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Open Process Automation™ Forum - Frequently Asked Questions


Involvement and Membership



Q. What is the Purpose of this Forum?

A. This Forum provides a collaborative environment where members can engage and position themselves, their practices, and their organizations in the global process control automation marketplace. Members will benefit from better business outcomes derived from new and emerging technologies. Members will adopt and create standards for a technology framework from which agile, secure, and manageable solutions within and across multiple industries can be built, configured, and run.

Q. What is the Vision of the Forum?

A. A standards-based, open, secure, and interoperable process control architecture that:

  • Enables access to leading edge capability 

  • Preserves asset owners application software; Significantly lowers cost of future replacement 

  • Allows integration of best-in-class components 

  • Employs an adaptive intrinsic security model 

  • Promotes innovation and value creation 

  • Is applicable to both brownfield and greenfield facilities
  • Is a commercially available system

Q. Is the Forum open to both end-users and to suppliers?

A. Yes. To achieve its stated Vision and Mission, the Forum will require the involvement and contributions of both end-user and supplier organizations.

Q. How did this initiative come to be?

A. ExxonMobil Research and Engineering has been publicly advocating for development of a new, standards-based process control framework for some time. In 2014, ExxonMobil produced a functional characteristics document that they shared with the industry at the 2015 ARC Forum event, sponsored by ARC Advisory Group. Since then, three industry day events and several webcasts have been held to socialize the idea, and gain the support of other end users with similar requirements.

Given the expertise and success of The Open Group in building similar standards in other industries, ExxonMobil brought this initiative to The Open Group for help in forming a new standards activity to address both business and technical challenges in the process control industry. The Open Group has formed this as the Open Process Automation™ Forum, and is in the process of onboarding new members, with a plan for the first member meeting to take place in San Francisco from November 16-18, 2016.

Q. Is it the intent of the Forum to develop a common process control framework that can apply across-the-board to a wide range of industry sectors?

A. Yes, this Forum will develop an open standard framework and reference architecture that should be of benefit to any organization and industry that is either process or batch focused in its manufacturing environment. In addition, the Forum will create business models that will benefit the entire ecosystem.

Q. Which industries do you expect will benefit from this initiative?

A. The following list is not exhaustive, but industry interest in this initiative has come from:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Metals & Mining
  • Oil & Gas
  • Petrochemical
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Pulp & Paper
  • Utilities
  • Other Distributed Control Systems (DCS) and Industrial Control Systems (ICS) end user companies

Involvement and Membership

Q. Who is involved in this initiative?

A. The Forum is in the active formation stage, and we are actively talking with many end users across the process control-using industries, suppliers, systems integrators, academics, and others. Several leading companies from different industries have joined already as founding members.

Q. How can I learn more, get involved, and influence the development of the reference architecture and standard?

A. The best way to learn more is to join the Forum, and contribute business and technical resources to it. We have several opportunities coming up to learn more, including a webcast planned for October 6, 2016, presentations at The Open Group conference in Paris October 26, 2016, and an open introduction to the Forum, as well as the first member meeting in San Francisco, November 16-18. You can also learn more and follow the progress of the Forum by visiting our Forum webpage. For more information, please fill out the request form that is found on the Forum webpage.

Q. For organizations considering joining this initiative, how much resource is expected or required in terms of people?

A. We expect that as the Forum matures, there will be a need to have both business and technical resources involved. There is no hard and fast rule regarding how much business or technical resource will be required from each member. Suffice to say that the member organizations who contribute the most resource tend to see the earliest return on the investment of their time.

Q. What does membership cost?

A. Membership pricing varies based upon the type and size of organization. Details can be found here.

Q. Why should end users consider joining and participating?

A. End user organizations should expect to receive a number of benefits:

  • Lower the costs of doing business
  • Common Computing Environment
  • Interoperability
  • Cost-effective insertion of new capabilities
  • Neutral home to work with fellow customers to develop common standards and tools
  • Work with industry to help insure that requirements for future operating environment and open standards are met
  • Assurance that requirements are incorporated in specifications for future procurements

Q. Why should vendors consider joining and participating?

A. Vendors of DCS/ICS systems will benefit in a variety of ways:

  • Ability to influence the architecture and specifications
  • Early access to architecture and specifications
  • Network with other companies and their experts in non-competitive, vendor-neutral environment
  • Lower commercial risk as development can be aligned to specifications
  • Potential for expansion to other industries and perhaps other commercial markets to better serve the needs of larger customers
  • Position company and products for future procurement requirements
  • Common standards lower cost and schedule risks
  • Standardization of software / hardware interfaces allows for rapid insertion of new capabilities
  • Re-use of software components and hardware elements enables industry to economically reuse capabilities across platforms
  • Reduces long term obsolescence impacts
  • Creates new markets opportunities, including software-centric market opportunities, hardware opportunities, introduction of third party capability and innovation, and provides opportunity for rapid insertion of innovative concepts

Q. How is participation defined for this initiative?

A. Membership participation is by organization. Each member organization, whether large or small, end user customer or supplier, or academic institution, can participate as actively as they choose. When it comes to voting, the rules are 1-company, 1-vote.

