Create 2 new client install kits: PI System Client & PI For Excel
Administrators and regular users of PI are mainly concerned with these PI client programs:
• PI System Management Tools
• PI System Explorer
• PI Builder
• PI DataLink
However, the install kits are not beginner-friendly:
• Many users think that PI DataLink can do what PI Builder does, since both are Excel add-ins.
• PI System Explorer and PI Builder are grouped as a single program called "PI AF Client" in install kits, including the install kit of the same name. This makes it difficult for users to find these programs.
• The PI System Management Tools install kit actually contains PI AF Client, but there is no indication of this until the user runs the install kit.
• The PI System Management Tools install kit also contains the PI Interface Configuration Utility, which is not needed at all on users' computers and adds clutter and confusion.
This whole situation is a nightmare. 4 programs should not be this hard to understand.
Please retire the install kits for PI System Management Tools, PI AF Client, and PI DataLink and replace them with 2 new install kits:
• PI System Client, which should contain:
— PI System Management Tools
— PI System Explorer
• PI For Excel, which should contain:
— PI Builder
— PI DataLink
Both new install kits should be like those of PI Server or PI AF Client in that the user gets to choose which programs are installed. These new install kits are much simpler to understand. If the user needs to browse or configure the PI system, they use PI System Client. If the user needs to get PI data into Excel, they use PI For Excel.
An additional benefit of grouping together PI Builder and PI DataLink is that it will be the only install kit that will need Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Tools For Office Runtime, whereas currently, it is contained in many install kits.
I understand what you're saying about keeping PI AF SDK, PI System Explorer, and PI Builder all together so then backwards and forwards compatibility are not an issue if one is updated but not the other. My suggestion relies heavily on the idea of being able to separate PI System Explorer and PI Builder from each other.
I feel that it at least needs to be made clearer which programs PI AF Client contains so that the user knows which install kit to grab to get PI System Explorer, PI Builder, or even PI AF SDK, and so that if they already ran another install kit that contains PI AF Client, then they don't need to run the PI AF Client install kit unless their installed version is out of date.
I want to touch on some of the reasoning behind how we package (bundle). All these tools are reliant on the data access layer under the hood, for example AF SDK. As such, they are really clients from that perspective. They also have version dependencies on the SDK. Let's look at an example, PI System Explorer is nothing more than a shell on top of the AF SDK. As such, it is a client and must be bundled and shipped with the AF SDK as there is a version dependency for specific features. While we work very hard to support backwards compatibility, realistically for the best user experience, it has to be shipped (bundled) with the companion version of the AF SDK. This is the same with PI Builder. PI System Management tool requires PI SDK, AF SDK and other internal only components under the hood. Therefore, there are similar restrictions.
We provide an AFClient setup kit because we have 3rd party developers/partners that develop against the AF SDK. Therefore it's necessary to have a separate AFClient setup kit. This and what I've already describe above are the reasons why the AFClient kit includes PI System Explorer and PI Builder.
As to SMT bundling with ICU, it's more of a convenience for end users with some specific use cases. In SMT, you can configure certain interface points that under the hood require %OSI% in the Module Database. %OSI% modules are typically created when you configure interfaces with ICU. Thus, the decision was made long ago to bundle ICU with SMT.
We don't bundle PI DataLink with PI Builder because we sell PI DataLink as a separate product and for those who don't use AF or if they are not licensed for AF, it may not make sense to bundle PI Builder with PI DataLink.
As to confusion with which tool to do what, I would agree that's an area that we can improve on. As tools evolve, sometimes overlaps occur but we do try very hard to differentiate them. For example, PI Builder was designed to be a configuration tool so it doesn't really retrieve data in mass like PI DataLink. On thing that we can do is to start deprecating legacy products.
Having said all that, we can always re-examine whether there are better ways to rebundle.
This suggestion is also more of a short-term solution. In the long term, PI System Management Tools and PI System Explorer should be made into web apps, while PI Builder and PI DataLink should go in the Office Store. The suggestions for these are linked below:
This suggestion requires PI AF Client to be broken up into its component programs (https://feedback.osisoft.com/forums/555148-pi-server/suggestions/41021968-replace-pi-af-client-with-pi-af-sdk-in-install-kit) and requires the PI Interface Configuration Utility to be removed from the PI System Management Tools install kit (https://feedback.osisoft.com/forums/555148-pi-server/suggestions/40282513-remove-the-pi-interface-configuration-utility-pi).
This suggestion can be thought of as a revised version of the all-in-1 PI Client install kit: