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SCADA-DCS boundary blurs as retrofit booms

01 February, 2006

SCADA-DCS boundary blurs as retrofit booms

The distinction between SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) and DCS (distributed control system) is becoming blurred as the two technologies move increasingly into each other`s territories.

For example, DCS systems are shifting from traditional process control duties into areas such as production and information management and documentation, while SCADA systems have improved IT capabilities and support for higher-level systems such as MES (manufacturing execution systems) and ERP (enterprise resource planning).

"New SCADA systems increasingly offer features traditionally associated with DCS products, such as in-built redundancy," says Jonas Westlund, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan, which has recently published a report* on Europe`s SCADA and DCS markets. "This enables a primary host computer to switch automatically to a secondary computer in the event of a system failure, thereby ensuring that the data remains available to clients in the event of server disruptions."

Another trend identified by F&S is the growing share of revenues coming from upgrades and retrofits. Over the period 2005-2011, it expects that the European DCS and SCADA markets to expand by $691m, with the bulk of this growth ($476m) coming from retrofits. Most of the growth will be in the DCS market ($503m), with SCADA sales expected to rise by $188m.

The food and beverage sector is predicted to show the fastest growth in sales, rising by 36.9%, while the power generation market will show the biggest growth in monetary terms (of more than $300m - equivalent to a 28.4% growth rate).

One consequence of the growth of the retrofit market, is that customers will tend to stick to their previous suppliers, which will benefit larger vendors. Smaller suppliers may have to align with their rivals to reach a wider customer base, F&S suggests, especially as multinational customers look to source products from a shortlist of large global players.

At the same time, F&S expects some of the larger players to sell controls businesses that they do not consider to be "core", and to acquire other manufacturers with strong brands, technological expertise, or strengths in particular markets.

* Strategic analysis of selected European SCADA and DCS markets (report B543-10).

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