardware, and that’s how you’re going to get it.”

“But we’re doing it in a way that reduces a lot of the risks because Kontron will stand behind that and say, ‘If you run it in this configuration, we’ve tested it and validated it, and you can go off and run your applications and services,’” Watts adds. “It’s a transition to what I would call more plug-and-play architecture.”

Embracing the Future with Confidence

In the rapidly evolving technological landscape, workload consolidation empowers businesses to embrace change with confidence, ensuring the longevity and adaptability of their systems. By adopting this strategic approach, businesses can not only preserve their valuable investments but also unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation in the industrial and embedded systems domain.


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