Q&A: OPC UA Native Implementation in KEPServerEX Version 6

Posted by Steve Sponseller

On November 15, 2016, Kepware released KEPServerEX® Version 6. This major update includes native development of core OPC UA technology, which provides improved performance, enhanced diagnostics, and a solid foundation for continued OPC UA functionality enhancements.

To learn more about the OPC UA technology developed for Version 6, please read the Q&A pairs below.

Q: What OPC standards does KEPServerEX support?
A: KEPServerEX supports OPC AE, OPC DA, OPC HDA, OPC .NET, OPC UA, and OPC XML standards.

Q: When did Kepware first start supporting OPC UA?
A: The OPC Foundation released OPC UA in 2008. The first version of KEPServerEX® that supported OPC UA was released in 2010, in the form of an OPC UA server interface for OPC UA clients connecting to KEPServerEX opc_tunneling_simple_new.jpg and an OPC UA Client driver for pulling data from other OPC UA servers.

Q: Why is Kepware investing in the redevelopment of OPC UA technology?
A: When the OPC Foundation first released OPC UA, OPC DA was very prevalent in the industry. It was uncertain if and when the market would upgrade from OPC DA to OPC UA. Kepware made the decision at that time to support OPC UA through the implementation of a third-party UA stack. This enabled Kepware to support OPC UA as quickly as possible, with a relatively low investment of resources.

From Kepware’s perspective, the market now fully embraces OPC UA, as evidenced by:

  • The number of support cases Kepware handles that involve OPC UA
  • The types of applications being tested at annual OPC interoperability events that support OPC UA
  • Industry groups’ standards based on OPC UA (such as IEC, MDIS, DSATS, ISA-95, BACnet, and MTConnect)
  • Devices like PLCs that are now available with embedded OPC UA servers

In order to properly support the industry and remain a leader in the OPC space, Kepware can no longer rely on a third-party OPC UA stack. This is why we dedicated a team of engineers to natively develop OPC UA technology for KEPServerEX Version 6.

Q: The OPC UA specification is very extensive. Will this new OPC UA technology support the entire specification?
A: No. KEPServerEX Version 6 supports the same functionality as KEPServerEX Version 5: data access and security. However, this solid native foundation and Kepware engineers’ familiarization with the specification will enable Kepware to support additional aspects of OPC UA in the future, possibly including complex data, nano profile, historical data, and alarms and conditions.

Q: Are there any enhancements to Kepware’s existing OPC UA functionality?
A: Yes. OPC UA diagnostics are now fully integrated, which dramatically enhances users' ability to troubleshoot communication issues between clients and the server. There are also OPC UA server interface performance improvements.

Q: Where can I learn more about OPC UA and Kepware’s support of it?
A: The OPC Foundation is a good starting place with helpful reference materials. Kepware also has a wealth of helpful OPC UA information, including the following resources:

KEPServerEX Version 6 includes many additional updates that we’ll be diving into on the Kepware blog over the next few weeks. Make sure you’re subscribed to find out more information on new features and functionalities and how they can help streamline your productivity. 

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