Customer Q&A: Learning from Honeywell’s Software-Defined Journey

Learning directly from our customers by investigating their needs and collaborating with them on solutions is the key to our success as a company. Recently we’ve had the great pleasure of supporting Honeywell Process Solutions as they built out a stack for their Experion System Infrastructure, which takes advantage of Dell OEM and VMware technologies. Read more about the details in our interview below, and be sure to stop by the Dell booth at VMWorld next week to meet Paul and hear more about this industry-first solution.

Ravi Pendekanti: Tell me a little about yourself and your role at Honeywell.

Paul Hodge: Hi Ravi. Thanks for the invite to chat online. I’m Paul Hodge and I’m the Global Marketing Manager at Honeywell Process Solutions for our Experion System Infrastructure. Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) is a pioneer in automation control, instrumentation and services for the oil and gas; refining; pulp and paper; industrial power generation; chemicals and petrochemicals; biofuels; life sciences; and metals, minerals and mining industries. Experion is our flagship product for controlling industrial processes.

My team’s responsibility is to look after the complete commercial off-the-shelf hardware/software stack that the Experion solution sits on top of. Servers for physical and virtual, thin clients, networking, wireless, operating systems and hypervisor technologies.

RP: What problems, specifically, does Experion solve for your customers?

PH: Our customers, whether a refinery, a pharmaceutical company, etc., come to us with an industrial process that they want to control. We work with them to identify their specific needs and then supply the software and hardware that is required to control and optimize that asset. Experion is a toolkit that can be programed by Honeywell engineers to control these processes.

RP: Let’s talk about the technology. Could you describe the Dell-VMware solution, and what drew you to a modular infrastructure platform, and the FX2 in particular?

Dell PowerEdge FX2

PH: HPS has a virtualization portfolio called Experion Virtualization Solutions. In this offering, we have two virtual platforms for running our software suite. The Essentials Platform which is based on regular Dell R730 Servers and our Premium Platform which is based on the Dell FX2 and VMware’s VSAN. Our Premium Platform is targeted at those customers with the largest plants and need the upmost reliability, performance and density.

In our industry, reliability is key and we always had a vision for a scale out, clustered storage system design to further improve our offering. However, until recently many of the solutions added a layer of complexity that our industry just couldn’t tolerate. VMware’s VSAN changed that situation as we now had a scale out storage technology that was built straight into the hypervisor we were already using. And with the FX2, we have a modular hardware architecture which simplified the hardware part of the offering, gave us excellent flexibility and VM densities.

RP: What about systems management and security?

PH: In our industry, Ravi, we don’t have the technical resources that would typically be found in other IT areas. So, simplicity in the systems management space is key and one of the keys to simplicity is to reduce the number of interfaces required to manage the system. This is why Dell’s OpenManage integration into VMware’s vCenter was important. Our virtualization customers already use vCenter today and therefore we wanted to provide them the ability to also manage the hardware from that same interface.

In what was both a simplicity move and also a security move, we used the switches that are built into the FX2 platform to provide an isolated network for both the VSAN and Fault Tolerance networks. This ensures that no outside events can compromise the integrity of these networks and reduces the impact to the existing networking infrastructure that our customers have onsite.

RP: This is an industry, first, correct? Share a little bit about how you see this type of technology impacting the industrial market.

PH: Yes. With our Next Generation Premium Platform, Honeywell will be introducing a couple of firsts to the process control industry.

  • The Dell FX2 Server Platform. Honeywell is the first process control vendor to deploy this modular platform in a large scale OEM offering
  • Software Defined Storage. Previous OEM offerings in our industry have used proprietary storage and Honeywell is the asap
  • first vendor in the process control industry to use VMware VSAN (Software Defined Storage) in an OEM offering
  • Fault Tolerance. This is the first time that this technology has been deployed in an OEM offering in our industry and will provide hardware protection for mission critical applications through instantaneous, non-disruptive failover.

RP: I imagine that global support and supply chain issues are of key importance in serving your customers.

PH: Absolutely. The nature of our industry is that our customers have plants in the most remote corners of the world. So, it was important that we have a solution that we could deploy anywhere and provide support to those same locations. The benefits offered by Dell’s premier support is an element in providing the “Premium” experience that we want for our customers.

RP: Fantastic. I know you’ll be speaking about this solution in the Dell Booth at VMworld next week. Any other thoughts on how you see this solution evolving or expanding?

PH: This next release of our Premium Platform is just the start of our FX2/VSAN based solution. We intend on providing different offerings that make greater use of the FX2’s flexibility such as offering high density storage version, high density compute version along with a version with high speed processors for specialist compute applications. Additionally, I see this as being just the start of Honeywell’s software defined journey and I see great potential to exploit next some of the advances in software defined networking.

RP: Great. Paul, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you, and we look forward to collaborating with you and VMware into the future!

PH: Thanks very much Ravi. Appreciate the opportunity to tell your readers more about our solution and I look forward to talking about it more at VMworld next week.

About the Author: Ravi Pendekanti

Ravi Pendekanti is Senior Vice President of Server Solutions Product Management at Dell, Inc. His organization is responsible for developing and bringing Dell’s flagship line of PowerEdge Servers and Converged Infrastructure systems to market, covering a broad spectrum of global customers from cloud service providers and small businesses to large enterprises and organizations, all running a wide range of workloads. Most recently, Ravi served as the Vice President of the Platform Business Group at Oracle where he looked after GTM activities including Product Marketing and Sales Enablement related to the platform business that included Engineered Systems (Exadata, Exalogic, OVCA and SuperCluster), Servers, Solaris and Networking. With over two decades of extensive global experience in the enterprise and SMB segment in both hardware (servers, storage and networking) and software, Ravi has also held leadership roles at Juniper Networks, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics. He holds a MS in Computer Science and BS in Electrical Engineering.