Echelon

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Echelon

Echelon powers world’s leading control networks with the Versant FastObjects database.

Challenge

Echelon is a pioneer and world leader in control networks, which connect machines and other electronic devices, and embedded control networks, which are networks inside machines that connect tiny sensors and actuators that comprise the workings of a machine.

Echelon created the LonWorks platform, an extremely robust, flexible, and expandable standards-based control networking platform and ecosystem upon which manufacturers can build products and applications with unparalleled reliability, security, operational integrity, flexibility, and bottom-line value. LonWorks is the world’s most widely adopted standard for automating everyday devices and systems. Hundreds of millions of people have experienced a LonWorks based control network. They’re used everywhere — from the Louvre, to the New York City subway system, to Rhoponghi Hills in Tokyo — to create control applications that make our lives more comfortable, convenient, and safe.

A predecessor of LNS was introduced in 1991, using procedural code and an embedded record oriented / relational data storage toolkit. As object oriented programming began to emerge, the team realized that using object-oriented programming was the most productive way to add features and power to the system. At the same time, the team realized that the record oriented storage toolkit was an obstacle to object oriented development and a big usability problem because it exposed the embedded database structure to their broad OEM programmer community. They needed an embedded database compatible with the object oriented application model, capable of handling the 70+ application classes, with up to 32,000 device instances on one network, including deep inheritance hierarchies, complex relationships among application objects, and high performance to store / retrieve a persistent network size of several hundred megabytes.

Solution

In 1994, the first version of LNS was introduced using the power of object-oriented programming in C++ and the FastObjects database. The LNS server uses an object-oriented model in memory of the complete network and all of the inter-element (peer-to-peer) relationships of each network element. This model creates the “program” for the network, initializing each network element so that it can perform the desired roles. Such a rich model is ideally suited to the use of the FastObjects database and its powerful capability to store and query objects.

Echelon estimates that using FastObjects resulted in a six months advantage in time to market, and saved several “developer years” while simultaneously enabling the team to implement more powerful features. In addition, there are significant ongoing developer productivity gains when enhancing and maintaining the code base.

FastObjects is embedded for seamless deployment, and requires no database tools or administration. The automatic schema modification and data migration capabilities of FastObjects make it easy to enhance and evolve the LNS management system. The Echelon development team has never been constrained by the database in enhancing functionality. When a major release occurs, with new features, capabilities, and new database schema, the built-in tools of the FastObjects database automatically migrate the installed customer databases, with no database or programming expertise required by the servicing partner, or the customer.

Results

The LonWorks ecosystem is an impressive example of creating a highly productive, industry-leading product and ecosystem, based on a powerful and agile object oriented code base and the Versant FastObjects database. FastObjects offers developers more productivity, high performance at runtime, and the economy of a low maintenance database, with no database administration required. Chances are that you’ve interacted with a LonWorks network, managed by Versant, embedded in building controls, transportation, or industrial equipment.

The majority of LonWorks devices are deployed by Echelon’s OEMs, many of them world leaders in their own industries, who add domain specific hardware and software capabilities to the LonWorks platform. As of 2009, about 50 million intelligent LonWorks network devices have been installed into about 1 million individual networks. Many of these instances are configured using the LNS management system, powered by the Versant FastObjects database. The branding, promotion, and compatibility testing and certification of this platform is coordinated by the independent trade organization, LonMark International. LonMark has over 400 members using the LonWorks platform. The platform is an international open standard, ISO/IEC 14908-1.

About Echelon

Echelon Corporation (NASDAQ: ELON) is leading the worldwide transformation of the electricity grid into a smart, communicating energy control network, connecting utilities to their customers, enabling networking of everyday devices, and providing customers with energy-aware homes and businesses that react to conditions on the grid. The energy control network is profoundly different from communications networks. Where communications networks inform people and move data from the edge to centralized data centers for decision making, energy control networks has smart devices at the edge that use embedded rules to analyze and act, immediately, locally, and with extreme reliability where they are needed most.

Echelon supplies products to original equipment manufacturers, systems integrators, utilities, and value-added resellers from offices in the U.S., U.K., China, Japan, Germany, France, South Korea, and The Netherlands, as well as channel partners throughout the Americas, Asia, and Europe.