The Fate of PanelView: Life after Windows Embedded CE 6.0
On April 10, 2018, slightly more than a year ago at the time of this writing, the end of extended support occurred for CE 6.0. This boils down to no more security patches issued by Microsoft®. No, this isn’t the end of the world. Rockwell Automation® plans to support PanelView Plus 7 minimally through 2025. With Rockwell Automation’s excellent track record of support, this date will likely be extended and with clear migration paths.
Microsoft releases slimmed down versions of Windows®, targeting embedded and industrial devices like the PanelView™ Plus 7 Performance and Standard editions (e.g., Compact Edition (CE).) Just like Microsoft’s more well-known, mainstream operating systems (OS) for home and business (e.g. Windows XP, 7, and 10), embedded releases are also regularly updated and patched. However, these updates don’t continue forever.
End of License Date
The End of License date is another critical date. For Windows CE 6.0, this will occur on February 22, 2022. The significance is that OEMs can no longer purchase licenses after this date. For Rockwell Automation, this means no new PanelView Plus 7 units may ship with a Windows CE 6.0 operating system after this date. You can think of it as the true end of life date for Windows CE 6.0. Therefore, Rockwell Automation will have until then to fully define a path forward. PanelViews in the field running CE 6.0 will continue to operate after this date. However, when the migration path is fully vetted, it will be advised to update those units to stay current with security and bug fixes.
What about Security Patches for Windows CE 6.0?
As mentioned, the end of extended support for Windows Embedded CE 6.0 does mean an end for security patches. This means you should take extra precautions with PanelView for now. It’s not uncommon for control systems to use dated technology. For example, the US military still uses Windows XP on older designs where software doesn’t port over well and involves mission-critical systems. I’m not advocating staying on old technology; there are inherent risks and expensive support contracts that go along with that.
As a reminder, always follow good security practices of implementing firewalls and limiting open ports and services. A layered security approach will mitigate any potential security vulnerabilities. Rockwell Automation has developed design and implementation guides for creating secure industrial networks. This site contains a collection of guides on this subject.
What does the future look like? PanelView Plus 8 Perhaps…
The good news is that there will be a path forward. From the PanelView Plus 7 longevity letter dated March 11, 2019, the plan is to migrate the OS to Windows 10 IoT CoreTM. Additionally, the letter mentions the PanelView Plus 7 Performance hardware will be upgraded. One could surmise this will be called PanelView Plus 8.
It is unclear for the current PanelView Plus 7 hardware, whether the operating system will be updated to Windows 10 IoT Core. One thought is it will be updated to Windows Compact 7 or 2013 to extend the End of License date. Largely, that decision may depend on technical challenges involved when migrating to newer embedded operating systems. It will be interesting to see what path Rockwell Automation decides to take. I’m curious if I will learn more at the TechED 2019 event.
We Can Help Ease the Transition
Whether you’re looking to upgrade your system or just need help supporting your older software, we can help. Our Automation Specialists are Rockwell Automation experts. Contact us today.