Realizing Modern IoT Applications Through Central and Secure Data Integration

Consolidating data - that's the key

For companies with global operations, consolidated operational data is a key factor when it comes to machine management, company decision-making and profitability. If these data are lacking or incomplete, modern IoT applications and other innovations will remain forever out of reach. To meet this challenge, Softing implemented a solution for a leading manufacturer of fluid and air filter systems who operates production facilities around the globe. The solution ensures that the operating data from the facilities are integrated, aggregated, and securely processed while properly handling semantic translation via OPC UA. 

The challenge

The customer, an international corporation that designs and produces high-tech filter systems for the automotive, mechanical engineering, and process engineering industries, has production operations in almost 25 countries, and deploys SAP Business Suite for both enterprise resource planning (ERP) and as a manufacturing execution system (MES).

One medium-term goal was to extend the use of the SAP platform to IIoT applications. To achieve this goal, the customer needed the operating data output from all sites to be integrated, aggregated, and securely processed. In the future, these consolidated data would be provisioned to the OPC UA servers from SAP Business Suite as hosted by the individual facilities.

Another challenge arose from the fact that these production data were being generated by thousands of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) from multiple makers – typically Siemens and Rockwell – spread across the various production plants. One key technical requirement specified by the customer was the provisioning of address space filtering and control access functions for browsing, as well as communication with the downstream PLC systems.

The solution: dataFEED OPC Suite Extended and Secure Integration Server

For this global customer project, Softing’s team of experts decided to implement a two-layered architecture featuring dataFEED OPC Suite Extended and Secure Integration Server. In this setup, the dataFEED OPC Suite handles the collecting of PLC and production data, while the Secure Integration Server (SIS) acts as an aggregator – i.e. it provides the necessary address space filtering, access control, and semantic extraction functions via OPC UA , and interacts with the SAP Business Suite as the central OPC UA server.

What lies behind the overall solution?


1. dataFEED OPC Suite Extended

dataFEED OPC Suite Extended is an integrated software solution that offers OPC UA and OPC Classic communication, plus IoT cloud connectivity. The integrated OPC UA Server with store-and-forward provides secure and reliable access to controllers from a wide range of brands, including Siemens SIMATIC S7, Rockwell ControlLogix, B&R, Mitsubishi, and Modbus PLCs as supplied by Wago and others.

By acting as a gateway between the two OPC standards, dataFEED OPC Suite also enables the integration of existing OPC Classic components and applications with modern Industrie 4.0 OPC UA solutions. Production data can be transferred using the MQTT and REST protocols to IoT cloud or big data applications running on the Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, Bosch PPM, or Siemens MindSphere platforms. At the same time, dataFEED OPC Suite also allows production data to be saved out to a file or stored in an SQL database, or in MongoDB or CouchDB.

2. Secure Integration Server

Secure Integration Server (SIS) provides a high-performance OPC UA data integration layer that keeps the implementation as flexible as possible. Several OPC UA servers, based on the OPC UA aggregation server, are combined at the automation level with the associated address spaces and the data is provided to the IT applications via a stable OPC UA interface. SIS covers the full range of OPC UA security features and enables the implementation of state-of-the-art security solutions.

Because the Secure Integration Server consolidates all the essential mechanisms for management, regulation and monitoring in a central location, users can control data from a single point and manage it easily and securely.  Speaking of security: data security is integrated in the server according to the security functions of the OPC UA standard, and Internet security standards are implemented on three levels:

Note: On the topic of data security in the Secure Integration Server, we recommend readers take a look at our blog post from December 2020.

The result is a highly sophisticated and technically robust solution, combined with the seamless interaction between the Secure Integration Server as a central OPC UA server and SAP Business Suite. The customer now has access to consolidated secure data from all of its country operations, which now forms the starting-point for the IIoT applications planned at its production sites. Softing also provided free proof-of-concept support to the customer before project start. Following initial discussions, the customer received advice and assistance throughout, from the situation/status quo analysis and definition of the system architecture to the actual implementation, accompanied by technical advice, free support and Softing’s OPC UA expertise.

Does your production department have questions about centralized secure data integration? Our Expert Team is looking forward to talking to you.


Softing Inc.