Utilities can better manage expenses by selecting server-centric SCADA systems rather than license-based systems.
Most legacy supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems are license-based, meaning companies purchase individual licenses for each client and project. These licenses can easily add up in expenses or limit the number of projects a utility can take on. By selecting a server-centric SCADA system, rather than a license-based system, utilities can better manage expenses while still allowing for flexibility and growth.
“You license it by a gateway or a single project server installation, and then everybody on the network who needs to have access to that data watches it [by] clicking like you would on a website, and launching the application,” said Dee Brown, principal at Brown Engineers in Little Rock, Arkansas.
A server-centric system, such as Inductive Automation’s Ignition software, provides unlimited client access and connections so that each member of the team can view relevant data and analytics, as well as unlimited project tags at no additional cost. With unlimited licensing, utilities have unlimited scalability and modular configurability, and the ability to customize their systems to fit their needs as they expand and/or take on more projects.
“The unlimited licensing was definitely an attraction of mine and what led to us doing as much as we did,” said Jason Hamlin, former head of operations and technology at the wastewater treatment plant in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Lynchburg began using Ignition to simply control the plant’s dewatering system, and eventually expanded its use of the software to monitor, control and capture data in its main plant, create a database front-end for plant data collection, monitor and control remote sites, and create a public notification system for CSO events.
“What people glance over is the unlimited projects. When I left, I think we maxed out about 10 or 12 different projects going at the same time and there were never any additional licensing costs to do that,” Hamlin said.
Henry Palechek, instrumentation and control systems supervisor at a water district in California, said while costs quickly add up with legacy SCADA software, a system with unlimited licensing can result in significant cost savings. The California water district initially deployed Ignition as a data historian in 2007. Presently, it uses the software to oversee the control of conventional water treatment and control water in the distribution system for five communities and three neighboring water districts.
“With the legacy SCADA software, I would be buying a development computer, one or two communications servers, and a client for each desktop or workstation where an operator might be. Each one of those would be a license file, varying in cost anywhere from $1,000 to $13,000,” Palechek said. “With the Ignition software you have either a standalone server or a redundant pair and it serves the client setup. There’s no SCADA software to install. You just point it to the server and it comes across.”