This week The S4 Group launched Release 1.40 with the initial shipment of the S4 Open: BACnet-N2 Router hosted on Advantech UNO 2362G hardware platforms. Release 1.40 was not initially planned but was the result of a very good year for S4. About a year ago Advantech announced End-Of-Life for the UNO 2059GL systems that had been hosting our products for many years. We placed one very large final order for enough systems to carry us through to our upcoming major release 2.0. Or, so we thought. Because of a significant increase in sales we exhausted the inventory of UNO 2059GL systems long before we thought we would. So, our partners Advantech B+B SmartWorx and Obermeier Software rose to the occasion. We worked together to select the next generation hardware platform, the operating system most suited to the system, and the port of our firmware.
The operating system selected is Windows 7 Embedded Standard. The firmware baseline for this release is the latest 1.30 firmware. The only new functionality has been added with this release is the replacement of the Microsoft DCOM protocols for communication between the S4 Router 1.40 and the Management Console with Web Services. This change allows the management console to access the N2 Router over the Internet, or other remote networks.
Internally, there are significant code changes that removed hardware dependent and OS dependent code to make the firmware portable, and improve reliability and performance. Much of this work was required for our upcoming release 2.0 which moves the operating system to Linux. So, this work is helping us to move in multiple directions simultaneously.
The release to manufacturing version of the firmware is 1.40.29308. The release version of the management console is 1.50.29202. This management console is backwards compatible with Release 1.40 and Release 1.30 S4 Routers. Backwards compatibility to 1.30 firmware versions still relies on the DCOM protocols with its associated limitations.
The Advantech UNO 2362G hardware platform:
- Will be delivered in one of two form factors
o A standard case with two isolated RS-485 (N2) ports for smaller installations.
o A double depth case with four isolated RS-485 (N2) ports for larger, more complex installations.
- These systems have two built-in serial ports that are not usable for N2 communications. The ports will be appropriately marked on the outside of the case.
- The new hardware includes significantly increased CPU power and significantly more memory for greatly improved performance.
More significantly, we had to defer providing support for the Upstream N2 Interface functionality that enables co-existence with the legacy Metasys® supervisory controller. Even though this is one of the main differentiators of the S4 technology the effort to make this feature available as part of the initial release would have significantly delayed the release date. This functionality will be provided by the end of 2017 in a field upgrade to the firmware.
You may have noticed that the RTM version for the management console is 1.50 while the firmware release is 1.40. Firmware development efforts were refocused to the 1.40 UNO 2362G release when the end of availability for UNO 2059GL systems became obvious. There will not be a 1.50 firmware release for the UNO 2059GL platform. We will continue to support release 1.30 on the 2059GL hardware platform and provide critical bug fixes for the life of the systems under our Software Assurance program. Enhancements will be implemented only on the 1.40, 2.0, and later platforms.
The focus has been on our BACnet offering. The S4 Open: OPC-N2 Router 1.40 will follow shortly. It requires a completely different set of test sequences and validations that we are in the process of ramping up. With release 1.40 we introduce OPC UA capabilities directly from the OPC-N2 Router. Legacy OPC DA 2.0 capabilities will continue to be provided by our OPC proxy server launched by the S4 Open management console. We will keep you up to date in future articles.
We are currently taking orders for the S4 Open: BACnet-N2 Router 1.40. Our hardware provider is diligently working on ramping up their delivery capabilities so that we can catch up on back orders and build an in-house inventory that allows us to be responsive when our partners present purchase orders for products. This is a work in progress but the goal is to return to close to the same lead times that we have delivered in the past.