Hirose: Connecting the future
Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 103 / 6
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Common Industrial Cloud Interface for CIP data transfer

The goal of ODVA′s Common Industrial Cloud Interface is to leverage cloud technologies to provide consumers and producers the most value throughout the entire lifecycle of devices that use CIP technologies for data transfer.

THE INDUSTRIAL INTERNET OF THINGS (IIoT) is bringing new technologies, challenges and opportunities to industrial automation. Companies are looking to the Internet and cloud computing to provide new ways to improve operations, increasing productivity and generate more revenue. Acquiring data from devices is a primary focus of IIoT in the market today, but there are definitely opportunities to do more. What are the challenges presented by these relatively new applications? What technologies are being leveraged to solve these challenges? What capabilities are needed to allow CIP devices to provide an advantage in these applications?

The three main architectural components in the Common Industrial Cloud Interface reference architecture are CIP Device, CICI Gateway and the Cloud.


A new Special Interest Group (SIG), the Common Industrial Cloud Interface (CICI), is grouped under the Optimization 4.0 banner among ODVA activities. Its goal is to develop standards that enable new cloud applications to be developed by the member community leveraging the rich data available in devices that conform to ODVA standards.

The new SIG intends to leverage "cloud technologies" available today and "connect" them with the rich information defined in CIP Devices in a simple and secure manner. The objective is to focus on making available means to discover CIP devices and the data available in those devices, along with also looking for opportunities to manage devices and collections of devices through gateways.

Cloud computing offers many advantages that were previously unavailable, starting with the ability to connect to devices across an enterprise or a machine type across multiple enterprises. In addition, the ability to scale computing power and storage are enabling new possibilities for analyzing data streams. In the sections below, we will highlight some of the basics of cloud computing and explore a set of Information exchange patterns that are common to all applications that include devices, gateways and cloud.

As an overview, the three main architectural components in the reference architecture are CIP Device, CICI Gateway and the Cloud.

CIP devices

In the context of CICI reference architecture, a device is a CIP-enabled device connected to a CIP enabled network. The CIP device′s purpose doesn′t change within the CICI context, nor do its characteristics or behaviors. This statement is very important to consider when contemplating the role of the CICI Gateway and Cloud as well as the guiding principles spelled out later in this article.

Only conceptually does the CIP-enabled Device change. In the CICI Reference Architecture, a CIP Device engages in an extended, much wider architectural context that includes the Cloud. In this wider architectural context, a CIP Device′s data (telemetry, etc.) can be published (indirectly) to the Cloud, to be processed, stored and analyzed by services and applications executing there. Likewise, commands and notifications can originate from those same cloud-based applications and be pushed back down through the CICI Reference Architecture to CIP Devices. This is made possible because of the CICI Gateway. No changes to a CIP Device are required for it to inter-operate within the CICI Reference Architecture. CIP Devices in CICI reference architecture are decoupled from the Cloud; all integration requirements are handled by the CICI Gateway. This important requirement enables full CICI interoperability for legacy CIP Devices.

CICI gateway

A CICI Gateway is a middle-tier architectural component that is physically located on-premise and that logically bridges between the CIP network and the Internet and Cloud. Logically, it has two logical interfaces: downstream connects to the CIP-enabled network and n-number of CIP Devices; upstream connects to the Internet and Cloud.

As a middle tier CICI Gateway maintains contextual information for n-number of CIP Devices on its downstream interface. On its upstream interface, it maintains context (e.g. security credentials, endpoint URIs, etc.) of multiple Cloud-based services, messaging systems.

A CICI Gateway performs a number of roles, most visibly bi-directional secure routing of Device-to-Cloud (D2C) and Cloud-to-Device (C2D) messages between CIP Devices on its downstream interface and Cloud-based services and apps on its upstream interface.

A CICI Gateway translates and normalizes message payloads as they pass across the domain boundaries of CIP and the Cloud. This crucial operation satisfies a core guiding principle: CIP stays home.

Logically, a CICI Gateway can be implemented at the level of a CIP Device, e.g. a CIP Device performs its own CICI Gateway functions. This approach is a two-tier, device direct to cloud connectivity pattern and is not recommended.


In the CICI reference architecture, the Cloud is the Public Cloud. Technically, the public cloud is a complex collection of cost effective, scalable, geographically distributed infrastructure, software and platform services. Conceptually, however, the Cloud should be thought of in simpler terms: as the data collection, processing and analytics platform on which value will be created for the next generation of CIP customers.

