Centralised monitoring center for 10 location PMI-Ignition

We have a scenario as below and request your suggestions.

We are having 10 plants located at different places. Each will have separate web server mc with Ignition, ( today it is a mix of FSQL-FPMI and IGNITION) and throwing real time data as well as history data into web using 512kbps broadband internet.

At central office we plan to have 10 Samsung HDTV (1280 x 1024), on a wall, with a web client -PC collecting data/mimics through broadband internet accessing site located Ignition +PLC systems. Question is how does one PC, through 10 different browser windows work with options to switch between 10 TV monitors. ( USER CHOICE)

So DELL has suggested that we use Dell Workstation class PC, with 4GB RAM, with multi-port VGA outputs using NVIDEA CARDS. Questions arise are

1.Should we go for 64 bit machine or 32 bit machine
2.Should we go in for Windows XP, ready well proven or go in for Windows 7.
3.Personally I love Windows 7 due to colourfull and zazzy features including that of cascading multiple browsers – makes an impact on top management people, but XP is a proven workhorse. Your recommendation please?
4.DELL says that Windows 7 is anyway provided with downside compatibility to switch over to XP always. So nothing to worry, but cautions that 64 bit, Windows 7, OS can not be downgraded to 32 bit Windows XP later. What should I choose?
5.Dell India ( at least local office) has no experience of NVIDEA multiport card beyond 2 ports. What should be safe choice for us?. Should we go in for 4 port , 2 NVIDEA cards in one machine to offer 8 outputs and buy additional Dell workstation with single card , 4 port, with some left as spare. Your views
6.To get 8 browser windows open, each with real time data and archivals, I am afraid that 4GB RAM mc may not suffice. What is your expert opinion, if not 4GB, and then in case 6GB or 8GB, we have to explore if we will be forced into a high end server class machine for simple centralized viewing room.
7.As VGA cables are available with Samsung HDTV, there is a fear of good quality picture on TV screens not available or compromised using the NVIDEA card. Less than what NVIDEA cards can offer really. Your views please.
8.Touch screen interface is an exciting feature of Legacy Products-PMI etc. I assume IGNITION must be offering the same. Is that right?
9.Dell does not supply TOUCHSCREEN feature with their monitor and says that 3rd party upgrade is what they suggest normally. Not sure how to overcome.
10.I was thinking of APPLE PC for high quality mimic display at above central display office , but they have advised that buying NVIDEA Cards etc will not be assured or supplied by them, and we must our own arrangements. Any reference or experience elsewhere by IA or any other user?

Any ideas or sharing will be helpful.

Instead of having one machine with multiple video outs, why not pair the 10 displays with 10 thin clients?

If possible, you could point each thin client to each plant’s corresponding server … I’m not sure the pricing you’ve been getting but a thin client solution may match the cost and be easier to maintain in the long run …

I concur with Bryan. One cool approach is to centrally manage displays via an Ignition client. The client periodically runs a script that looks at it’s own IP address or hostname and performs a database query that tells the thin client which screen to open. Going an extra step, it could cycle through screens or even retarget. To manage this, you create an “admin” window that allows you to choose clients and the screen settings.

Also, use DVI connectors (or HDMI on the display end) for displaying big screens. You can use DVI extenders over Cat 5 cables if you want the computers far from the displays.

Thanks to nathan and bryan. Further clarity is provided

  1. 10 TV monitors already in place awaiting proper PC/Workstation and multi channel cards and cabling. Thin client does not help now.
  2. 10 displays with 10 PCs defeats the purpose as then we need 10 mouse, that will drive bosses monitoring the head office center mad. That is why the whole idea of 1 or 2 PCs with multi channel ports/cards- NVIDEA. If max 8 ports in single machine, then 2 PCs are needed with just 2 mouse.
  3. DVI connector -multiport on the PC slots is proposed to be connected to VGA ports of 10 monitors. Cables are in place alread for VGA output. Cat 5 cables are not clear
  4. Ignition web client will certainly be used. Rest of the suggestions in Nathan’s msg not clear at all. Kindly elaborate, if feasible?

