The profusion of pc’s and servers, all with their own applications, cabling and components, on board of yachts and other vessels will soon be over. By building a new on-board cloud infrastructure, Netherlands-based maritime system integrator RH Marine has developed an automation network that needs less hardware, is more flexible and simplifies updates and repairs.
The technology has originally been developed for the Royal Dutch Navy. It is driven by the need for more efficient use of manpower and more efficient maintenance. Like other vessels the navy has a lot of personal computers on-board, connected to a lot of servers, making software updates, hardware repairs and replacements a complicated matter. The growing role for automation led to a growing need for integration.
After two years of R&D RH Marine launched its new Integrated Virtualized System Architecture (IVSA), inspired by cloud- technology, taking automation system integration to the next level. The system provides an on-board computer network to which applications for the bridge, engine room, CCTV, the Alarm Monitoring and Control System (ACMS) or power management systems can be connected. “Due to the virtualised technology the software runs on the server, not on numerous computers. Instead of let’s say 40 computers and dozens of stacked servers you only need a few servers. Every screen you plug in to connect with the LAN-network becomes a workstation. That can be on the bridge, in the engine room or every other selected spot on the vessel. On every workstation you can do everything”, Marcel Vermeulen of RH Marine explained.
This has a lot of advantages. In case of workstation failure, all software applications are immediately operational on another station, allowing the operator to continue there instead of waiting for hardware or software repairs. Failed or obsolete hardware components are replaced without any downtime or impact for the applications running. In case of an application upgrade, one USB stick in the main server can update the software on all working stations. If an additional workstation is needed, a network cable to the nearest network wall socket is the only thing required. In a minimalistic bridge design the compact workstations require no more space than a smart monitor and a network cable.
Furthermore, by using IVSA there is no need for early design freeze. Early in the project a general infrastructure with a few servers is delivered and later on or after delivery applications and sensors can be added without impact on this installed infrastructure. Needless to say the system saves a lot of on-board cabling between computers, network and servers.
The system is flexible and can integrate hardware or software of all kinds of suppliers. It can be installed on board any vessel during the design and construction phase or added later on, making it an ideal solution for both new-builds and refits. For instance, RH Marine is able to upgrade or adapt the bridge without any extreme modifications. Thus the new infrastructure reflects RH Marine’s mission to make ships smarter and easier to operate.
The question was if this new approach could comply with the harsh regulations and certifications in the maritime industry. Therefore RH Marine, together with Bureau Veritas, started a classification process. Now the virtualised system has been applied to one of the newest naval vessels and received the approval of the MED wheel mark certification.