Value for CIP customers is provided by actionable information which can be used to make asset management and business decisions. Actionable information is derived by the CIP Device related data. Once collected, processed and analyzed, this data results in the ultimate value for ODVA customers: actionable asset information. Cloud-based applications will also consume raw CIP Device data as well as the derived actionable data.

Deriving actionable data is the ultimate goal of CICI since this is generally where value is provided to customers. For example, high levels of value to customers due to cost reduction can be achieved in the area of asset maintenance. As device monitoring is increasingly understood and analyzed, maintenance action can evolve from costly run-to-failure (reactive), to more efficient preventive (proactive) to the most cost effective, predictive.

Public Cloud Computing

This section introduces ′Cloud Computing′ concepts as related to CICI, so that readers can share a basic understanding of this complex technical landscape.

Public Cloud Computing, aka ′the Cloud′ or ′Cloud Computing′, represents a significant, disruptive shift from traditional information technology (IT) and software product creation and delivery. In some cases, the Cloud will compete directly with an existing technological model, such as with on-premise hosted Data Center, potentially displacing it. In other cases, the Cloud should be seen, not as a competitive or displacing force to existing technologies, such as CIP, but as a complementary extension and enabler for developing new and different types of applications and solutions which leverage existing technologies.

Irrespective of it being a competitive or complementary force, Cloud Computing is disruptive to both technology and business models and brings significant risk for companies and industries attempting to adapt. The simple reason for this is that modeling and implementing Cloud-based solutions such as IIoT is complicated and multi-dimensional. This is not just a question of technology, but extends to business models, the increasing emphasis of OPEX over CAPEX, difficulties with costing imprecision, and the reformation of sales channel and revenue stream, etc.

The first big challenge is that the Cloud Computing marketplace evolves daily and presents a bewildering and expanding set of choices among technologies, service offerings, service costing models and vendors. Secondly, the landscape of public Cloud vendors is complex and confusing: small, medium and large vendors compete for business in general purpose and specialized niche service markets. Finally, because of the rapid evolution of the Cloud there is no single path for successful Cloud adoption for a company or even its individual lines-of-business.

However, for companies and industries that are able to navigate these complications and can adapt to and leverage the Cloud′s capability new possibilities emerge for developing customer value and driving business opportunity. Cloud Computing offers companies extensive infrastructure, platforms and software services that traditionally have been available only at the corporate, enterprise or data center infrastructural level. These service groupings are referred to as ′as-a-Service′ resources and are as follows:

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is a self-service model for using storage, servers, networks and related virtual resources. The user of the service is usually responsible for managing applications, data, configurations, licensing and updates of related resources, including in some situations, the operating system. Resources usually have a number of options for performance and quality of service levels and can be very cost effective. A common use of IaaS is for hosting, networking, load balancing and storage for applications.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is vendor managed platforms and middleware on which vendor applications and solutions can be rapidly developed, tested, operated and maintained. Messaging middleware, integration frameworks, databases and business process management are common PaaS services. These services are rapidly leveraged and require no maintenance. Similarly, to IaaS services, PaaS services offer a choice of service level and/or are billed per a consumption-based subscription model. Common uses of PaaS are the deployment of non-monolithic services, integrating decoupled components in a distributed system, storing of quantities of information at Big Data scale and deploying analytics algorithms.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is software deployed in the Cloud, yet accessible virtually anywhere by clients. SaaS represents the large and growing field of cloud-based application services and offers as well as new architectural concepts such as microservices. SaaS applications are often accessed via thin-clients such as Web Browsers and mobile applications (native or hybrid) and, therefore, generally require very limited downloaded installation components or none at all. A common use (and ultimate goal) of SaaS for vendors is to use it as a platform for deploying products and solutions which include capabilities that are simply not possible with traditional on-premise deployment: Big Data analytics; geographic redundancy; IoT-level scalability; and world-wide access.

Cloud computing has introduced, or at least raised to a high degree of public awareness, many new technologies and concepts. Big Data describes data sets of magnitudes and complexities never seen before. Big Data implies analysis of these data sets using specialized tools, algorithms programming languages and technologies to discover trends and patterns which may be used to drive business value. Data sets are characterized by the ′Four Vs′, described below.

Four Vs of Big Data

The Four V′s of Big Data are Volume, Velocity, Variety and Veracity.

Represents the scale of the data sets. One hears of systems running at ′Big Data Scale′, which implies that they can consume and process data sets of unimaginable size. Technologies been built exclusively to address the need to scale with the many orders of magnitude expansion of storage needs. An example of this is NoSQL databases, which can scale to Big Data scale in IoT systems, replacing SQL databases which cannot.