There is one level of participation in the Forum. At a minimum, organizations need to join The Open Group Open Process Automation ™ Forum as a Silver member in order for you and your colleagues to participate in the Forum. For organizations with interest in The Open Group's other Forums, a Gold or Platinum level membership may be appropriate.


Q. How is this standards effort related to/different from the technical development project that ExxonMobil and Lockheed Martin are working on?

A. The technical development activity is related to the work of the Forum, but it is also separate from the work of the Forum. Our expectation is that the results of the proof-of-concept work done by ExxonMobil and Lockheed Martin will be made available to the Forum as input, but members of the Forum will determine the ultimate content of the standards developed, using the consensus standards process of The Open Group.

Q. Is the architectural vision presented by ExxonMobil in the industry day events open to inputs from other DCS users, in industries other than oil and gas?

A. Absolutely, the Forum is open to other inputs, and both ExxonMobil and The Open Group see this as critical to the success of this Forum. The Forum is actively reaching out to DCS users in all seven of the named industries, to solicit requirements and inputs from the various industries.

Q. Will the Forum only develop new standards, or will it embrace existing standards?

A. A fundamental policy of The Open Group is to not create new standards where existing standards (from The Open Group or from other standards organizations) are available and fit for purpose. As such, we expect that the Open Process Automation Forum will adopt existing standards (where they exist), and develop new standards where there are gaps. We expect the resulting framework to be a "standard of standards".

Q. Given this will be a "standard of standards", have any of the underlying standards been selected at this point, and what is the process for selection?

A. An early activity of the Forum will be a standards landscape analysis, after the boundaries of the architecture have been agreed. Once the members have identified standards of high interest, we will reach out to the standards bodies whose standards are identified as candidates for components of the framework. We will then work with the other standards organizations to put in place an appropriate means of collaboration (MOU, Membership Exchange, Legal Agreement, etc.). In our experience, each standards organization is typically a bit unique depending on the rules of the other organization and the degree of collaboration needed to utilize their standard(s).

Q. Does this initiative apply to only new plant environments, or to existing plants? What about migration from prior generations of process control technology?

A. We expect that the output of this Forum will be relevant to both new and existing plant environments, and we anticipate the need to provide migration paths for prior generations of process control equipment. The ExxonMobil team has defined requirements for interfaces to legacy systems, for cutting over from legacy to new systems, and is working with Lockheed Martin to document system requirements from the console operator, control engineer, and other users at the process plant level. ExxonMobil will share some of this documentation (in particular, the Functional Characteristics documents that were written in 2014) with the members of the Open Process Automation Forum. Furthermore, we expect that these requirements will be supplemented with those of other end user companies who become members of the Forum.

Q. Why does the process control world need another standard or framework?

A. While there are a number of standards available at various levels that are useful and relevant to this area, none (in and of themselves) deliver the required characteristics of portability and interoperability to achieve the objectives of this initiative. In addition, we believe that it is critically important to the success of this initiative that business requirements of the entire industry ecosystem be considered, so as to create a "win-win" environment for all industry participants.

Q. How will this standard or framework differ from or relate to existing standards from ISA, Fieldbus, and other standards organizations?

A. We anticipate that many of the existing standards will be useful to this initiative, and to the concept of creating a "standard of standards". The members will determine which existing open standards are best suited to be utilized as components of the framework.

Q. How does this initiative compare or contrast to similar sounding initiatives from Saudi Aramco, and the NAMUR initiative from Germany?

A. Commentary from industry analysts suggests that this initiative from the Open Process Automation Forum is well aligned in terms of goals and objectives with these other efforts. The Forum is aggressively reaching out to these organizations, and intends to align our work with them to the extent possible.

Q. In attending one of the industry day events, I heard mention of the FACE standard in the avionics industry. Can you comment on how FACE will relate to this process automation standards initiative?

A. The experience of The Open Group in building the FACE™ Consortium, developing the FACE Technical Standard, and the business guidance to drive adoption proved the concept of a customer / vendor collaboration to address the needs of critical systems, in this case avionics. The approach used by the FACE Consortium at a high level will be very important (focusing on creating a win-win for suppliers and end users).

The technical work produced by the FACE Consortium may be useful as well, but the members of the Open Process Automation Forum will make this decision. One of the first tasks to be addressed by the members of The Open Group Open Process Automation™ Forum will be to define the scope of the architecture. The FACE Consortium went through a similar task when it defined its scope to be avionics systems, not other control systems used for sea or land-based military assets.

Q. In the industry day events, there was only reference to the "run plant" side of the discussion. Design, engineering and improvement of the installed base were not mentioned. Will these be included?

A. The Forum's initiative is definitely focused on the process automation architecture, including the design, engineering, and improvement of instances of the architecture. If the question pertains to design, engineering, construction, operation, and maintenance of a process plant, i.e., incorporates enterprise asset management functionality, this is not in scope.

Returning to the system architecture question, you can see in the FACE example a well-documented work process by which end users, system integrators, suppliers, and the standards selection and conformance organization collaborate to design, engineer, and improve the components of the open, interoperable architecture, including the standards. Similarly well-documented work processes will be defined by consensus for this Forum.