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HPE factory platform brings stability and agility

Steve Rogerson
October 5, 2017

At this week’s IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced a platform that simplifies application deployment in manufacturing plants and unifies the operation of legacy and smart-factory applications.
Called Express App Platform Manufacturing, it is an on-premises system that is integrated with cloud aggregator Cloud 28+ and allows manufacturers to accelerate digital factory transformation while avoiding disruption of their operation.
“They want agility but they also want stable manufacturing,” said Colin l’Anson (pictured), an HPE fellow. “Stability is good but customer expectations are changing and they know they have to change to meet this. They want to have the stability but become agile at the same time.”
This platform, he said, let directors of engineering put new applications into their factories to give them that agility.
Benefits from digitising manufacturing processes include operational savings, improved flexibility and more revenue streams, but traditional applications such as manufacturing execution systems are often complex and difficult to modernise. Conversely, applications hosted in the cloud can drive digital innovation, but also lead to data protection, cost and latency issues.
By hosting both old and new applications on one platform in the factory premises, Express App Platform Manufacturing eases the transformation and reduces the need for separate hosting of legacy and bespoke applications.
A key aspect of the system was that it let the factory engineering managers work with their IT departments rather than against them.
“IT people don’t like them using the public cloud because that is something they can’t control,” said l’Anson. “We host this on Cloud 28+ and it works with existing legacy systems.”
Users can deploy applications from the Cloud 28+ catalogue with six clicks via a seamlessly automated process. Based on the HPE SimpliVity 380 hyper-converged infrastructure, the platform has an intelligent agent that securely downloads selected applications from the catalogue and leverages Docker container technology managed by Kubernetes to deploy the application automatically in the platform environment on the factory floor.
HPE has 75 apps that are ready to be deployed. “These are ready to install,” said l’Anson. “And this number is growing.”
HPE OneView infrastructure automation software automates the provisioning and management of the required compute, storage and fabric resources. During operation, built-in backup and disaster recovery ensures data integrity and availability.

Manufacturing is optimised to host applications that support a factory and its productions lines, including manufacturing operations management applications such as manufacturing execution systems or advanced planning and scheduling, as well as IoT applications.

Running those applications directly on the factory floor lets manufacturers better integrate operations management with machine control systems to leverage IoT sensor-data intelligence for agile automation of production processes.

Express App Platform Manufacturing can be used with HPE Edgeline IoT systems that provide real-time sensor data acquisition, analytics and control, operated close to the production lines to deliver faster insights and agility.

Services organisation HPE Pointnext offers a set of advisory, professional and operational services for the platform, including:

  • Factory deployment service: helps users plan, architect, deploy and integrate the Express App Platform environment;
  • Edge applications configuration and integration service: helps users integrate applications running on the Express App Platform with enterprise applications and machine control systems; and
  • Flexible capacity: offers an on-demand capacity and a pay-as-you-go consumption model, giving users the ability to scale up and scale down capacity as needed and to pay only pay for what they consume, providing cloud speed and economics on premises, at or below the cost of public clouds.

HPE deployed the system in its data centre in geneva in June to beta test it, and l'Anson said this brought out one small security flaw that required a tweak before it was deployed to its customers.

"We are talking with a number of potential customers at the moment." he said.

As to the future, l'Anson said there might be versions for other industries, but was a little cagey.

"With Express App Platform Manufacturing, the 'Manufacturing' may turn into something else in the future, but no promises," he said.