Velocity: Represents the ubiquitous and persistent collection and delivery of data, from consumers, sensors, systems into cloud-based Big Data oriented-systems.

Variety: Represents the ability to combine dissimilar data sets which previously could not have been combined are now being processed together. The Cloud enables the combination of public and private data to provide insights previously unattainable. Tweets, traffic, weather, Facebook, stock prices postings are examples of well-known dissimilar data sets which could be combined and analyzed to provide previously unattainable analytic outcomes.

Industrial examples of public/private data sets are current power costs, impending weather events, raw materials cost, motor/ machine/plant efficiency metrics, etc.

Veracity: Represents the fact that much of Big Data information available is of questionable quality.

Inaccuracy of data in consumer-based Big Data applications is a challenge, requiring cleansing and validation processing and assessment. It may not pose such a challenge in more tightly managed and audited Industrial environments. Nevertheless, it must be accounted for.


NoSQL is a database model/approach which has evolved during the Big Data era and which contrasts markedly with Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS or SQL): NoSQL databases have relaxed or non-existent referential integrity requirements, flexible storage options and limitless scalability and redundancy built in from the ground up. The acronym NoSQL originated from ′non SQL′ and/ or arguably ′not only SQL′.


AMQP, Advanced Message Queuing Protocol, is the open standard and has emerged as a very popular protocol for sending messages to and receiving messages from Cloud-based systems. In addition to being open and standard, AMQP was designed with these characteristics Security, Reliability, Interoperability.


MQTT, Message Queue Telemetry Transport, is an ISO standard (ISO/IEC PRF 200922), publish/subscribe, lightweight messaging protocol used for Cloud-connectivity for limited network bandwidth and remote applications.


JSON, JavaScript Object Notation, is a terse, readable, structured data format. It is very popular as a payload format for Device-to-Cloud and Cloud-to-Device messaging. A benefit to using JSON is that many stream processing applications are built to natively consume JSON structures efficiently and cost-effectively. Below is a very basic JSON message:



  "message"="Hello World!"


Guiding principles or concerns

As we apply cloud technology and cloud communication patterns to use cases, a number of concerns have been identified. These concerns form the basis for guiding principles to be applied to any resulting work.

The technical, semantic and application difference between cloud-based and CIP Device-based ecosystems is vast. The purpose of CICI is to define an integration approach to bridge between the two environments so that cloud-based applications (and application developers) can consume CIP Device data and produce actionable information useful to the CIP Device, directly or indirectly. It is not the purpose of CICI to replicate the CIP network-based ecosystem in the Cloud but to abstract and represent CIP Device data so that its use by Cloud applications is simple and efficient. The following are some of fundamental differences of Cloud-based from CIP-network based application development:

Distribution: Cloud-based applications are intrinsically distributed, combining resources from multiple compute, storage and service platforms to achieve function.

Real-Time: due to its distributed nature and platform dependencies, the notion of real-time is an uncommon concept in public cloud computing.

Protocols and Payloads: Cloud-based application developers expect message payloads that are easily programmatically digestible, potentially extensible for business process purposes and normalized to contain meaning for a given application domain, such as Asset Management analytics. Abstracting CIP details satisfies these expectations while exposing CIP protocol or payload formats would cause lost productivity for developers, potentially large, incremental, pro t impacting unmarshalling/marshalling costs.

Applications: Cloud-based applications have very broad scope and virtually no limitation to the types of functions that can be performed. Cloud-based applications can be modified and updated very rapidly (in minutes, hours) and often integrate multiple streams of information simultaneously to produce results.

Communications between entities on the cloud are generally based on widely used open standards which are not industry specific and which may be replaced at any time. CIP communications, while standardized, are industry specific and slow to change.

Developer Pool: Cloud developers master a variety of programming languages, ′cloud oriented development′ and cloud architectures that are very different from those needed by CIP network application developers. Abstracting CIP details with a normalized Device Asset domain model, for example, greatly increases the pool of potential developers for CICI-based Cloud applications.

In order to not compromise security of on-premise resources, CICI Gateways and CIP Devices are not exposed the Internet by publicly available interfaces such as publish/subscribe broker or http web service endpoints. Device-to-Cloud and Cloud-to-Device communications are through an established CICI Gateway. For example, to support Cloud-to-Device communications, Cloud applications send messages to devices indirectly through Cloud-based egress queues to which the CICI Gateway subscribes.

