There's a tl;dr further down the page. There was a similar question asked back in 2012 here, Make the case for Ignition, and I feel that Ignition has changed enough since then that it warrants being updated for the times.
I work for a large company that has grown to be huge. When I started back in 2011, I was a newbie at Ignition and a pioneer of Ignition in my company. Back then, the controls guys at the operations (which I am) were left to their own devices to come up with solutions that made sense for their facility. I slowly and jerkily deployed Ignition and it was a huge success despite my clumsiness.
Today my company is huge and has survived various cyber threats. Our IT department has been given almost unlimited power to mitigate cyber threats, real or imagined, which they wield in ignorance of the issues encountered trying to manage some incredibly complex issues on the mill floor. An "OT group" was created out of the IT group, but for the most part their primary function is to enforce IT policies on the OT side of the fence.
Some of the company's acquisitions and recent hires have brought other Ignition users and fans into the fold, but we are on the wrong side of the IT/OT fence to have much influence.
I recently had the opportunity to move both my Ignition server and DB server to an OT controlled VM and had to work extensively with an OT admin to get this done. He has a totally IT background and was just assigned to the OT group. He's very, very good at IT but mostly ignorant of the SCADA space.
I am going to attach a redacted e-mail exchange between us in which he basically asked "Why do we need Ignition?" and I answered in typically verbose fashion. I am hoping that other users will read this exchange and chime in with their own insights, especially you integrators who have to "sell" Ignition to your clients. My hope is that eventually when someone asks "Why do we need Ignition? What does it do?" I can just send them a link to this post.
tl;dr - here is how I justified Ignition to one of our admins. I hope you chime in.
This is the video that started it all for me 10 years ago. Still true to this day. It’s also what I showed [a senior IT guy] to enlist his help in getting Ignition here in PA (Port Angeles) all those years ago.
Ignition is the Leatherman of OT software in that it performs many functions but compared to its competitors it usually does them better and much less expensively and more easily. People that perform my job function that take the time to get a little way up the learning curve realize that it is far superior to anything else out there. Anyone who doesn’t realize that either:
- Didn’t take the time or doesn’t want to exert the effort to understand it.
- Has some kind of bias against it (has an allegiance to a competitor, for example).
- Has not spent enough time in their job function working with other products to realize how ground-breaking Ignition is
- Has an incentive to use a more expensive solution.
It is the fastest growing software of its kind for many reasons.
- Makes it quick and easy to make live GUIs of the process (it talks to the PLCs).
- Has an exceptional set of tools for working with data from databases.
- Is server and web based which makes deployment to many users easy and inexpensive
- Uses python as a scripting language which make it possible for developers do almost anything they can imagine that isn’t already built into the software with a non-proprietary language that a lot of people are already familiar with
- Easily scalable
There are ways to break that down into more items, but that’s basically it. And it is the interaction of those things that makes it so powerful.
I’m going to name some competitors in the space that Ignition exists in, but realize they aren’t really competitors…they have some functions in common with Ignition.
- Wonderware is pretty big in our industry. It is [a big name integrator’s] HMI of choice and would be my first choice if Ignition didn’t exist. However, it really does not compete with Ignition for ease of use, deploying to large numbers of users and cost. Our [machine center 1], [machine center 2] and [machine center 3] HMI’s are Wonderware. And recently Wonderware has been sold and resold to various huge companies and it seems to be either dying or moving toward Rockwell in ridiculous complexity.
- Rockwell’s various offerings that will have “FactoryTalk View” in the name. This is the first software of this type that I was exposed to. Rockwell’s offerings these days have become ridiculously complex, resource intensive, fragile and expensive. And “ridiculously” is not exaggeration or hyperbole in this case. It is actually ridiculous. Our Boiler HMI is FactoryTalk View. On reboot, after the FTV splash screen has been displayed it takes 3 minutes before anything usable appears on the screen. Ridiculous. Imagine running a BOILER with an urgent situation in progress and having to wait that long to be able to do anything.
Those are the two main ones you will encounter here at [my company]. Some others:
- iFix – I think GE owns this now
- SIMATIC WinCC – this is made by Siemens which means it will be pretty good but hard use
- GE Cimplicity
- InduSoft – I’ve worked with this before many years ago.
None of these are good solutions for the way we use Ignition here in PA (and most other places).
Again, anyone in my situation that doesn’t realize that Ignition is really the only solution, just doesn’t have enough experience.
From: [OT Admin]
Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2023 11:14 AM
To: Clint Banzet
Subject: Information on Ignition
Clint, maybe you can give me some information on what Ignition does. We have a number of different software systems that I am thinking do the same thing, and are setup across different mills.
Overall, What does Ignition do? What other products that you know of do similar stuff to Ignition?
I know that you are familiar with Ignition, but are there any other systems that we can migrate to, or upgrade to an Enterprise version of Ignition?
OT Systems Administrator
Please also comment on the appropriateness of this post and/or link other similar posts.