2. Operational Technology (OT)

2.6 Data Historian

Data Historians are time series databases specifically for OT purposes

In this chapter we are giving a small overview over Historian so the contrast with IT databases becomes clearer.

A data historian is a group of commercial databases targeted at the manufacturing industry. They were originally developed in the 1980s as databases optimized for time-series data, and evolved over time to include more and more features around the time-series database core (connectors to different data sources, analytics, reporting, dashboards, data modeling, etc.). As such, they are designed to work together with systems like SCADA.

Historians today

Today, data Historians are used across multiple industries for performance monitoring, supervisory control, analytics and quality assurance. It allows data access for engineers, data scientists, operators, managers and stakeholders, as they usually have a user-friendly GUI. The data extracted through the Historian can then be used for advanced monitoring, process tracking, report generation and business analytics. Historians are designed to be integrated with SCADA, ERP and MES nowadays and allow for comprehensive visualization. Historians support cloud and on-premise deployment, centralized and decentralized. They typically collect time-series data, from vibrations of engines, number of ingredients in a tank, temperatures of refrigerators, to number of items in stock, frequency of produced items etc. etc.. Recent data additions are usually cached by the Historians to enable quick and easy access for other applications.

Pros and cons

The main differences to the normal Time-Series databases are the comprehensive GUI, as well as the ability to process data and generate reports. A drawback to Historians to normal Time-Series databases are the proprietary nature of them, as it means additional expenses, often restriction in customization compared to Open-Source software and licensing issues when the software is supposed to be used on multiple devices. Other issues are the incompatibility with the modern cloud-based landscape and a heightened difficulty of real-time data extraction into IT systems, that are not initially designed to be integrated with a Historian.

In the future it is predicted that Historians will become less relevant, as Unified Namespaces and Data Lake solutions will grow in prevalence. If you want to learn more about the details of this prediction, make sure to watch his following video, where he explains his thought process.

If you want to learn more about our stance on Historians, please read our Article regarding the advantages and disadvantages of Historians compared to Open-Source databases. We also have an audio version of the article on YouTube.

Here you have some more information about it from another source:

Historian applications

Popular Historians are for example:

If you want to know more about Data Historians, please read up on it on the comprehensive Article by Clarify.io!

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