All communication must be performant and scalable across a variety of networks. This means that CIP must "stay home" or stay on premise where responses are timely and consistent. Any solution identified should avoid a specific implementation, but instead be described in general terms. On one hand, this document avoids recommending implementation technologies.

Instead, the focus is on D2C and C2D information exchange patterns common in the solution marketplace and relevant to the design of CICI and CICI-based solutions. On the other hand, some technologies (AMQP, MQTT, JSON, etc.) are included in typical CICI architectures to illustrate how contemporary IIoT/Cloud integration are achieved and relate to information exchange patterns important to CICI.

The diagram above shows the Telemetry Information Exchange pattern used in conjunction with the Common Industrial Cloud Interface (CICI) reference architecture.

Information exchange patterns

Four Information Exchange Patterns generalize the logical patterns of communication that will occur between the cloud and gateways or devices.

Telemetry is one-way, with information owing that a device or gateway "volunteers" to a collecting service, either on a schedule or based on particular circumstances. This information represents the current or temporally aggregated state of the device or the state of its environment, like readings from sensors that are associated with it.

Telemetry is initiated by the CIP Devices based on a previous configuration or runtime subscription request. Data flows from the CIP Device to the CiCi Gateway and sent to the Cloud to be available for Cloud applications. Note that security had been omitted for simplicity, but the connection to the cloud would be set up before data would begin to ow following a Telemetry Information Exchange pattern. The exchange pattern is one way, so that the CIP Device does not expect a response from the Cloud application.

With inquiries, the device or gateway solicits information about the state of the world beyond its own reach and based on its current needs. An inquiry is a singular request, but might also ask a service to supply ongoing updates about a particular information scope. A vehicle might supply a set of geo-coordinates for a route and ask for continuous traffic alert updates about particular route until it arrives at the destination.

Inquiry is initiated by the CIP Device and flows through the CICI Gateway to the Cloud application via its messaging endpoint. The Cloud application receives the Inquiry message and creates a response. The Cloud app then sends the response message to the Egress queue to which the CICI Gateway is subscribed. The CICI Gateway routes the message to the correct Device.

The Inquiry exchange pattern differs from Telemetry in that a response or acknowledgment from the Cloud application is expected. Of note is the use of Correlation IDs in the messaging between the CICI Gateway and the Cloud application. Correlation ID is an Enterprise Integration Design Pattern used to relate a response to the correct request in asynchronous, non-guaranteed ordered communication scenarios.

notifications are one-way, service-initiated messages that inform a device or a group of devices about some environmental state they′ll otherwise not be aware of. Wind parks will be fed weather forecast information and cities may broadcast information about air pollution, suggesting fossil-fueled systems to throttle CO2 output or a vehicle may want to show weather or news alerts or text messages to the driver.

Notifications are initiated by the line-of-business Cloud applications. Cloud apps send Notification messages to the egress queue to which the CICI Gateway has subscribed. The CICI Gateway then routes the notification messages to the appropriate CIP Device or group of devices. The notification exchange pattern is the logical inverse of the Telemetry exchange pattern and, therefore, the Cloud application does not expect an acknowledgment or response from the device.

Commands are service-initiated instructions sent to the device. Commands can tell a device to provide information about its state, or to change the state of the device. That includes, for instance, sending a command from a smartphone app to unlock the doors of your vehicle, whereby the command first flows to an intermediating service and from there it′s routed to the vehicle′s onboard control system.

Command is initiated by the line-of-business Cloud application. Command messages are sent to the Digital Twin or directly to the egress command queue to which the CICI Gateway is subscribed. The CICI Gateway sends a synchronous request to the CIP Device and relays the response to the Cloud endpoint.

Command is the logical inverse of Inquiry. Therefore, the Cloud application expects a response from the Device. Once again, the Correlation ID enterprise integration pattern can be leveraged for correct message logical routing and processing of responses.

The Inquiry Information Exchange pattern using the reference architecture.

Next steps

This article covered new technologies that are being introduced into the industrial automation marketplace. It provides a "first pass" definition of one of the communication patterns and an example of how that communication pattern could be realized. It can be easily observed that the Common Industrial Cloud Interface work is just getting started. There is a lot of ground to be covered to completely define the remaining three communication patterns at a high level.

The next steps will be to fill in more details, referencing all the technologies and standards available and keeping in mind the guiding principles enumerated. But the goal is to leverage cloud technologies to provide consumers and producers the most value throughout the entire lifecycle of devices.

Stephen C. Briant, Technology Manager for Rockwell Automation and Thomas Whitehill, Remote Services Architect, Schneider Electric.

Source: Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 103 / 6
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