The virtualization of computer systems has gained a hold in process automation. Distributed control system manufacturers, integrators, plant builders, and end users increasingly recognize the untapped potential of technology. Virtualization promises to consolidate computer systems by means of only a few centralized systems and to save costs for hardware purchases and software administration.
As early as 2007, Pepperl+Fuchs launched the first “thin client” solution for explosion hazardous areas with its VisuNet remote monitors (RM). Ever since this milestone, we have been pushing the development of thin operator stations for the specific needs of the process industry.
With the new “VisuNet RM Shell 4.0”, the next software generation of the VisuNet remote monitors is introduced. This new generation emphasizes a maximum level of user-friendliness and compatibility with different virtualized process control systems.
VisuNet RM Shell 4.0 supports the latest versions of all common remote protocol systems (Microsoft RDP, Emerson DRDC, VNC) and allows a direct connection to virtualized and non-virtualized process control systems – without the need for an additional thin client within the explosion hazardous area. The process control systems can be used with full functionality while integration is simplified. All that is needed to quickly establish a direct connection to the distributed control system is the IP address of the existing system.
During this process, VisuNet RM Shell 4.0 proves itself with its spot-on, tailored, reduced user interface (the “shell”), displaying only the information and menus to users that are relevant to successfully establish the host connection. To further increase usability, the design of the user interface stays the same for all remote protocols and maintains its familiar “look and feel”. Additionally, the software has been optimized for data input via a touchscreen.
System security played a crucial role in the development of VisuNet RM Shell 4.0. A built-in firewall and the option to deactivate USB ports for memory sticks significantly reduce the risk of virus or malware infections. VisuNet RM Shell 4.0 also uses mechanics that deny unwanted local saving of data.
An optional, safeguarded web browser limits online access to only websites with customer approval. This web browser enables interaction with applications on plant management level (e.g. Manufacturing Execution Systems), while at the same time providing reliable protection against cyber-attacks and visits to unauthorized pages.
Important additional features ensure process security with the same rigorous approach. Due to their auto-connect function, the VisuNet remote monitors equipped with RM Shell 4.0 can be configured to automatically establish connection to a designated host system. Temporarily interrupted connections are automatically reestablished or connections to predefined backup hosts are built. Network faults or host server failures are handled easily and without any further intervention from the user.
The VisuNet RM Shell 4.0 ensures a secure and reliable representation of process control system information in the field.