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7 Posts authored by: richard Employee

The following is a repost of comments I made in a discussion "PI on Linux" in the LinkedIn Group "PI Professionals"


OSIsoft has evolved the PI System and greater Infrastructure across technologies and platforms since our earliest days of “PI” 30 years ago. From the humble beginning on HP to DEC/VMS to many flavors of UNIX and Windows NT/Server. All along we’ve made a commitment to paving a path that brings our customers, data and systems along – rarely leaving anyone behind.

Along these lines, we continue to explore emerging technologies and platforms. There are three areas in which we are making significant advances and evolving the PI System. First, we are embracing distributed computing (grid computing/high density computing) as a means to provide significantly greater performance and scale as well and opportunities for availability and durability. Second, we are embracing platform neutral technologies across the whole surface of the PI System. And lastly we are making a big push in our “integration” technologies. Allow me to expand on these.


In our research and engineering department, we are well underway in the process of developing our next generation technologies for distributed/grid computing (such as a distributed historian and historian as a service.) The results are very encouraging. (Unfortunately I am not at liberty to provide any more detail at this point, in other words don’t ask about features or dates.) I can say that this new server/service stack is committed to the Windows Server/Azure platform. Future deployments of the PI System whether on premises or in the “Cloud”, self-operated or as a service (SaaS) will take advantage of the features and strengths of the Microsoft Private/Public data center architectures. We are also deeply committed to both a solid evolution/migration strategy from our current offerings to our next gen as well as delivering a “Hybrid Infrastructure” model, allowing the PI System Infrastructure to span on premises and cloud as a logic whole. (We are also exploring the possibility of evolving the PI (3) System back to its roots in “Unix” – specifically Linux for stand-alone (machine oriented) and embedded environments – please contact me outside of this forum, email below, if you have specific use cases that would benefit and/or demand this.)


The surface of our system consists primarily of data ingress (interfaces/connectors), data egress (developer platform) and visualization (clients). Beginning in 2014 we are focusing our “interface” development on “PI Connectors” and our new data acquisition framework. This technology is primarily built on manage code (.NET) technology and has been built and tested on both Microsoft .NET and Mono. The open sourcing of .NET suggests that this was a good bet and should help us extend our PI Connector footprint across more devices and platforms. We are also researching a much lighter weight “contract” based ingress end point which will allow data acquisition from wearable devices and very light weight “smart” sensors. (Hopefully this will be available for experimentation at the Hackathon in SF 2015.) In both cases are goal is to reach any platform or device where meaningful “operations” data is available. 

For data egress we are focusing our data platform surface area again on platform and device neutral technologies. With the PI Web API release we establish the new “primary” development surface for the PI System. The PI Web API brings an HTTP(S)/REST based programming surface (including OData as a CTP/Beta) and support for claims based security. For relational access to the system, we continue to invest in ODBC/JDBC and significant improvements are in the pipeline for our SQL surface. While the managed code based, AF SDK, still continues to provide a solid/rich .NET based developer surface and is preferable is certain cases, our commitment to platform neutral technologies is critical for both our own efforts and clearly those of our entire ecosystem of customers, partners and developers. (Note that there are corresponding changes in developer platform licensing that together with our evolving technologies should create much less friction for developers and solution providers.)


Our visualization/client surface is being re-envisioned as Web Applications, Web Sites and Web Services designed for platform neutral use and consumption across a broad range of devices. This represents a complete embrace of HTML and Web technologies (and yes, rewriting the Silverlight/.NET and other Binary dependent code base.)

Integration is another significant area of development which focuses on integration with both computational and visual analytics as well as machine learning systems. The primary challenges with successful integration are effective extraction of “decision ready data” from the PI System and efficient transfer of potential huge amounts of data to target integration systems like Azure ML, Hadoop/HDInsight, SQL, HANA, etc.


As others have noted, while we are investing significantly in many platform neutral and open source technologies, we are strongly committed to the core Microsoft platforms and technologies. Our partnership with Microsoft creates significant value for our customers allowing OSIsoft to stay focused on building the best PI System possible and enabling the entire ecosystem from customers, partners, developers to shine.


