Flow 5.4 was officially released on August, 8th 2021, and weighs in with some impressive updates. It packs a mighty punch that all existing, and new Flow users, will benefit from.
The general theme for this release has been to assist engineers in rapidly rolling out large scale systems, especially where multiple sites are involved. We hope you will enjoy some of this new functionality aimed at improving your productivity. Among the various updates and new features, the following are highlights:
- Copy / Paste / Import / Export functionality
- Templatizing Event configuration
- Templatizing Measure retrieval and integration properties
- Templatizing Tables and Charts
- Model Security
- InfluxDB Data Source
- Event Trigger enhancements
- Under the hood performance and technology enhancements
Upgrading existing Flow Systems
Before diving into any more detail regarding the new features, existing users must please note the following key steps before upgrading your Flow Systems:
- Undeploy all components using your existing Flow Config
- Perform a Database backup
- Stop the Flow Bootstrap Service
- Make a note of the Administrative user that is used to run the Flow Bootstrap Service
Technology updates to .Net Framework and .Net Core
.Net Framework needs to be upgraded to version 4.8 and .Net Core to version 3.1. Here are some links to download and install these components:
- .Net Framework "Runtime" - https://dotnet.microsoft.com/download/dotnet-framework/net48
- .Net Core "Hosting Bundle" - https://dotnet.microsoft.com/download/dotnet/3.1
Installation and migration
- Run the Flow.msi installer you have downloaded
- Confirm the Flow Bootstrap Service's logon details are set to the Administrative user not above
- Open Flow Config, select your Flow instance in the "Connect" dialog box, connect and then accept the migration process when prompted. If any error messages are received, please contact our support team.
- Deploy all components
Are you using a Template Server?
If your Flow System makes use of a Template Server, you will need to follow a few more steps:
- Make sure your Template Server Flow System has already been upgraded by following the above steps
- Find the Template Server(s) in the "Deployment View" of Flow Config
- Right-click on each Template Server, select "Refresh" and then select the "Migrate" option
- Note: Some of your migrated templates may indicate an error state. This is because templates that were set to Retrieved will now require a Data Source and related properties to be set. In addition, templates that were set to Manual "Set to Measure" will now require related properties to be configured.
What's New? Some highlights ...
Copy / Paste / Import / Export functionality
Engineering is simplified and productivity increased with this new Config Tool capability. This will enhance your development experience as entire models, or parts of your models, can now be exported from one system and imported into another. In addition to this, model components can also be copied and pasted within your system or between systems to improve your development and testing workflow.
Templatizing Event configuration
Standardize your Information Model even further by templatizing Event definitions. The design philosophy in Flow is that of a “Template-first” mindset. We hope that this will drive model consistency and speed up your Flow System deployments.
Templatizing Measure retrieval and integration properties
This is driven by the extensive use of model attributes to mass populate plant areas, measure names and even tag references to Data Sources.
Templatizing Tables and Charts
Some Table and Chart components can now use Template objects to dynamically render content based on the Template objects instantiations. Charts can also be served by a Template Server, increasing standardisation and reuseability.
As with the Reporting and Form views in Flow, you now have the ability to configure user group access to your Model view. This allows you to hide parts of your Model from users depending on their group assignments.
Model Security has been extended to Flow Tiering functionality in the form of Server Key generation. When creating a new Server Key, you will specify the user group you wish the Key to impersonate. Thus, part of a Tier 2 model will not be visible by a Tier 1 consumer where necessary.
InfluxDB Data Source
We're continuously looking for new data sources to connect into Flow. One data source our industry is seeing more and more of is InfluxDB. We're pleased to include an InfluxDB Data Source in this release, allowing you to extend the reach of your Flow System even further.
Event Trigger enhancements
We've made triggering of events even simpler. Events can now be triggered from other events, even allowing filtering on specific event attribute values. The calendar configured in the toolbox can also be used to start and stop events, like stopping an active downtime event on shift change and starting it again if the downtime trigger is still active.
Under the hood performance and technology enhancements
As with all Flow releases, we strive to keep up with the latest technology updates, like .Net Framework and .Net Core. We've managed to squeeze out some additional performance and speed improvements to the Data Engines and Flow Config tool.
What's New? Even more ...
Apart from the highlighted features above, and at least 60 bugs squashed, the following provides a summarised outline of what's new:
- Windows 2019 support
- .Net Framework 4.8 support
- .Net Core version 3.1 support
- Added messaging to the Activity Monitor for Data Engines to show which measures or events are currently being processed
- Resolved database deadlock issue that was related to multiple threads processing events on a single engine
- Included a new InfluxDB Data source
- Added ability to deploy, undeploy or backfill related objects directly from a Data Source's Detail Dependancy panel
- Added "store and forward" detection on the Canary Historian Data Source. When the Canary Historian provides Flow with a "store and forward" status for a tag, Flow will stop processing any related measures or events until the data transfer resumes.
- Added Event Trigger configuration settings to detect “stale” or "flatlined" tags (this functionality is available in the Simulator and Canary Historian Data Sources at time of release)
- Resolved an issue in the Ignition Historian Data Source when the database included an Alarm Journal table
- Renamed legacy Wonderware Data Sources to Aveva Data Sources
- Added the ability to replicate the limit configuration from a Tier 1 measure to a Tier 2 replicated measure without additional configuration
- Resolved an issue where the custom namespace definition for SQL-based Data Consumers would duplicate folders in the Namespace
- Resolved an issue with the browsing of a very large enterprise Tier 2 namespace
- Resolved an issue where local time conversion was not being applied for measure event context integration
- Added messaging to the Activity Monitor for Integration Engines to show which measures are currently being processed
- Added Variance and Standard Deviation options to Aggregated ("rollup") measures
- Added additional minutely interval types to Calendar settings. Time periods in Flow can now be set to 1 minute "buckets" where required.
- Added the ability to display a list of quarantined measures in the Monitor view (quarantine measures are measures not being processed by the Data Engines due to incorrect or missing configuration)
- Added the ability to configure automatic backups of the Flow database (this is useful for smaller Flow Systems that make use of Microsoft SQL Express)
Flow Bootstrap Service
- Flow System Maintenance can now be configured to execute at a specific time of day, rather than at midnight. Users can also "trigger" system maintenance at any time directly from the Config Tool.
- Resolved an issue where daily System Maintenance failed due to multiple platforms assuming the role to perform maintenance, thus preventing system startup.
Dashboards, Charts and Forms
- Added the ability to view "drill down" comments for Aggregated and Calculated measures (i.e. you can view the comments entered on dependant measures, not just the primary measure)
- Resolved an issue in the Event Timeline Chart where it does not resize to its dashboard panel size
- Resolved an issue where a Widget would display the incorrect value when measure context was configured
- Resolved a number of areas where a measure's name was being displayed instead of its hierarchical name
- Added the ability to specify more than one filter on Event forms
- Resolved an issue with Event forms where the Freeze Point prevented the creation of new events
- Added endpoints to the Flow Server API to retrieve Calendar and Enumeration information
- Added a property to the Flow Server to configure the maximum number of client connections in its "connection pool"
- Logging into the Flow Server has been updated to accommodate both "Allow log on locally" and "Access this computer from the Network" security policies.