Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
EMAIL INTERVIEW Roy Kok & Ken Sinclair
VP Sales and Marketing
Kepware Technologies, the leading supplier of communications for automation, is located in Portland Maine and delivers its products to the marketplace through Direct, OEM and Channel relationships.
Previously, Roy managed Product Marketing and Product Management of GE Fanuc’s HMI/SCADA solutions, primarily CIMPLICITY and iFIX HMI/SCADA products and associated communication drivers. Prior to GE Fanuc, Roy held key positions with notable automation industry companies including Intellution, VenturCom, Sytech, Nematron, Intec Controls, and Kaye Instruments. As of 2007, Roy has over 30 years of experience in the automation industry. Roy has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University in Boston Massachusetts.
Clean Interface to all Information
Our Building Automation Suite delivers a number of protocols today, starting with BACnet as our lead protocol and also delivering several Modbus protocols.
Sinclair: I just received your latest press release highlighting your KEPServerEX Version 5 – sounds pretty interesting and I would like to ask you some questions about it, but first, can you give our readers a brief overview?
Kok: Sure Ken, I’d be happy to. Simply, Kepware is a communications company, offering customers, both end users and OEMs, the ability to purchase or license our products for integration with their applications. We’ve been doing this since 1996 and today, we’re delivering over 100,000 drivers a year through our OEM relationships, channel partners and end user sales. I believe we are the largest dedicated communications company, at close to 50 people, and we’re headquartered in Portland Maine. We sell a very wide range of protocols, covering general purpose manufacturing to those needed in vertical markets. We have two new vertical suites that will be of specific interest to your readers, the IT and Infrastructure Suite and the Building Automation Suite.
Sinclair: You mention OEMs – can you expand on that?
Kok: The OEM term is applied many different ways, and our business model supports them all. We have OEMs that deliver us along with their automation software solutions – Wonderware, Rockwell Automation, Iconics, GE Fanuc, to name a few. Our partner list is extensive as you can see here - http://www.kepware.com/Partners/Connected_Affiliates.html . We also have OEMs that manufacture Building Automation products and they often resell or recommend our products for connectivity. We are also heavily involved with System Integrators, not really OEMs, but often the supplier of solutions to end users.
Sinclair: What makes your product stand out from others?
Kok: The architecture is the real benefit to our technology. Our communications Server, is a single application that is the host for our various protocols. All drivers offer a consistent interface for setup, operation and troubleshooting. Software applications that need information will only have to manage one interface, via either vendor specific interfaces or industry standards like OPC or OPC-UA. This architecture is quite unique in the industry and is the reason we have been so successful with OEMs. In addition, the server supports an OPC Client interface, enabling it to act as a gateway from other OPC Servers, through KEPServerEX, to the automation client. Again, the benefit to customers is one clean interface to all information.
Sinclair: What is the significance of the new release – version 5?
Kok: KEPServerEX Version 5 is the result of two years of engineering, enhancing our architecture to be a platform we can build on and support for the years to come. It delivers application compatibility with our earlier 4x product, so customers should have no concerns about upgrading. However, it also delivers the new functionality required to achieve logo compliance on Microsoft’s latest operating systems, Windows Vista and 2008. We split the operation of version 5 into two components, the runtime and the configuration environment. Users can develop on-line or offline. In addition, the configuration environment supports Microsoft Terminal Services, enabling multiple users to log in and make changes in different sessions. New licensing, delivered with the version 5 release, enables us to deliver Vertical Market bundles of our drivers, delivering very elegant, powerful and cost effective solutions for the Building Automation marketplace. Two Vertical Bundles will be of specific interest. They are the IT and Infrastructure Suite – a group of drivers to monitor your IT Infrastructure – Switches, Firewalls, UPS Systems, Printers, etc. and the Building Automation Suite – the protocols to communicate with your various control elements or an existing automation system.
Sinclair: You mentioned that version 5 is a foundation? What will we see in the future?
Kok: Yes, the two years of effort is largely in areas our customers will never notice. They will see an updated look and feel to the product. However, it largely works identically to what they have been using for years. Our infrastructure work enables us to deliver remote configuration in the future, where the configuration is on one node, and the runtime is on another, possibly embedded into a remote piece of equipment, acting as a communications gateway. Our infrastructure work also paves the way for us to deliver support on other than Microsoft platforms. Today, KEPServerEX is available on Windows Workstation and Server class operating systems and Windows XP and CE Embedded operating systems (the latter two typically used by our OEMs). Going forward, we will be positioned to support Linux, VxWorks and other embedded operating systems as our OEMs demand. This is a very exciting time for us as we are able to expand our market to include a wide range of embedded systems and gateway products.
Sinclair: Will you have future developments targeted to the Building Automation marketplace?
Kok: Most definitely, that is the first vertical we will be investing heavily in. Our Building Automation Suite delivers a number of protocols today, starting with BACnet as our lead protocol and also delivering several Modbus protocols, being one of the most common general protocols, and a protocol called UCON which is a User Configurable driver tool for relatively simple devices like bar codes, security devices, RFID, etc. We will be improving on these drivers on a regular basis. In addition, we will be adding Echelon support in the coming months. We have dozens of OEM automation companies that rely on Kepware communications and they keep the pressure on us to make continual improvements – making sure we are the only partner they need for communications.
Sinclair: Roy, Thanks for your time and the update for our readers. I look forward to your next announcements!
Kok: And thank you Ken, for giving us this opportunity and for being such a resource to the Building Automation industry.
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