Points reg 64 bit windows 7 capability of Ignition or PMI awaits confirmation/clarity. Can we go in for 64 bit machine -workstation with what GB RAM??

Is PMI or Ignition well tested and OK with windows 7 , 64 bit as well as windows XP, 64 bit???

Ignition clients will run fine on Windows 7 both 32 and 64 bit.

With 5 clients apiece on the workstatinos I’d have 6gb ram each.

I'll take a stab at some of your questions ...

A KVM would eliminate the need for multiple mice and keyboards ... NewEgg has various makes and models that go up to 48 ports ... I assumed that the displays would be strictly informational, as in no user interaction would be required ... it appears as though I was incorrect ...

VGA will most likely be acceptable ... just keep in mind, the higher you make the resolution the poorer the picture quality will get ...

Refer to Ignition's System Requirements page on the web site ... Windows 7 is supported. Additionally, the Windows installer available for download is labeled as Installer for Windows x86/x64, so 64-bit will work. The System Requirements page states 1 GB RAM required ... I'd wait to see what one of the IA guys has to say on this ...

I'd stick with a PC, you'll have wider options as far as hardware and drivers go ... although I'm not much of a fan of Macs/Apple so I may be a bit biased ...

Just for clarification ...

  1. I'm assuming all 10 displays exist on one wall within one room, correct? Will the computer(s) driving the machine exist within that room as well?

  2. In addition to the 10 mounted displays, will you have monitor(s) attached to the computer(s) driving your displays?

Let me circle back to your original 10 questions:

Questions 1-4:
Questions 1-4 are all about whether or not you should choose XP/Win7 32/64 bit. Our software requirements are clear on this point - we support either, it is up to you to choose, we really have no opinion either way. I suppose I would go for Windows 7 just because it will mean fewer years until you are running an obsolete OS.

Question 5
This is really outside our area of expertise. We’ve never set up a 10-display computer either. This issue has been discussed with some depth above, so I won’t re-hash here.

Question 6
I would have 6-8gb of ram. A high-end “workstation” class machine should handle this no problem. Note that you’ll need to run a 64-bit OS to use this much ram.

Question 7
Again, outside our realm of expertise.

Question 8
Yes, touchscreens are supported.

Question 9
I’m not suprised that Dell doesn’t sell touchscreens. If you need “industrial” ones, take a look at Hope Industrial, theirs are nice. Otherwise, talk to ELO, they seem to be the “big boys” in touchscreens. I have no idea how 10 touchscreen monitors on one PC will work. If you go down this road, my guess is that you’ll have to approach the 10 thin-clients to 10 touch-screens option.

Question 10
This idea really throws a wrench into everything previously discussed. We do support Apple, but I do not recommend this for such a unique setup.

Question 9
I’m not suprised that Dell doesn’t sell touchscreens. If you need “industrial” ones, take a look at Hope Industrial, theirs are nice. Otherwise, talk to ELO, they seem to be the “big boys” in touchscreens. I have no idea how 10 touchscreen monitors on one PC will work. If you go down this road, my guess is that you’ll have to approach the 10 thin-clients to 10 touch-screens option.[/quote]
Actually, Dell does sell touchscreen monitors … check out the Dell SX2210T … and the pricing isn’t too shabby either …

We’re on our second project using Hope Industrial touchscreens, specifically their panel mounts … no complaints thus far …

raja, a recommendation … I suggest that you open a discussion on ServerFault with the same question you brought here … it’s an amazing site, bookmark it!

I second the recommendation for ServerFault - it is fantastic.

What about something from DisplayLink? Haven’t play with them myself, but seems to be a good niche

We Use a Displaylink style device attaced to a "virtual USB port over TCP/IP".
In our situation these devices are being driven by Virtual PC's and the output is being sent to Projectors (although large LCD's would work just as well).
The results are excelent. Not too much ethernet traffic either as the displays contain fairly static information.