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Article - December 2003
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Key Criteria for Selecting Web Servers in Building Control Applications

We consider the options and choices available to consultants, end users and systems integrators.

Gary Bark Gary Bark
Sales and Marketing Director
Plexus Technology

info@plexus-technology.com
www.plexus-technology.com 


Web Servers come in many flavours these days and the majority of manufacturers who incorporate controls in their products have them in some form or another. 'Web Serving' is being promoted as an added value feature to manufacturers products in a wide variety of applications and quite rightly so, as the benefits of using the Internet are now widely accepted within our industry. As products and applications evolve based upon Internet technology, what should end users and integrators look for when selecting a Web Serving Solution? We consider the options and choices available to consultants, end users and systems integrators alike.

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All too often control solutions are selected for historical reasons or to minimise the capital cost of a project. The potential savings to installers from using alternative systems in the engineering and commissioning process are often never considered nor are the potential long term operational savings to the end-user. This results in tight budgets and low margins with inevitable under delivery against customer expectation and reduced customer satisfaction. The ability to demonstrate down the line benefits to end-users can enhance added value and create greater customer loyalty.

WHAT ARE THE CHOICES?

At one end of the scale are Web Servers that provide you with very little other than connectivity to the Internet. An example of this would be a DDC Controller with a 'web server' incorporated; providing little more than an http server and a small amount of memory to store web pages. While at the other end there are extremely comprehensive solutions designed specifically for simple, cost effective implementation incorporating a great deal of functionality 'straight out the box' for many diverse projects and applications. Often, however, many of the 'higher end' solutions are very expensive and difficult to use. This may be acceptable for very large projects, but is unsuitable for small and medium sized projects. The ideal situation is to use a supplier with a range of products all using the same engineering tools where the project can be scaled up without wasting the earlier engineering effort.

There are a number of basic criteria that need to be considered when selecting a web serving solution in order to maximise functionality and user benefits at a cost that is equal to or less than traditional systems. Let us explore these options further:

Applications

Is there a need to go back to basics and generate script and low level code to achieve the desired application needs such as time schedule changes, add a data logging point or reconfigure an alarm? End-users will not want to be calling out an automation specialist each time they need to add an alarm or change the logging interval on a data logger. Solutions need to be easy to use and manageable by the client after they have been implemented; hence the need to ensure all applications can be managed through 'simple' Web based configuration.

The effectiveness of the data collection, aggregation and presentation is fundamental if maximum benefits are to be obtained from the data provided by the system. Consider what data needs to be seen in the Web browser and how it should be presented. The ability to adapt the solution easily and quickly to changing needs and new situations is essential in the fast moving environment of today.

Engineering Tools

Scalability and Enterprise Management

By carefully considering all of the above criteria it is possible to select a solution that will provide maximum benefit to both the integrator and end-user alike. 


About the Author

Gary Bark Plexus Technology Sales & Marketing Director
Accreditation: Web Serving Solutions and Technology
Location: UK

Gary has been involved in building controls systems for 19 years and have experience in most low voltage control systems found in buildings. Since 1990 his focus has been the International market place which has enabled me to get a detailed understanding of the different technical and commercial requirements on a global basis. Previous employers include Andover Controls and CSI (now TAC).

Four years ago, along with three partners he set-up a controls company Plexus Technology who now specialise in Web Serving Solutions and serves the market globally. The company now has 25 partners, with representation in every continent.

He has also held a position on the LonMark Board of Directors for the past two years.


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