In this article you will learn:

  • Our recommendations and requirements on structuring a machine monitoring environment
  • What it means to port forward your OPC/UA Server

Tulip is a Manufacturing App Platform that provides a cloud service to its customers. At Tulip, communication between the Tulip Cloud and machines on the shop floor is facilitated through the use of a Tulip Connector Host and an OPC/UA Server running on a customer's internal network.

The Tulip Connector Host acts as the connection point between the Tulip Platform and any third party service accessible over HTTP, SQL, and OPC/UA protocols. You can find more information about the Tulip Connector Host in this document.

OPC/UA Servers provide machine aggregation and communication translation services. If you are looking for OPC/UA Server software, Tulip has found that PTC KEPServerEX and FANUC FASOPC can reliably deliver in this market. 

If you require physical hardware to run your OPC/UA Server software, Tulip recommends an Intel NUC i7 with part number: NUC7i7BNH, a NVMe 250gb SSD, and 16GB of DDR3 RAM.

Tulip Cloud Connector Host

Most of Tulip's customers make use of the Tulip Cloud Connector Host to establish a connection to their OPC/UA Server. 

There are two reasons that most of our customers choose the Tulip Cloud Connector Host: bi-weekly updates and better support. To establish communication between the Tulip Cloud Connector Host and an internal OPC/UA Server, a customer must set up a port forwarding rule on their network. A diagram describing this machine monitoring architecture is provided below in Figure 1.

Figure 1. A diagram describing a typical customer machine monitoring architecture.

Port forwarding a connection to your OPC/UA Server

Port forwarding is a networking technique that's used to give external, public devices access to computer services on internal, private networks. We recommend that all of our customers set up port forwarding on their network router to facilitate communication between the Tulip Cloud Connector Host and the OPC/UA Server on their network.

A socket, comprised of an IP address and a port, identifies an application or service on a device within a TCP/IP network. 

The IP address identifies the device uniquely in the network and the port identifies the application or service running on that device. The combination of the IP address and the port allows multiple applications or services to run on any one device.

The NAT (network address translator) runs on the customer's network router and maps the source (public) IP and port to a destination (private) IP and port. 

Once this mapping has been made, external, public devices like the Tulip Cloud Connector Host sends TCP/IP packets to the source (public) IP address and port. The NAT router maps those packets and re-transmits them to the destination (private) IP address and port.

As a security precaution, we ask all of our customers to whitelist our CIDR block (3.208.72.192/26) and blacklist all other IP addresses for the specified source IP and port. This is to ensure that only the Tulip Connector Host can communicate with the OPC/UA server running on the customer's network.

For the NAT mapping to be persistent, the server that is running the OPC/UA Server will need to have a static IP assigned to it.

On-Premise Connector Host

Some of Tulip's customers have GxP validation requirements as well as other regulations that limit their ability to make use of cloud products. 

In this case, Tulip can provide a customer's network with a Tulip Connector Host for executing communication internally on a customer's network. With this option, the inbound network requirement becomes an outbound network requirement as described in Figure 2.

Figure 2. A diagram describing a machine monitoring architecture for customers with GxP validation requirements.

Please additionally review this document for more requirements surrounding the installation and configuration of a Tulip On-Premise Connector Host.

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