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EMAIL INTERVIEW – Tyler Long and Ken Sinclair
Long is a Standards & QA Engineer with McKenney’s, Inc.
brings 10+ years of engineering and development experience to the
automation and controls industry. He began working with the
Niagara Framework® in 2006 and is a certified Niagara AX and N4
• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tylerblong
• GitHub: https://github.com/tblong
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/tylerblong
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.
Sinclair: So 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.
Sinclair: What will be the initial scope and feature set of the application?
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
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.
Sinclair: What will be the cost and licensing terms for the end users of the application?
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.
Sinclair: How 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
Are 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.
Sinclair: What 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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