System Platform 2017 (Omni) Thoughts

This has to be the biggest overhaul System Platform has seen in some time, and there is some awesome new stuff there.  Lets take a look at the major new features.

Wizard based object templates

This is the thing I am most excited about.  I have long wanted an equivalent of 'Interfaces' in a programming language in ArchestrA, and with the addition of 'choices' to the templating system in Omni this allows us to do basically the same thing.  I have been able to reduce the large amount of template sprawl that was occurring in 2014R2SP1 and previous and also reduce the memory footprint of objects by not having unused attributes present.  Of course there is some learning to do with this, but I found it all very natural and didn't need to consult the manual at all.

New ViewApp container

This looks like it is going in the right direction.  Flexible layouts, pan and zoom, resolution independence and lots of other good stuff.  I have only had a brief play with it, but it certainly looks like a good start although it has a long way to go before it will be ready for use in a complex production environment.

Historian security improvements

Lots of work done here to make sure that the sql accounts created for historian are no longer using default passwords, and the unnecessary creation of accounts is no longer.  Might seem like an unimportant detail, but I think it's great as it saves a lot of hassle afterwards if you are security conscious.

Preserve runtime changes

This is a super handy feature that allows the runtime changes to be preserved when deploying changes.  It means that you don't have to go through the hassle of writing values out to disk, or remembering to do an 'upload runtime changes' before doing a redeploy.

The Bad

Unfortunately there is some bad news as well.
The new graphics container does not look to me like it will be ready for production, except for the simplest of installations.

  • .NET controls do not work in the current build, and from what I've seen there isn't much priority going into fixing this.  This alone makes the new ViewApp container useless to many.
  • The new Apps (basically a turbo charged .Net control) only work in isolation.  You can't script them, and can't make them interact with anything unless it was part of the controls design.  This too is a deal breaker for many.
  • You can no longer have a modeless popup.  They have crudely sacrificed this function to show graphics in the new ViewApp container instead of creating a new animation for this purpose.
  • UPDATE: It turns out modal popup graphics don't link the symbol wizard options properly either just as they don't work in InTouch!
  • Changes made to linked graphics in templates do not propagate down to existing graphics.  You must reinsert these graphics for them to display correctly.
  • The map app does not support custom tile layers.  Allegedly base layers are supported but I couldn't get it to work.  Custom tile overlay layers are not supported, which is a major oversight in my opinion.

More bad news, is that you can't practically use the new object based templates with InTouch either, because any graphic associated with one of these object will not display correctly if it is directly embedded in InTouch, or shown as a popup.  They only show correctly when shown as a non popup graphic embedded in a parent symbol.  Wonderware have confirmed that this behaviour will not be fixed until a later release of System Platform.

Conclusion

I am sadly forced to conclude, that I will be unable to take advantage of any of the major new features in this release - the view app container isn't up to scratch yet, and the new wizard based objects do not show correctly in InTouch.  At least I can design all my new templates so that they will be ready to go when the time comes that I will be able to use them.

| February 21st, 2017 | Posted in SCADA |

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