-Richard Beeson CTO/CSA,

In the back rooms of OSIsoft (yes, we have those, shhh) we have been pounding out prototypes for cloud (hosted) based extensions to on premises PI Systems including prototypes of hosted PI Coresight and “Coresight-like” experiences for mobile devices (and yes, we are looking at your favorite devices, unless it happens to be running Symbian.) We also have some exciting prototypes of a new “enterprise” grade PI System Search Engine for improved search experiences - designed to run on premises or as a hosted service.


In itself this is all some really exciting work some of which we hope will see the light of day in 2012 (all the PM’s just fell over, you see, I really shouldn’t set expectations around features/products, especially with dates! So, standard disclaimer, none of this has even hit the engineering plan so there are no promises here. But come on, inquiring minds should at least know where we are heading…’nough said.) But, what has really hit home for us as we have pushed in this direction, is the need for an improved (possibly new) security model in our system. Since many users haven’t even been through the upgrade to 2011 to the significant security changes that represents I imagine there were just a few shutters and huh’s – but there are some clear changes and trends that PI needs to honour.


As the boundaries of a “PI System” expands across complex enterprise topologies and out to the cloud, the need for a more flexible access model is made very clear. All of this, without any compromise to the integrity of the system and data. The clear path forward is through “claims based” security models which allows administrative flexibility to enable cross domain/system identities secure access to PI System assets.


From the developer point of view, the claims based approach permits a single implementation where the security aspects such as authentication and authorization are abstracted out of the code. The specifics are implemented through configuration at the deployment and administration phases. Want to allow Facebook or Yahoo users to have read access to specific data in your system? Maybe that is a stretch for some, but how about allowing authorized users from other windows domains or by trusted authorization systems outside of the corporate boundary? This model potentially allows this as an administrative exercise, keeping your system secure, while providing data access from a mobile device which never has to tunnel or join a corporate network or domain. We expect that much of our customer’s future value will come from the way in which their corporate asset, data, is leveraged across corporate boundaries, with partners, with customers, with suppliers and with employees.


As always, anyone excited or interested in discussing these topics is welcome to contact me directly or comment on this blog.

Why is it that I do most of my writing in airports…statistics I guess…


As those who attend the UC may have noticed, we announced that we are taking a good long hard look at “Cloud” computing and how it plays with the roadmap of the PI System. I was fortunate to meet with a number of you to discuss your ideas and what is clear to me is that PI System hosted applications and services are a forgone conclusion. What isn’t so clear is what specific hosted applications and services customers are ready to accept as part of their information infrastructure.


To try and generate some clarity OSIsoft has formed both technical and business research teams to explore the real opportunities for value. These teams are hard at work exploring the technologies and business models in the “Cloud” space.


Since I am sitting in the “chair” I will share my views (and please, please note that this does not represent our company roadmap or indicate any commitments to deliver at this point.)


The PI System infrastructure must be extended to the cloud. The future to me looks like a continuum of applications and services spread from on-premises to hosted environments. A few will favor exclusively one or the other end, but most will find the greatest value in a hybrid model. For example, in the near term I can see the Directory Services (AF, etc.) hosted since it is relatively static data. I can also see applications like PI Coresight running in the cloud. While it is likely that Data Services stay close to home and close to the high volume of rapidly changing signal and streaming data sources. Of course, as is a mantra of the current system, data reliability, durability and availability will be a key to the value and success of these hybrid systems.


Another big opportunity with the cloud is the ability to make data available to mobile devices without having to allow them access to the corporate or even worse control networks. The security models afforded to this approach are encouraging us to finally explore mobile device applications.


Related to the mobile opportunity, a whole new generation of secure integration services will be spawned in the cloud. Imagine being able to securely share specific PI System information to authorized application vendors. Vendors can provide applications with rich PI System access without ever venturing to the corporate network. I am expecting a renaissance of new applications and services built on the PI System as the barriers to entry (security, deployment, TCO) are lowered.


One thing that became clear from a number of my conversations is that the greatest challenge to IT will be to enable high performance, high reliability networks for their users. As hardware resources, operating system maintenance and application management shift the cloud, IT will need to shift more of their energy to architecting and maintaining a solid infrastructure.


Those are a few of my thoughts. As always, I’d love to hear yours.

I used to be able to recite the venue and theme for every conference until about 5 years ago when some of them started to blur together. When I started the employee count was in the low teens. I had just moved back from Lund, Sweden where I had sought refuge after my undergraduate years in Berkeley…little did I know that 21 years later I’d still be here in the Bay Area, losing track of the details of my history – but hey, I’m a big picture guy and it is not lost on me that the big aspects of "Oil Systems, Inc.” that convinced me that here is where I belonged are still the same key aspects of OSIsoft, LLC, that keep me here, excited to wake up every day to work with amazing colleagues, inspiring customer and partners to continue creating and innovating software that makes a difference in the world. I was about to list these aspects, but they almost seem cliché, except that they are genuinely true. For example, why doesn’t OSIsoft, LLC put a premium on schedule for software releases – because that premium would be at odds with the premium we put on focusing all our effort on customers in resolving the inevitable problems that arise. I love that we are customer driven and technology driven – when it comes to our surface we are, well, a bit geeky…right? I love that. I love that I work with passionate and brilliant people – every day grinding through details of the day to day while floating in conceptual clouds imagining and creating the future - better ways to bring the value of the PI System to those who can use it to make a difference in there world.


Ok, love fest over…I’ll get technical next time. By the way, everyone I saw and didn’t see in San Francisco this year, I am completely inspired and motivated for another year…I hope you all are too…see you next year (if not sooner)!

As evidenced from my first post on the “product lifecycle”, it is a big topic, but today I want to focus on an aspect of that topic which is currently being discussed in engineering.


This year OSIsoft will be introducing some new products and many updates. As with many product releases and updates, there is significant interest from partners and customers to get ahold of early bits. From OSIsoft’s point of view, quality feedback on early bits is critical to scoping features and testing efforts and a successful product launch. Our traditional practice is to post CTP or Beta bits for download on vCampus or on the support site. There may be additional criterion which qualifies a partner or customer for access to these bits but ultimately the bits make it to there destination and they may be installed in a timely manner if at all. Then, feedback may come. We have always been fortunate that a few energetic individuals dive in and provide significant feedback on the whole experience – for their effort, they usually get to meaningful steer the product. This process is not “efficient” and the ideal of sending out multiple CTP’s over a short period of time is daunting to everyone. But the potential value cannot be underestimated…


So, how can we maximize the overall value?


As hopefully everyone is aware, managed PI (mPI) now uses a technology (PI Agent…name will change) to securely connect on premise systems with the OSIsoft Network Operating Center (NOC). This channel allows us to gather PI System health and performance data (currently only available to EA customers). It also allows us to update the agent itself. Another feature which is not currently is use is the ability to distribute bits and potentially install/upgrade and configure those bits. In addition, these “applications” can send usage logs such as installation logs, feature usage, failure logs and other critical telemetry which would give our developers an intimate picture of how their product is being used and how it is behaving.


Now, what we are considering is using the mPI secure connect channel as the only vehicle to obtain CTP and Beta bits. It would work like this…if you want to participate in a CTP/Beta, you would have to download and register a PI Agent on the test machine. If you are already an mPI customer you may choose to join your current secure connection or configure a parallel channel for this purpose. When OSIsoft drops new bits, they will automatically be installed on your test system. Initially we are not considering any workflow on your side beyond sending an email a day or so before the event – clearly you will want a non product system for this. Through this approach, we will get comprehensive telemetry about our products without your direct feedback. Of course, there will be feedback we want from you which cannot be so easily instrumented – in particular the end user experience – like feelings (yes, OSI software engineers care about your feelings).


Of course we would like to make this available for Release products as well which we intend to do, but we also realize that we will need to provide legacy product distribution mechanisms (read pull technology or even DVD) for a while. We also realize that for Released products we need to provide strict workflow so that you have control over what and when things happen.


As with all of my posts, I encourage…okay, maybe even crave your feedback and thoughts on these topics. (If you have thoughts that you don’t want to share in public, please send me a direct communication.)


So…is this too “big brother”? Do the hundreds of existing deployments of our secure channel agent make this less daunting? Are you thinking…”about time”? What if the only way for vCampus users to get bits was through this mechanism?

When I discuss the “PI System Installation Experience” I am considering the entire product lifecycle experience immediately after purchase through software acquisition, installation, upgrade and maintenance. I am also considering only the “on premise” software model – PI System Software installed on “machines” that *you* manage.


