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Sensors Online: Is Linux Bringing Open Systems to the Factory Floor?

May 07, 2003, 11:00 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Peter Wurmsdobler)

[ Thanks to Pascal for this link. ]

"For some time now, Microsoft Windows has been the computing platform of choice for data acquisition, control, and networking systems based on the PC architecture. But little by little, the presence of Linux has grown in this arena. The big question is: Will Linux gain dominance on the factory floor because of the growing demand for nonproprietary systems? And is Linux bringing more open systems to this area. Before answering these questions, some terms have to be explained in more detail.

"First, the phrase open system means different things to different people. Market leaders and providers of vertical solutions call their systems open if they simply publish the underlying corporate technology. By doing so, you can use the technology, but its control remains with the originator. And sometimes the phrase is mistakenly applied to widely used technology, such as Microsoft's Win32 API. But Microsoft is the sole source of this interface, and it's under the company's control. So far, the industry has seen no concurrent implementation.

"As discussed here, the phrase open systems has a more precise meaning. They are component-based systems with vendor-independent interfaces. The interfaces aren't encumbered by ownership or patent protection. They're the result of consensus (e.g., IEC-61131 and XML) or the release of control of proprietary technology by the initiator (e.g., TCP/IP or Ethernet). Consequently, the end user is vendor independent and can choose from various interface implementations, which can evolve over time..."

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