Nick Denbow, in the October issue of Industrial Automation and Process Control Insider shares his thoughts on the news from Invensuys during the past month.
Invensys buys InduSoft – for OEM/machine business
Invensys pulled off a surprise acquisition this month with an agreed takeover of InduSoft. Based in Austin, Texas, InduSoft is a manufacturer and supplier of HMI/ SCADA systems particularly focused on OEM and machine building markets – the main point made by the Invensys official release, which quoted the InduSoft users as “primarily industrial computer manufacturers and machine and system builders, who embed InduSoft software into their products”. Ravi Gopinath, president of the Invensys software business, said “InduSoft strengthens and broadens our leading software solutions portfolio, particularly in the embedded HMI segment, and provides a continuing driver for growth”.
Indusoft poised to expand
For privately owned InduSoft the approach from Invensys – it was not by any means the first such approach in their long relationship – came at the right time. With 90+ employees, no debt, and significant R&D spend, the next step to be made in their geographical business expansion is to move outside their established bases in the USA, Brazil and Germany, and needs much more resource. Invensys can provide the resource, and has an established distribution network: they also have worked with InduSoft before, since the two firms co-operated to enable Invensys to develop InTouch CE, based on InduSoft technology. Marcia Gadbois, president of InduSoft, commented that the deal would bring “end-to-end HMI, SCADA and MES solution to our customers”, adding historian and advanced applications such as MES software and solutions.
● Post haste: In their enthusiasm to tell their customers the news of the acquisition by Invensys, the InduSoft newsletter email announcing the deal arrived in the INSIDER inbox in the middle of the night UK time on 24 September, when the announcement was officially embargoed until the Tuesday morning US time, ie 1400 hours UK time. After a little surprise from both camps in Europe, the deal was confirmed, but with the time advantage helping the INSIDER, compared to USA based websites, publication of the news led to the best day ever for hits on the INSIDER blog, with 250 readers of that story in one morning!
Mike Bradshaw, vp of European sales at InduSoft for the last two years, is wanting to grow their presence in the UK and Europe, building on the OEM technical support and order processing base in Germany. He says he has found the company an exciting place to work, and anticipates that it will continue as an independent business within the Invensys software business group, with continued development – particularly for example in terms of the Wonderware interface. InduSoft already offer a gateway that allows an interface to Wonderware – a fact slightly embellished in the press release:
They already have been able to do that, but the real point for Invensys is, as Norm Thorlakson, vp of HMI and supervisory software at Invensys commented: “InduSoft technology quickly makes us more competitive and gives us immediate entry to new customers and a stronger OEM sales channel, with a focus on machine builders and embedded systems”.
Bradshaw confirms the view that InduSoft will add horizontal reach to the Wonderware offering, into the InduSoft OEM and machinery customers, particularly for smaller systems. Bradshaw should know – he worked for Wonderware previously. Founded in 1997, InduSoft has delivered more than a total of 250,000 HMI software licenses to be embedded in the products of more than 700 customers worldwide.
Users hear of continued Invensys R&D investment
The InduSoft acquisition announcement was timed to be made in the opening session of the September Invensys User Conference in San Antonio, Texas, as another fact demonstrating their continued development activity and investment in the business, under the (imminent) Schneider Group banner. Possibly some unscrupulous competitors have suggested that this would no longer be the case!
In another major product announcement, Mike Caliel released the Foxboro Evo next generation DCS and safety system, the development promised in an interview with London based analysts last May (INSIDER June, page 4). At the time, Wayne Edmunds (ceo of Invensys Group) stressed the “far more flattering cost profile” of the new unit, but not surprisingly this was not a major feature in Mike Caliel’s presentation to the users..
Foxboro Evo launch
Caliel said the Foxboro Evo offers a high- speed, fault tolerant and cyber secure hardware platform, integrating the capabilities of the Triconex safety system. The name Evo applies because the product is an evolution of the proven I/A series DCS/Process Automation System introduced in the 1980s, and also because it is structured so that as companies/ users themselves evolve, the system can also grow.
In a recent presentation in London, Mike Teller, md for Invensys Systems for northern Europe and Africa, explained that the coupling of control and safety at the heart of the Evo enables state-of-the- art cyber security throughout the PAS structure. Current Foxboro I/A Series DCS users can migrate to the Foxboro Evo system with little or no downtime: users of competitor’s automation systems can also migrate to the Evo, using the existing wiring terminations. Michael McKenzie, distributed control systems specialist for BP in Brisbane, Australia, had faced this issue. “We needed to upgrade the vast majority of our DCS, but like most sites, we didn’t have the luxury of a site-wide shutdown to make a full change possible. We were facing a substantial obsolescence issue, which we had ranked as a significant risk to on-going operations, so we needed a solution that would allow us to upgrade components as we needed them, without sacrificing functionality or usability for operators. The new Invensys system allowed for a much easier upgrade of all components.”
In the Invensys London presentation, Jay Abdallah, senior lead engineer at Invensys EMEA Cyber Security Services based in Dubai, explained some of the aspects and background to his work. The scene has changed radically since 2010, with SCADA and ICS cyber-espionage and malware vulnerabilities and attacks becoming far more numerous than any other. Power companies are targeted by approx. 10,000 cyber-attacks per month. The hackers who target proprietary ICS, PLC or SCADA systems use typically specific knowledge of a platform they are to attack – often by being, or using, and ex-employee (who might bear a grudge of some form). Abdallah discussed the Shamoon virus, discovered in August 2012, which did not reach through to the actual plant operating systems, but destroyed around 42,000 office based computer systems in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The reaction in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can be more positive than in the democratic west: the King issued a directive that everyone had 2 months to install a DMZ, and that Windows 2003 and Microsoft XP would no longer be used.
Reinforcing the message
The main message from Abdallah was that “Creating and Maintaining a Cyber Security plan is absolutely critical”. In Europe, the impression is that industrial managers treat EU legislation as irrelevant: but a study by Tripwire (a provider of risk- based security and compliance management solutions) and the Ponemon Institute (dedicated to advancing responsible information and privacy/data protection management practices in business and government) discusses a new EU Directive on cyber security. This states that organizations that do not have “suitable” IT security in place to protect their digital assets will face extremely heavy fiscal penalties: ie fines, “of up to 2% of their annual global turnover”. Mind bendingly large. The survey found that 28% of organizations do not have a security strategy, and only 5% have an up-to-date risk-based security management programme.
The problem was then illustrated by the security breach at the Adobe Systems HQ, where encrypted customer credit card data and Adobe passwords were removed from their system. This is the sort of breach the EU Directive is aimed to prevent, by requiring proper security.
|• No corporate combination stand for Schneider/Invensys this year at Offshore Europe (OE13) –
we have that to look forward to in two years. For the moment the Schneider space looked a little unloved and bare, although they were showing the fairly topical subsea power distribution systems.