To bring ‘virtualisation’ capabilities to the manufacturing environment, Rockwell Automation is supporting the use of its automation software with virtualisation solutions from Silicon Valley-based VMware. Via a unique partitioning of computer resources, virtualisation helps manufacturers build an infrastructure that better leverages resources, and delivers high availability. Rockwell Automation will also participate in the VMware Ready program, with plans to validate its Rockwell Software configuration, human interface and information products.
Virtualisation fundamentally changes the way hardware resources are used. It works by inserting a thin layer of software called a ‘hypervisor’ directly on the computer hardware, or on a host operating system. This layer contains virtual machines that can be transparently allocated to hardware resources when and where they are needed. Multiple operating systems run concurrently in isolated virtual machines on a single physical computer and share hardware resources with each other.
Today’s x86 computer hardware is designed to run a single operating system environment. This 1:1 ratio results in most workstations being vastly under-utilised committing financial resources to purchase, operate and maintain more CPUs than are necessary, wasting valuable floor space, increasing energy consumption, and tying up spending capital.
By encapsulating an entire machine, including CPU, memory, operating system and network devices, a virtual machine is completely compatible with all standard x86 operating systems, applications and device drivers. Virtual machines can be run on any virtualisation-enabled physical server, creating a pool of computer resources that helps ensure the end-user’s highest-priority applications will always have the resources they need without wasting money on excess hardware only needed for peak times.
Virtualisation technology also simplifies the distribution of bundled offers, such as the Rockwell Automation PlantPAx Process Automation System, and extends the life of software. Rather than upgrading software every two to three years or testing ‘old’ Windows versions, virtualisation technology helps enable end-users to run the same software on a particular PC or operating system for more than 10 years.