Emerson’s Boundless Automation™ Vision for Next-Generation Automation

Author photo: Peter Reynolds
By Peter Reynolds

Keywords: Emerson, DCS, Industrial Automation, IT-OT, Edge, Intelligent Field, Hyperconverged Infrastructure, Platforms, MQTT, OPC-UA, APL, Cloud, ARC Advisory Group.


Emerson held its 2023 Exchange Immerse event in Anaheim, CA, on October 3-5, 2023. Hailed as a conference “for users by users,” the event attracted the in-person attendance of over 1,000 professionals from all areas of process automation who came to connect with peers, share ideas, collaborate on solutions, and learn from subject Next-Generation Automationmatter experts how to extract the most value from their automation investments. The event featured several partners, product and technology sessions, industry forums, hands-on labs, and Emerson and partner exhibits on the show floor. 

Emerson's Boundless Automation™ vision is a software-defined, data-centric, and app-enabled architecture that aims to democratize critical data and break down silos of data in areas like sensing, analytics, reliability, and control. The Boundless Automation vision is designed to help organizations extract more value from their automation investments by making it easier to deploy applications and deliver data across operational domains by integrating automation solutions from the intelligent field through the edge and the cloud.

Key findings include:

  1. IT and OT organizations need to work together to more effectively deploy an automation platform to democratize industrial data. 

  2. The Boundless Automation vision combines cloud with software defined edge, intelligent field in a simplified architecture to eliminate barriers. 

  3. A new DeltaV™ Edge Environment provides new capabilities for app development, software deployment and orchestration, remote monitoring, and centralized management.

The Challenge in Extracting Value from Automation

For decades, DCSs, PLCs, SCADA systems, and other automation solutions have delivered value, but have also created data and operational silos that locked out extra value creation. These were designed and architected in a Next-Generation Automationcomplex hierarchy of networks built on the well-known Purdue model, created in the early ‘90s. While this age-tested and secure method meets the primary design intent of a process manufacturer, until recently, there has been little progress in extracting more value from the instrumentation, control, and safety layer. 

Simplifying process automation and other operational systems by detangling complex networks is necessary to create value by liberating the data. A modern approach and intelligence are essential at the asset or equipment edge and with the cloud to increase the level of optimization and autonomy in industrial sites. Technologies from IT at the edge and cloud are bringing plant software applications together. IT and OT organizations need to work together to more effectively manage a platform that will allow industrial data to be democratized so it can be moved more effectively and efficiently, allowing industrial manufacturers to optimize assets better.

Evolving the Automation Platform

To align with Emerson’s customers the company has created a vision for Boundless Automation and a simplified architecture that drives operational excellence. Effectively, this eliminates barriers to data and breaks down organizational silos. The vision further combines the power of cloud computing with software defined edge and intelligent field. Other standard elements of the industrial IoT suite of technologies, such as MQTT, OPC-UA, and REST API services are built-in to democratize data and provide for extensibility, scalability, and broad interoperability. As part of the platform several innovations were announced:

  1. DeltaV IO Connect to introduce 3rd party I/O as DeltaV native I/O for a simpler transition to DeltaV control and software to reduce modernization spend and update I/O opportunistically.

  2. Native Profinet on APL on DeltaV PK Controller. A simple form factor for Profinet, OPC-UA and Ethernet I/P and a flexible approach for I/O integration and communications.

  3. AMS Device Manager Data Server to make the field device data available to other applications in IT-friendly formats. Also provides integration with other data sources for advanced analytics and machine learning. 

  4. Wireless 5G Backhaul with capability to provide a backhaul of 5G devices over a public or private network. 5G brings flexible secure connectivity to mobile single assets, easy drop-in for pervasive monitoring. 

Next-Generation Automation

Rethinking Conventional DCS with DeltaV Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Cloud computing has presented an opportunity for IT and OT to re-think process control fundamentals. While IT and OT have different requirements, the technologies are converging, causing us to reconsider how IT and OT work together. The days of maintaining multiple servers, switches, and dedicated storage are gone, as well as the associated time and costs. Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) based virtualization allows users to easily expand, upgrade, and maintain while saving on deployment time in a software-defined networking system. This software defined control approach provides flexibility to easily select a controller’s initial size in a subscription license for the software, allowing it to grow or shrink as needs change. All functionality that exists exclusively in the physical controller today will run inside a VM hosted in a hyperconverged infrastructure, eliminating bottlenecks through the controller. 

In this new HCI environment, users can add capabilities from a much broader set of applications. Emerson’s majority stake in AspenTech has allowed the company to add further value to the platform by incorporating AspenTech IP-21 historian, DMC3 Advanced Process Control, and leading industrial analytics products, driving synergies between Emerson and AspenTech to improve operations. 

DeltaV Edge Environment

The greatest opportunity to create more value from the DCS is through a secure edge environment. Emerson has built a secure DeltaV edge environment by connecting DeltaV Edge nodes through a data diode to the DeltaV DCS network, keeping mission-critical control and safety functions separate from other data needs and requirements. This approach liberates control and automation data by allowing users to move up to 300,000 parameters (runtime and configuration data) out of DeltaV controllers and into the edge environment. Enterprises can securely access data without touching the controllers and critical application. 

Within the DeltaV Edge Environment, users can write their apps or dashboards using Python, Grafana, Splunk or Power BI, as well as use applications from other vendors remote monitoring, analytics or optimizations including artificial intelligence and machine learning. The DeltaV Edge Environment includes centralized management of all nodes as well as an application marketplace and software orchestration to make software deployment easier across the enterprise. 

The net result is an architecture now resembling enterprise IT and creating synergies, processes, and policies IT operations use to centrally manage enterprise infrastructure or connect using REST API, OPC-UA or MQTT. AspenTech Inmation can also be used to integrate the different DeltaV Nodes into a centralized on-prem or cloud data management infrastructure.


IT organizations have leveraged a platform approach as the foundation for hardware and software. Platforms are the enablers for applications, services, and processes to run and the core for IT Security Ops, DevOps, and MLOps. Leading platforms like Microsoft Azure, AWS and many others provide the infrastructure and capabilities for building, deploying, and managing cloud and on-prem solutions. IT understands platforms deliver benefits to increase business agility, reduce cost, improve scalability, and enhance security. 

Emerson’s vision for Boundless Automation shows progress in safely and securely creating “no boundaries to information from the control layer.” The resulting superhighway of democratized data will provide new insights and sources of value from the intelligent field. The future of this architecture will be defined by OT and IT working together leveraging harmonious policies and systems using the software at the edge and the use of cloud infrastructure and AI.


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