Happy Birthday SPS – or rather Time to say goodbye?!

About the advantages and disadvantages of old acquaintances in IT & production

50 years of wiring, maintaining, restarting – Happy Birthday PLC! You’ve been setting the pace for automation since the seventies and it’s fair to say you’ve always remained true to yourself. However, the world has moved on a tiny bit in the meantime. 50 years is not a short time, even on an industrial scale.

In 2023, the cloud is ubiquitous. Streaming music and films, online banking, remote work via VPN on the cloud server. So it makes sense to combine the strengths of the cloud with those of the PLC. In a virtual PLC, for example. The software plays the main role, the hardware is ultimately irrelevant. Convergence of OT and IT, as it should be.

The idea behind the PLC is as good today as it was then: to monitor and switch machines via digital, programmable logic controllers instead of manual intervention. But locally installed, proprietary hardware? Updates and services on site, at each individual control? Everything has its time. But nobody has that time any more. Especially not when many decentralised control systems are in use. And this is not only due to the lack of skilled workers. Remote access via the cloud is faster, safer and more economical than any on-site activity.

Future challenges such as the digitalisation of the energy transition or the realisation of smart buildings and smart manufacturing can only be mastered in an economically and technologically sensible way via virtual PLCs. The advantages over conventional solutions are obvious. To name just a few:

Central, simultaneous access

Via virtual controls and the cloud, many end devices can be centrally controlled with virtually no restrictions. Updates or changes can be carried out everywhere at the same time by one person.

Maximum flexibility

Conventional PLCs must be designed for all application scenarios – an expensive and inflexible ballast. Virtual PLCs break down complex processes into microservices that can be changed flexibly and during operation.


Virtual PLCs can be integrated into any system environment, into any (digital) process, into any company. And that without having to maintain personnel resources or programming know-how.

Secure supply chains

By decoupling from the hardware, supply problems with chips and electronic components no longer play a role.

The list could be extended at will. In our new blog series, we will look in detail at applications, integration scenarios and practical examples. We look forward to your feedback, suggestions and questions!

Our conclusion for today

The application areas for virtual PLCs are very diverse and individually scalable. In the future, many more use cases will be added, because virtual controllers are just getting started. A special attraction is the combination of conventional controls and virtual controls, on-site and in the cloud.

So, dear SPS, here’s to the next 50 years!

Published 14.02.2023

Michael Böhrer

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