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There are now a number of LonWorks Web Servers available in the market place. We take a look at how this technology is rapidly replacing the traditional GUI software typically installed on desktop PCs to manage a building or facility and what to look for when selecting a LonWorks Web Server.
Web Configurable Applications
As Web Servers become more readily adopted in the market place Systems Integrators and End Users are looking for more functionality from this device. A Web Server can provide as little functionality as serving up an html page with static data over the Internet, right through to providing dynamic detailed graphics using Java™ along with browser configurable applications such as alarm handling, data logging, scheduling and optimum start stop. By selecting the latter, an area controller is provided that will replace individual discrete devices e.g. Data Logger, Scheduler, etc. and enable direct configuration and presentation of these applications through a standard web browser such as Internet Explorer™. This enables cost effective solutions to be provided for a wide range of applications.
LNS Hosted Web Servers
To date, there are few if any true Web Servers that operate directly on top of the LNS database. Plexus Technology (exhibiting at LonWorld stand B06) have filled this gap with the launch of their NSX-100 and NSX-1000 NETSERVERs which complement the existing NSX-10 NETSERVER which is targeted at small LonWorks applications. These Web Servers can host LNS directly or by means of the scalable architecture that LNS 3.x provides, to access the LNS database from any designated server connected to the Internet. Through these products true open systems can be realized, with the utilization of standard network management tools such as LonMaker for Windows™. This greatly simplifys the engineering of larger applications and provides a true interoperable solution at the same time.
Simple to Engineer
While the concept of Web Servers is one that is becoming adopted, typical Systems Integrators find themselves having to become html/web programmers. To the majority of Systems Integrators this is not a skill set that is found within their organisation. The Plexus range of Web Servers overcomes this problem through the Altitude Pilot engineering tool. This product enables the Systems Integrator or end users to create web pages with dynamic objects, quickly and simply, with no knowledge of html or any scripting language. Once you have created your graphics, save the project and all the html and Java scripting is written for you and downloaded to the Web Server. As Altitude Pilot is the standard engineering tool throughout the range of Plexus NETSERVERs, applications can be loaded into any of the platforms allowing you to upgrade hardware, without having to re-engineer the whole application. This simplicity is a key factor to Systems Integrators while enabling competitive end-to-end solutions now and in the future.
An important aspect of the Web Server is the ability to transfer data via the Internet. This may be historic logged data from the Web Server back to a bureau or central monitoring station or an e-mail generated as a result of an alarm condition. Global commands may be required by an Energy Manager to reduce/increase setpoints, dependent upon which part of the world you live, throughout tens or hundreds of facilities to ensure maximum demands are not exceeded. To achieve these objectives a flexible and open protocol needs to be adopted to ensure the Web Server is compatible with applications outside the LonWorks industry. To address this issue Plexus Technology has adopted two standards to achieve the above; an Active-X control that allows other applications to control or monitor NETSERVERs remotely and the industry standard XML, enabling real-time or logged data to be viewed in standard browsers and with a variety of common desktop applications. This high level of flexibility enables the creation of user friendly and greater added value applications to be realized by the Systems Integrators for their clients.
Plexus Technology is a company specializing in Web Serving and Web Enabling technology. All of the features mentioned in this article have been built into the Plexus range of NETSERVER's and will be on display at ASHRAE 2002.
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