Bentley Plant Keeps Eye on Interoperability

8 Feb, 2006 By: Sara Ferris

Company aims to get its Digital Plant products to work with Intergraph’s PDS

Interoperability is a top concern in the plant design area, says Anne-Marie Walters of Bentley Systems. The director of marketing for Bentley Plant recently briefed Cadalyst on Bentley's announcements at the daratechPLANT event in Houston in late January. She believes Bentley is well poised to address and ease this concern.

The common practice on most projects is to spread the work around to subcontractors, Walters notes, who may or may not be using the same plant design software. Interoperability issues also arise when an owner acquires another company or two companies merge. Rather than go through the pain and expense of making one side switch, often the solution is to let all offices keep the software they've been using.

Bentley is currently focusing on getting its Digital Plant products (AutoCAD-based AutoPlant and MicroStation-based PlantSpace) to work with Intergraph's PDS plant design tool. PDS is a logical choice because it still runs on MicroStation V7.

Toward that end, Bentley has opened an Interoperability Lab to provide a controlled environment for software integration testing and validation of application scenarios in the plant environment. Bentley will initially use the facility to monitor interoperability with PDS, but will expand in the future to include additional third-party products. Also, a new, free Open PDS Utility from Bentley allows MicroStation V8 users to view and export design review information from PDS V7 models.

As Intergraph attempts to move its users to the next-generation (and MicroStation-free) SmartPlant, Bentley no doubt sees an opportunity to court those who wish to stay with MicroStation.

Bentley's history with Intergraph will also serve it well in light of Intergraph's announcement earlier this week that it is acquiring U.K.-based Alias Ltd., developer of ISOGEN and a technology provider to Bentley and many other plant design software developers. Walters says that Bentley has a long-term contract with Alias. ISOGEN is bundled with both AutoPlant and PlantSpace, and Bentley is one of Alias' larger customers, she says.

Greg Bentley, in the CEO debate at DaratechPLANT, noted that little progress had been made since last year's conference, when CEOs from Intergraph, AVEVA and Bentley agreed to improve interoperability among their products, especially 3D models. Bentley is taking pains to keep its data model open and in alignment with ISO 15926, the company reports, which specifies a conceptual data model for digital representation of technical information about process plants and their lifecycles.

Bentley has also developed an editing tool that can be used to maintain and adapt the ISO 15926 information model to keep up with the evolving standard. This is useful to owner-operators and EPCs who have applied the ISO model to their own internal standards for information sharing. Bentley is making this tool available to all companies and projects within the FIATECH ADI (Accelerated Deployment of ISO 15926) Project.

As for the future of Bentley's plant design tag-team — AutoPlant and PlantSpace — Walters says that Bentley is "committed to providing plant-design applications that run on both AutoCAD and MicroStation." She does note that Bentley will likely create more and more common functionality between the two environments. The company also wants to maintain the scalability of AutoPlant so it remains attractive to smaller organizations.

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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