Scada Review 2014: GE Intelligent Platforms

June 2014 SCADA/HMI

End-user details

Name: Details not provided by vendor.

SI details

Name: Ziggy Govender

Designation: Director

Company: RKA Consulting

Phone: +27 (0)11 318 2017


Product details

Product names and versions: Proficy iFIX 5.8, Proficy Historian 5.5, Proficy Plant Applications 6.2, Proficy Workflow

Vendor: GE Intelligent Platforms

Phone: +27 (0)11 237 0000



Application details

Location: North West Province, South Africa

Industry: Mineral processing

Date project started: 2012-10

Date project completed: 2013-02

Application: Scada upgrade on platinum concentrator

Server OS: Windows 7 Professional

Client OS: Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit

Application statistics

Tag count: 30 000

Updates per day: 39 Million updates per day, 4500 tags per second

Disk space for one day’s updates: 500 MB per day (with internal compression)

Physical I/O count: Approximately 5000

Front ends: 5 * Siemens S7 400 PLCs


2 * GE Proficy HMI/SCADA – iFIX Servers

4 * GE Proficy HMI/SCADA – iFIX Clients

10 * GE Proficy HMI/SCADA – iFIX/PA Web Clients

1 * GE Proficy Historian Enterprise Edition

1 * GE Proficy Workflow

1 * GE Plant Applications Efficiency

1 * GE Plant Applications Quality

Scada configuration man-hours: 320

System architecture
System architecture



Q: Briefly describe the application including information on any pre-existing control system.

Upgraded Proficy HMI/SCADA – iFIX to a newer version and installed a Proficy Historian together with Proficy Plant Applications Efficiency module, Plant Applications Quality module and Proficy Workflow.

Q: What was the primary motivation for the project?

To monitor production downtime and track quality.

Q: What were the main goals established for the project?

* To integrate all production data into Proficy Historian.

* To track and log all plant downtime for reporting and continuous improvement.

* To track material quality for yield and profitability reporting.

Q: In the procurement decision-making process what were the primary considerations that influenced the product selection?

Ease of integration and open architecture with minimal impact to production during upgrade.

Licensing, maintenance & support

Q: What upgrade agreements are in place for this application?

Upgrades are covered under a paid GE GlobalCare annual maintenance agreement.

Q: How is after-sales support handled on this application?

Support is covered under a paid annual support agreement, which includes remote access via VPN, telephone support and email support.

Architecture, integration, reporting and archiving

Q: Is the scada system integrated onto an intranet or the Internet?

The scada system is integrated into the company intranet. Internet access is via a VPN connection. Remote clients have read-only access to the system.

Q: Does the system include or interface with an expert system?

The application operates in conjunction with Mintek’s Floatstar.

Q: Has any asset management functionality been configured in the application (for software assets, control system assets or for plant assets)?

In a future project phase the system will be integrated with IBM Maximo asset management system via modules in GE Proficy Plant Applications.

Q: Does the application include data archiving / historian capabilities with an historical data reporting system?

Yes, using GE Proficy Historian the end-user has customised reporting. Using the Historian and Plant Applications as source, reports are built in Fluid Reports from Blue Nickel Solutions.

Mobile device support

Q: Are you currently using tablets, mobile phones or other smart mobile devices to interact with the scada system?

Read only access is available on Android and Apple devices.

Q: Do you allow users to interface with the scada system via their own personal smart devices? (BYOD)

Certain privileged users are permitted to interface via their personal tablets, using the GE ProficySCADA and GE Mobile applications.

End-user conclusion

Q: What was the predominant feature (or features) that made you decide to purchase this scada product over all others for this application?

The upgrade path from an existing Proficy base. Support from the vendor and SI.

Q: What impresses you most about the architecture?

Open standards, a wide range of drivers, the ability to upgrade, and the ease with which the architecture scales from a simple client-server to a multi-tier application.


Project details

Q: What human factors were taken into consideration as principles or development standards in the HMI design process?

The project maintained the plant’s existing standard colour usage, whilst trying to accommodate operator preferences.

Q: For the graphics development process did you use standard library images, or did you have to draw images from scratch?

The existing project library was used.

Q: How would you describe the library of graphic images?


Q: What alarm management standards or best practices were adopted in configuring the scada system alarms?

We reused the existing methodology which consists of deviations from set points grouped by area and priority.

Q: What structured processes were followed to determine expected performance under full load, and during abnormal failure conditions?

We simulated various system failures to ensure the redundant components worked as expected.

Q: What are the key physical communication layers and communication protocols employed in the system?

Profibus and Ethernet over copper and fibre.

Q: What is the network speed and communications medium of the slowest link in this project’s scada network?

100 Mbit/s over copper.

Q: What is the network speed and communications medium of the fastest link in this project’s scada network?