I will start with a hypothesis which I will not spend time defending: “the PI System product lifecycle experience can be improved.”


So what would be the “ideal” experience? Based on customer feedback, industry trends and our own experience in customer services, we have some ideas and some early development is underway.


Let’s first break the “ideal” experience down. What are we really trying accomplish? And I am assuming you are not looking to become a professional PI System installer! I assume that getting value out of PI is paramount, and that like the screen in a movie theater, you just don’t want to notice it while you are watching the movie.


So here’s what I am hearing:


1) You want to know what software is available, specifically, what is licensed to your company and even what is available but not currently licenced.


2) You want to know what software you have installed, and where. In other words, you want to know your current software inventory and usage.


3) You want to know what upgrades are available for any system in your inventory and whether a target machine has the appropriate dependencies (OS, frameworks, etc.) for success.


4) You want to be able to control the download, installation and upgrade of your PI System software.


5) You want the entire experience to be secure, reliable and traceable.


6) You don’t want to have to be an expert at understanding how OSIsoft bundles software, what the dependencies are, whether a target system is appropriate for an upgrade. In other words, you want to think about the software in your terms, what you want to accomplish – not necessarily the way that OSIsoft thinks about its bits.


7) You want to know if the software in properly installed, properly configured and properly operating. You want to know if your system is healthy.


8) You want a single, consistent experience for managing the software lifecycle whether you are a vCampus developer, end user administrator, OSIsoft Field Service, mPI customer, demo user or any other kind of user who will be in some way involved in successfully managing the PI System .


In my next entry, I will begin to discuss how we are thinking about addressing each of these needs (dare I say…requirements.) But here is your chance to make sure that I am “hearing” all of the needs associated with this problem...that we are answering the right questions and that we have properly defined the scope and requirements of this experience. Let me know if you have anything to add and I will be do my best to address it.


An Introduction

Posted by richard Employee Dec 14, 2010

I have been deliberating starting this blog for over a year (where has the time gone?) There are many exciting and relevant topics which cross my desk (or my mind) every day which impact our product and business direction. My goal is to use this forum to share my thoughts on many of these topics, current or at least interesting issues related to our product architecture. The nice thing about that goal is that “product architecture” pretty much means “everything” – how’s that for license – though maybe not poetic.


For those who don’t know me, I have been with Oil Systems Incorporated, oh…I mean OSISoftware, Inc.,…wait, OSIsoft, Inc…no, I’ll get this right…OSIsoft, LLC. for almost 21 years. I was fortunate enough to have returned from living in Lund, Sweden just in time to settle in at 545 Estudillo Ave. (the origin of port 5450) before our very first User’s Conference in 1990. Since then I have been privileged to work with some amazing people and wonderful customers and partners in various capacities as part of our software engineering department.


Today I serve as one of four “Directors of Engineering” (which make up our Engineering Leadership Team, ELT) where I act as our Lead Architect look across the entire product line and various cross cutting aspects like Security, Quality, Localization, Documentation, Conceptual Integrity, Managed Services, Setup/Installation and anything else that comes up that spans the main product areas (Servers, Clients, Interfaces and Data Access, Services).


I am also spending time on our Technical Steering Committee. This group which I once chaired, consists of members from a cross section of departments (Sales, Marketing, Customer Services, Engineering) who together look at the long term product vision and direction and annually produce an updated Product Development Roadmap. As much fun as that is, I will soon be stepping away from this committee to lead up some next generation research and development which I will start writing about sometime in January or February as soon as I have cleared things with legal…you know how that goes.


So that’s me and what this blog is about. I am very interested in everything from low level bit twiddling to philosophy of information sciences to management theory to theories and applications of machine intelligence. I read constantly and I will probably share relevant references as they come up. Clearly I am also passionate about the PI System, our users and partners and how to make products that delight those who use them.


While this is “my blog”, I encourage a dia(b)log. I hope to hear from you with any topics you might like to see me cover or to just share any thoughts or experiences this inspires. Since this is a permission based forum I can be fairly liberal is what I share and express (anything that doesn’t require NDA that is.) In my next post I will take on the topic of the PI System Installation Experience.

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