side panel. As an example, when creating a
screen, the tank symbol can be placed on
the screen and the tag-name dragged on
top of it and immediately the screen updates
showing the level of the tank. Switching
from a window making application to a
window viewing application is no longer
24 SOURCE summer 2011
required. The software runs in the Java
runtime environment and installs in less
than three minutes. It also comes in 32 and
64 bit versions. Helix is currently 64 bit at
the server level with 64 and 32 bit clients.
The software is open. A good example is
that the SQL database is user selected.
Database options are Oracle, Microsoft,
IBM, MySQL and PostgreSQL. The
information in the database is stored in
an easily retrievable fashion. The software
is platform independent. The Java runtime
hides the underlying operating system,
which allows it to run on Windows,
Linux, and a few other operating systems;
therefore the SCADA system is no longer
affected by changes and upgrades in the
The software is also cost effective. The
purchase of the software was done with
no capital funding. Only one copy of the
software is needed for the server and there
are no tag or number of clients limitations.
In fact with the exception of the Java runtime
and proper network settings, the clients have
zero administration needs. There simply is
nothing to install on the client, and screen
updates are done with a single click of a
mouse. Since the original data historian was
purchase in August 2007 we had deployed
three servers; two making up the cluster at the
Treatment Plant and a complete stand-alone
backup system at the Operations Center.
The system at the Treatment Plant has two
main servers, 16 client computers, 42 PLC,
6700 tags, 188 screens, and two redundant
databases. The distribution system has over
100 PLCs sending data back to a master PLC
at the plant.
In conclusion, many water utilities are facing
issues with an aging SCADA system, tighter
economic times and stricter regulations. In
the past the solution has been to just write
checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
However, current economic issues may not
make this possible in the future. Fortunately
there are now state of the art solutions that
are truly powerful, open and cost effective.
Our water quality manager has a saying on
his wall “Yesterday’s excellence is today’s
standard and tomorrow’s mediocrity.” Only
time will tell if the SCADA choice we have
made was a good one.
Henry Palachek has been with the Helix Water
District for the past 15 years. He serves as
the Information and Process Control Systems
SCADA, Continued from page 23