Visual Flow Creator

Interesting, I didn't know Siemens were using a derivative of node-red in there IoT offering. "MindSphere". I haven't used it but thought it worth posting here to see if anyone else has used it. I actually started using node-red when using a Siemens IOT2040.

https://siemens.mindsphere.io/en/docs/tutorials/visual-flow-creator-KPI

Good spot. I've seen a few of these crop up either here on the forum on on YouTube recently.

Not used any of them and likely wont due to cost constraints for my own personal use. Though if anyone wants to send me any, I'll happily review them :smile:

Does anyone know if Siemens feeding anything back to the community or are they just taking and selling community developments?

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(Edit: I revoke my earlier statement as some of the others have done)

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(checks jacket pocket for keys for Ferrari... - nope) - not seen much.

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Well, that's what Twitter is for :smiling_imp:

Name and shame baby! Politely of course. But a Tweet to some Siemens Twitter account pointing out that it might have been nice to give at least a shout-out to the open source tool they've appropriated just might have an impact.

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Just to be clear, the Apache 2 license Node-RED is available under places absolutely no obligation on users to acknowledge the project or contribute back.

Whether there is a moral obligation to contribute back to the projects that you are benefiting commercially from is another matter - and one that is by no means unique to Node-RED in the OSS world.

It's probably true to say the vast majority of companies who use Node-RED in some commercial way have not contributed back to the project directly. It's not always easy to tell - I have had some conversations with companies adopting Node-RED only to later discover some of their developers have been very active in this forum (Hi!) and they have contributed back in other ways.

The one area that puzzles me is the lack of people looking to contribute ideas and suggestions back to the project based on their own experiences of embedding or integrating Node-RED into their platforms. I can't believe its such a perfect and seamless experience that there's nothing we couldn't improve. Yet if we go based on the feedback we've received (virtually none), then who knows.

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My gut feeling is that they're just developers doing what they've set to do by the employer and try to make it look like they know what they're doing. They might even feel unentitled/ashamed to suggest/ask anything as they know the project has a relaxed license.

I am employed at a mid-sized (~250) engineering company, and mainly responsible for the development of our custom SCADA platform.

I have been a Node-RED user for my personal projects at home since 2015. After getting the hang of it and seeing how easily it can be extended with custom nodes, I took Node-RED to my work place. It hasn't replaced our platform as a whole, but became a part of it, performing as data handler and orchestrator between different systems and hardware levels (PLCs, databases, back-ends, customer systems).

For that use-case, it is indeed a "perfect and seamless experience" and only became better with every new version, making some things easier as projects grow. Specifically subflow parameters to make them more reusable. And the combination of groups+outliner in v1.1 is a total killer feature for large workspaces. :sunglasses:

As for contributing back: Our software team is really really small (effectively 3 people), and mostly spending time with customer projects, while I try to keep the platform together as a whole and move it forward, and do smaller customer projects as well. That shouldn't sound like an excuse, but we simply lack the resources of maintaining and/or supporting FOSS projects. (I would, if it was up to me.)
That's why I can't understand, why a "giant" like Siemens, with the resources and man-power doesn't give anything back. I know they don't have to, but seen from a moral point of view.

However, for myself, I try to be active on this forum and help out, and have uttered the occasional idea and suggestion myself. BTW, thanks for grouping the config nodes in the new outliner by their type! :nerd_face:

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@kuema - indeed - just being active on this forum, especially when you have specialist industry knowledge is a great form of contribution. Any questions answered by this community rather than Nick and myself frees us up to try to tick things off the to-do list.

But as Nick says we are surprised that "some large companies" that take Node-RED haven't fed back anything (or at least not visibly to us) - as integrating it into a larger enterprise offering must have some rough edges that could be smoothed. Or indeed maybe it is perfect :slight_smile: (or at least better than all the alternatives...)

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That's what I prefer to believe! :fireworks:

You can Add ABB another global org to that using Node-RED in district heating solutions. They have created custom nodes for their use.

Siemens does give some credit to Node Red and IBM in their Visual Flow Creator manual ( https://documentation.mindsphere.io/resources/pdf/visual-flow-creator-en.pdf ...look at first page of Chapter 2), but I would have thought they could have contributed directly to the development of new features as some have pointed out. I'm glad I've adopted Node Red for my personal use, as it appears that the skill may be transferable if I find an opportunity for employment at Siemens or ABB.

It is just 2 and half men on this project. And the first name should be "Visual Flow Creator based on Node-Red", but no... The NR license says: the name may not be used and because of that it just called "Visual Flow Creator".
Not everything what you see is really so as you think.

We have always and consistently said we didn't want to introduce multiple inputs to the project. I'm sorry to hear that after that one push back they chose not to engage with the project anymore.

But as they have clearly moved ahead with Node-RED without that feature - I would still assume there are other areas they would benefit from feeding back to us. Maybe they have indirectly - I don't know.

As far as code contributions go, I do see the reality of who helps fix issues, who helps deliver items on the roadmap and who provides feedback on the features we provide. That is still an unfortunately small number of people.

I'm not sure how you can say the process is not transparent because things should be discussed on the forum. Things may have moved on since then, but our overall contribution process is here: https://nodered.org/about/contribute/

Given you are pushing back on a lot of the points made in this thread, can I assume you are involved with the Siemens project? Or you have some other association with it? We're not looking to burn bridges here - if anything, I'd love to establish connections with those individuals who are doing good things with Node-RED.

I'd love to have a group of people I know I can contact to get real-world feedback on any new features we're considering - to see how it may impact the many different ways Node-RED is being used.

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The Node-RED code was changed a lot.
Visual Flow Creator was modified to support:

  • multi-tenancy,
  • multi-user,
  • the editor and runtime were taken apart.

Because it was 0.17.2 version and all these things were not ready.

Now NR has 2 packages (editor and runtime) and could support user authentication, but the code bases are so far away from each other.
It was optimized everything in runtime to allow to start the runtime in just 200ms. (Originally it was 4-8 seconds)
It was added to VFC the tracking of asynchronous nodes (it was added too in NR later).
It is impossible mission to bring these code bases together, because both projects VFC and NR have their processes. How to do that?

Then I humbly apologize. It was just the impression I got.
No harm done, I hope. :slightly_smiling_face:

Hi @Bluefox & welcome to the forum.

Thanks for the response.

It is good to know Siemens tried to contribute but sad to here they have decided to pull back after getting their PR refused.

I hope the other improvements implemented would be pushed back.

I realise you say the 2 projects are now far apart but I would love to see them realign for the benefit of everyone. Some of the changes you mention are definitely of benefit to node-red (septate runtime, faster startup etc) as I am sure some of the latest features of node-red must be of interest to Siemens & their users.

I have seen several frustrated users who are using your IoT boxes but can't use later versions - most likely because of the differences that now exist - this situation is not good for anyone and further points out the fact everyone would benefit from collaboration.

Surely realigning the two products would simplify Siemens integration as well?

Does Siemens publish the source of VFC to a public repo? Perhaps some headway to merging could be examined?

I do hope the relationship between node-red & Siemens can be repaired.

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I completely agree with that. When you look at their demo, they (IMHO) have really nice features! But since they forked the 0.17.2 version, it could be a hell of a job to port their features (especially with a team of only 2,5 man that will have "lots" of other tasks). And of course some of their functionality might not not be accepted here, which would be a step back for their users (who are using their features already)...
But indeed (again IMHO) it would be a great win-win situation ...

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I know one of the developers and you are right to 120%....
I can ask to merge back some features e.g. the comments:
image

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