1 Gbit/s over copper and 1 Gbit/s over multi-mode fibre.

Q: What levels of redundancy are incorpor­ated in this scada application?

Each of the two Proficy HMI/SCADA – iFIX servers has a redundant server which takes over the processing if the primary system fails. Each operator station client has the ability to be used to operate the entire plant.

The Proficy Historian uses a store and forward mechanism to buffer data when the network links are down. When the network link is restored the data gets forwarded to the Historian Server. Collector redundancy is a technology that is used to supply one data set from a redundant SCADA Server pair to a Historian Server.

Q: What specific custom code or scada scripts were written for this project?

Some custom scripts were used to give operators the ability to input downtime reasons for the GE Plant Applications Server.

Security and data protection

Q: How have authentication, authorisation and role management been configured?

We used the scada system’s internal mechanism for authentication and role management. Remote access is controlled via the company’s internal IT policies and systems.

Q: Does the design make provision for a DMZ and firewall segregation of process (scada) network and business networks?

The scada network and the business network are linked via a firewall which is managed by the company IT department. The scada network is managed by the C&I team.

Q: What intrusion detection has been incorporated on the plant network(s) on which this scada system exists?

We used Symantec Endpoint protection on the scada networked computers.

Q: What configuration backup and data archive backup methodologies have been adopted?

Currently date-stamped backups are made to a separate server when changes are done on the systems. We plan to incorporate a solution using Subversion at a later stage. All configurations and settings are further backed up to an off-network server.

SI conclusion

Q: What impresses you most about the architecture?

The scalability and flexibility of the system. The architecture allows the customer to expand and configure minor additions online without disrupting plant operations. The open standards used make it simple to incorporate third-party applications which require plant data.

Q: What impresses you the most about the engineering / configuration aspects of the product now that it is in operation?

The system stability and usability.

Q: How would you rate the ease of use of the historical reporting system?

It’s very easy to extract and process data from the Historian into reports. The system allows for a wide range of third-party client tools including Excel, OLEDB clients and OPC HDA clients.

Vendor responses


Q: Vendor comments on product / modules?

Proficy HMI/SCADA – iFIX supports dynamic resolution for graphics which means that Proficy iFIX graphics can be deployed on widescreen monitors, LCD TVs, and different aspect ratio screens.

Every version of Proficy iFIX is delivered with Proficy Historian for SCADA.

Proficy iFIX 5.8 security model supports encrypted authentication keys and offers 256-bit encryption for Webspace sessions with a “sandboxing” feature that provides the capability to whitelist applications to prevent unauthorised access.

The Webspace remote access client provides a single server to render Proficy HMI/SCADA – iFIX, Proficy HMI/SCADA – CIMPLICITY and Proficy Plant Applications displays.

Operating systems / VMware

Q: Vendor comments on operating systems

Microsoft IIS, Windows Mobile, Mobile OS, iOS and iPad client support.

Licensing, maintenance & support model

Q: What sort of licensing agreement options are offered?

There is a licence for each product i.e. Proficy Historian, Proficy Plant Applications and Proficy HMI/SCADA – iFIX. Client Access licences are ordered separately for each product.

Q: Are licences sold outright or subject to periodic (e.g. annual) renewal?

Licence is a once-off purchase for a particular version.

Q: What upgrade agreements are offered?

SIMs (updates) are offered free of charge. We offer a support and upgrade contract, GlobalCare, which covers all new releases of the products sold.

Q: What after-sales offerings iro support and maintenance are available, and which technologies are used to deliver them?

Support is covered under a paid annual support agreement, GlobalCare, which includes desktop remoting, email and telephone support.

Technology incorporated

Q: What changes have been introduced into the product in the last 12 months?

Proficy Historian Analysis 5.5

* Analyse tag data in trends, save and share analyses, create and share reports on data.

* Visualise, analyse and collaborate on Proficy Historian alarms and events.

* Create displays in the context of plant structure.

Integration and reporting

Q: What generic and/or product specific interfaces does the product have iro well-known MES packages?

SOA, OPC DA, OPC AE, OPC HDA, OLEDB. BusinessTalk for SAP. All certified except for OPC HDA.

Q: What native historical data reporting options are available?

Proficy Historian Analysis, RTIP, MS Excel, OLE DB and OPC HDA.

PLC configuration and programming

Q: What capabilities does the scada offer in terms of generation and/or management of PLC configuration files or PLC application code?

Scada tags can be exported to a CSV file and then imported to a PLC programming environment.

Security and data protection

Q: What authentication, authorisation & role management models are available for the runtime environment?

Level security (Users) is built into both Proficy iFIX and Proficy Plant Applications.

Unique selling proposition (USP)

Q: List the top five feature/benefit pairs that contribute to this product’s USP.

To view the unabridged version of this scada review, visit


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