Peace of mind for Pinellas County Utilities with always-on industrial control systems

April 20, 2017
Learn how this Florida County’s utilities center virtualized their critical water systems with confidence: 71 million gallons of clean water, 30 million gallons of wastewater, and 3 wastewater treatment facilities have never been easier to manage.  

Pinellas County Utilities: Virtualizing critical automation solutions with confidence

Lately, people have been asking more questions about the safety and reliability of their water supply. That’s because recent incidents of system contamination such as the crisis in Flint, Michigan and storm damage from hurricanes Matthew and Sandy have thrust water and wastewater issues into the public eye. And that’s put increased pressure on municipalities and counties to get a better handle on their water and wastewater operations.peac

To do that, utilities like our long-time customer, Pinellas County Utilities (PCU) in Florida, rely on industrial control systems such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), historians, and human machine interfaces (HMIs). PCU monitors and controls about 20,000 assets, including valves, pumps, and temperature gauges, 2,000 miles of pipe, 13 well fields, five surface water sources, three wastewater treatment facilities, and 350 lift stations. These systems simply cannot go down.

To maintain high availability, PCU previously relied on clustered commodity servers but the problem was that they were getting old and expensive to support. So PCU decided to replace them with Stratus ftServers. Ken Osborne, PCU’s SCADA supervisor, explained: “Keeping the water on is a public health and safety issue. We can’t tolerate any downtime. Replacing clustered failover servers with ftServers saved us a lot of money and simplified the entire operation. I’ve never looked back.”

The utility deployed eight ftServers in three geographically dispersed control sites and their central control room. The ftServers run PCU’s Wonderware environment supporting SCADA, historian, HMI, and other applications, as well as Microsoft SQL Server and terminal services. PCU also virtualized almost everything with VMware.

By running virtual machines (VMs) on ftServers, PCU achieved several important benefits:

  • Efficiency was improved by centralizing remote access to the entire SCADA system. This lets technicians monitor physical components across water and wastewater operations anywhere, any time. It also gives them visibility into how everything is working or any issues that require attention. PCU management also analyzes real-time and historical operational information for insights that help further improve performance and efficiency of water and wastewater systems.
  • Protecting critical VMs with ftServers made good economic sense. Osborne figured that using server clusters instead of ftServers would have doubled his project costs and taken weeks longer to implement. The fault-tolerant virtualization solution also makes it easy for PCU to consolidate other applications and add new ones by simply creating another VM instead of facing the capital expense of buying additional servers.
  • Perhaps most important, PCU doesn’t have to worry about unplanned system downtime for its critical SCADA and other industrial control systems. Ken Osborne put it this way: “Our operation has relied on Stratus systems with no unscheduled downtime caused by a server failure. The server always runs and we never lose a thing. That’s peace of mind.”

To check out the full Pinellas County Utilities case study, along with other first-hand accounts of successful water and wastewater organizations using Industrial Automation, click here.


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July 26, 2016