VirtualControl: From dedicated physical PLCs to scalable Virtual Controls with CODESYS. The innovative format allows customers to centralize their controllers in one powerful hardware. The advantages: hardware independence and cost savings for procurement, installation, deployment, service and updates.
CODESYS is the leading manufacturer-independent IEC 61131-3 automation software for engineering control systems.
Interview with Domenik Vögel, Product Marketing at CODESYS GmbH.
Easy Engineering: How was 2022 for your business, a short summary?
Domenik Vögel: 2022 has been a successful year for CODESYS. While the majority of the automation sector had to fight with delivery problems and other issues caused by disrupted supply chains, CODESYS proved to be a reliable partner for both device manufacturers and users. The flexibility of our system, with the ability to use all common hardware platforms, made CODESYS even more attractive in these difficult times.
E.E: What products/services did you launch this year?
D.V: There were a lot of updates to existing products in the CODESYS portfolio, such as the visualization, development system, installer, motion and fieldbus elements or the CODESYS Automation Server, our industry 4.0 platform, that would all be worth mentioning on their own.
However, the most important new and innovative product launched this year is, without a doubt, CODESYS Virtual Control. As the next step in the evolution of our SoftPLC, this containered version allows hardware-agnostic and scalable use on basically any imaginable platform. It can work on small embedded devices or on centralized server farms, where it controls a whole factory with real-time applications. Even cloud platforms can be used to host the Virtual Control.
E.E: How did the market change, compared to previous years?
D.V: The biggest difference to previous years is probably the availability problem that the sector and the whole economy had to face. This fact forced the market to offer more flexible solutions. CODESYS Virtual Control can be seen as a direct consequence of the market developments of the last months and years. The hardware independence this new product offers is probably the most flexible solution currently on the market, so it is perfectly suited for the circumstances of our time.
E.E: What are the new challenges in your field of activity?
D.V: CODESYS suffers only indirectly from the problems and challenges of the automation sector. We don’t produce, buy or sell any hardware, which means that rising costs, and delivery problems do not directly affect us. In fact, as stated before, our flexibility concerning the number of platforms our software works on is a big advantage in current times.
The challenge we are currently facing is to convince the rather conservative industry to try new formats such as the Virtual Control or the CODESYS Automation Server. These and other innovative products and services we offer will no doubt help our customers to master the current challenges after the initial hurdle of change is overcome.
E.E: How did you overcome these challenges in this more competitive environment?
D.V: We try our best to raise the awareness of potential customers in the field by using all marketing tools at our disposal. With the Covid pandemic more or less under control we can also finally meet directly with potential customers at conferences, fairs and other events. We also try to promote our products and services online over channels like LinkedIn and YouTube or with releases like this article.
E.E: Tell us about product innovation and how will it impact the future?
D.V: Since its beginnings around 30 years ago CODESYS stands for innovation. In the next year we plan to refine and improve the CODESYS Virtual PLC regarding its features, orchestration, licensing and deployment.
Of course, there are also improvements and new features for other products and services planned for the coming year, the perfect way to stay tuned to the latest news is to regularly attend the CODESYS feature briefing, which takes place every six months, with the next being set up for the 1st of March 2023.
Some of the earlier developments are not yet ready to be announced to the general public in an article like this, but if you are interested in our technological innovations and what is to come in the near future than be sure to attend the CODESYS Technology Day on the 10th of May 2023!
Domenik Vögel, Product Marketing at CODESYS GmbH.
E.E: How will product innovation help the customers?
D.V: The innovation in new and already existing products will help the customers react to the rapidly changing market we are currently facing. To make concrete examples: a huge issue for basically everyone in the automation sector currently is the shortage of hardware. Many of our competitors rely on specific PLCs or IOs and cannot switch to other parts in the case of delivery problems, because such hardware replacements cause incredibly difficult redesigns.
In the case of CODESYS and especially our Virtual Control (but also for other SoftPLCs) it is easily possible to change the underlying hardware, with basically all common systems supported. This gives our customers great flexibility and reliability.
E.E: What are the industry trends in the markets you are currently active?
D.V: In the recent past we saw a general trend towards open and flexible platforms. One or two decades ago it was often the case that companies offered solutions with the goal to tie the customer to a specific product, making it difficult and expansive to ever change the platform. In my opinion this development saw an end at the latest with the begin of the covid pandemic and the problems it brought along.
Other trends of recent years were the spread of the digital twin, the shift of workload and data into the cloud, the focus on sustainable production and the big relevance of very secure products and services.
These are all topics CODESYS is intensively engaged in with good options for our customers from cloud support for PLCs with the CODESYS Automation Server to constantly improving security features in our SoftPLCs and IDE just to name some examples.
E.E: What do you think the trends will be next year?
D.V: We can quite safely assume that many of the current trends will also be relevant in the next years. Topics like digital twins, cloud support, security and open platforms are here to stay as far as we can tell.
It’s of course difficult to look into the future, but I would guess that there will be an even bigger emphasis on sustainable production in the next years. The climate crisis and war in the Ukraine will force industrial nations in Europe and all around the world to preserve the resources we have as much as possible and shift to greener forms of productions. Sooner or later, this trend too will massively influence the automation sector.
E.E: What is the outlook for 2023?
D.V: Our outlook for 2023 and the coming years is currently very optimistic. We are prepared to solve the problems our customers are facing in these difficult times. The flexibility our products offer will be very beneficial for all our customers. In the past, we could also rely on the innovative minds at our company to quickly adapt to new market conditions, so I think we will be ready again if new unforeseen obstacles should arise in 2023 or after that.
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