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October 2016
Interview

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Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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Tyler LongEMAIL INTERVIEWTyler Long and Ken Sinclair

Tyler Long is a Standards & QA Engineer with McKenney’s, Inc. and brings 10+ years of engineering and development experience to the automation and controls industry.  He began working with the Tridium Niagara Framework® in 2006 and is a certified Niagara AX and N4 developer.

Follow Tyler on:
•    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tylerblong
•    GitHub: https://github.com/tblong
•    Twitter: https://twitter.com/tylerblong



Automating Niagara N4 backups to cloud storage

While the core problem to solve is automating JACE backups of Supervisor-less installations, I fully intend this application to function just as well to backup a Supervisor.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of McKenney’s, Inc.  All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders.  Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

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Control Solutions, Inc

SinclairSo let’s define the problem, why the need for a cloud or local backup storage solution within the Niagara Framework®?

Long:  In many cases, an installation does not include a Niagara Supervisor whose job it is to provide a central location to connect a site containing typically 3 or more JACE (Java Application Control Engine) controllers.  When present, it would naturally be the job of the Supervisor to periodically backup the JACEs.  Even this example is flawed, because what process or additional piece of software is backing up the Supervisor?

When a job site is lacking a Supervisor to automate backing up the JACE controllers, it becomes a manual process for a technician to backup the JACEs on site and put the backups somewhere safe. While the core problem to solve is automating JACE backups of Supervisor-less installations, I fully intend this application to function just as well to backup a Supervisor.

SinclairWhat will be the initial scope and feature set of the application?

Long:  The cloud backup application will be provided as a service which runs on a Niagara N4 station.  The backup interval will be configurable by the end user.  I will be coding the cloud backup service so that future Niagara developers will be provided an API (Application Program Interface) to plug in additional cloud or local (e.g. SFTP) storage connectors.  Adding this flexibility in now will enable the application to support many other cloud storage providers.

The initial release is intended to provide a connector for Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3.  This project would also include any setup instructions and/or code required to manage the AWS S3 backed storage.

SinclairWhat will be the cost and licensing terms for the end users of the application?

Long:  The application will be released as free and open source under the “MIT License” as seen in the project home page on GitHub.  My main goal here is to bring this automated cloud backup functionality to Niagara N4 and make it freely accessible to all.  For end users and developers, this means they will have the ability, free of charge, to use and distribute derivative works which improve upon the application.

SinclairHow do you plan to fund this application and once kicked off, how long until an initial release can be expected?

Long:  This project will be funded by Kickstarter to cover the initial cost of development, Kickstarter rewards, and AWS related costs for development and testing.  Since this is a software only project, Kickstarter rewards for the project’s backers will likely be based on a getting early access to the alpha/beta builds of the application and also tiers of included AWS account setup support.

The initial release, once kicked off, is expected to take between 5-6 weeks to complete.  The market research and application design stages of the project are already underway.

SinclairAre there any security concerns?

Long:  The cloud backup service running on Niagara would require only an outbound connection to a given cloud storage provider.  The backup file in-transit would be the main concern.  As long as the latest cipher suites are supported and used on both the Niagara side and the destination cloud provider side then the data will be protected while in-transit.  Providers like AWS also offer encrypting data while at rest.

SinclairWhat are the future benefits of using this backup application with AWS S3 as the cloud storage provider or any other provider offering similar services?

Long:  AWS offers an extensive lineup of products and services.  Most system integrators will not have access to an IT staff for creating and managing a one-off backup solution.  Having Niagara push backups directly to a cloud storage provider supplies the system integrator with an inexpensive, highly durable and highly available option for protecting their customers’ control system. 

While not a part of this initial project, a web interface could also be deployed to AWS which gives company employees access to the backups which are stored in AWS S3. 




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