Some Modbus technical questions

Some Modbus technical questions

Postby intellact on Mon Jan 30, 2017 11:36 am

Hi all:

I have some questions about the AXS Port Modbus interface and I'm desperately hoping that someone out there might be able to help. (I sent the questions to OutBack's Engineering department about 6 weeks ago. Someone else there confirmed that they had received them but no response was ever received. ](*,) I don't think it's the questions that are being difficult here...)

:?: Question A
I am running firmware 003.015.001. According to the specifications in the document entitled "Application Note - SunSpec Data Blocks and AXS Port" (also reflected in AXS Port SunSpec Map.xls), I should find device Model and serial numbers as some of the last fields in the config blocks, however mine all seem to be blank. :???: Is that because the actual device firmware is out-of-date, or have these fields been documented but not implemented?

Can anyone else find anything in those fields on their AXS Port?

:?: Question B
I asked OutBack Support how to change settings like Absorb Voltage via Modbus. I wanted to know if I could change it on just the Master Inverter or if I would have to change it on each individual device. They assured me that I had to change it on each device. Now I find a register in the OutBack System Control Block called Global_Absorb_Voltage which seems to contradict their assertion.

Can anyone confirm that I only have to alter this one register value in order to have it propagate to all inverters? (I only have one myself.)

:?: Question C
The Modbus "OutBack" Block (ID 64110) has fields for Email server name, account name, password, etc. but no field for SMTP Port. Many email systems use port 25 or 465 for email, but GMail (for one), uses 587. Is there a way of specifying the SMTP Port for emails? If not, which port does the OutBack Modbus interface use?

Has anyone ever had this email functionality working?

Thanks in advance. It's hard to know who to turn to next... :roll:
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Re: Some Modbus technical questions

Postby intellact on Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:40 pm

Quick update on the above questions:

David LeBow, VP Software Engineering very kindly sent me some answers to a few of those questions today:

The question I wrote:1) I am running firmware 003.015.001. According to the specifications in the document entitled "Application Note - SunSpec Data Blocks and AXS Port" (also reflected in AXS Port SunSpec Map.xls), I should find device Model and serial numbers as some of the last fields in the config blocks, however mine all seem to be blank. Is that because the actual device firmware is out-of-date, or have these fields been documented but not implemented?

The model will populate on FXR, Radian and late model CC'S.
Serial Number will populate on FXR and Radians if they were programmed in production.
AXS Port and late FW Rev MATE3 will also populate serial number


Another question I wrote:2) I asked OutBack Support how to change settings like Absorb Voltage via Modbus. I wanted to know if I could change it on just the Master Inverter or if I would have to change it on each individual device. They assured me that I had to change it on each device. Now I find a register in the OutBack System Control Block called Global_Absorb_Voltage which seems to contradict their assertion.

Changing these on the individual components is the best way to do this. Using the global control has system implications and should only be used by trained personnel.

Thank you, David. Sorry to be floundering around here on the communication side. I am slowly realizing where the most helpful places are to go for information, and I appreciate your efforts to track down this stuff! :smile:
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Re: Some Modbus technical questions

Postby David LeBow on Wed Feb 22, 2017 2:59 pm

And... the answer to the third:

"Question C
The Modbus "OutBack" Block (ID 64110) has fields for Email server name, account name, password, etc. but no field for SMTP Port. Many email systems use port 25 or 465 for email, but GMail (for one), uses 587. Is there a way of specifying the SMTP Port for emails? If not, which port does the OutBack Modbus interface use?"

This configurability was put in place earlier as a placeholder for a feature which had been planned. That functionality has not been implemented, the fields are placeholders only. Plans to implement are not on any current roadmap.

D.
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Re: Some Modbus technical questions

Postby intellact on Wed Feb 22, 2017 5:00 pm

Thank you, David!

You answered more than just a technical question. Your reply tells me that when I encounter things in OutBack's Modbus that don't appear to be functioning - especially in registers that are near the end of the block - then they have likely not been implemented yet. :wink: The precedent of having things documented but not implemented means I can figure out a few more of such situations for myself.

Sometimes a little information can go a long way! :grin:
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Re: Some Modbus technical questions

Postby intellact on Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:40 am

David LeBow wrote:"Question C
The Modbus "OutBack" Block (ID 64110) has fields for Email server name, account name, password, etc. but no field for SMTP Port. Many email systems use port 25 or 465 for email, but GMail (for one), uses 587. Is there a way of specifying the SMTP Port for emails? If not, which port does the OutBack Modbus interface use?"

This configurability was put in place earlier as a placeholder for a feature which had been planned. That functionality has not been implemented, the fields are placeholders only. Plans to implement are not on any current roadmap.

Okay, something is NOT right here.
The AXS Port User's Guide, produced in 2012, says that the AXS Port can send emails. :mad: I'm now looking at the 2016 Revised AXS Port User's Guide which says exactly the same thing.

Perhaps you can review your earlier response and confirm that the AXS Port has no email functionality...?
Last edited by intellact on Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Some Modbus technical questions

Postby David LeBow on Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:58 pm

Here's some additional information which I have gleaned from the development team which may be of additional use:

"The SMTP software [used in the AXS port] only supports simple POP3 without security. Typically email providers support POP3 with SSL/TLS or STARTTLS security. The security protocols use different IP port numbers than POP3 which uses port 110. Because AXS Port only supports simple POP3 the IP port number POP3 email server is not configurable"

Hoping that that's of some additional help.
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Re: Some Modbus technical questions

Postby intellact on Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:15 pm

David LeBow wrote:Hoping that that's of some additional help.

It sure is helpful!

Now THAT actually answers my initial question nicely. Thank you for checking again! :smile:

Can I presume that the confusion on your original response might be that this feature is not implemented (nor planned to be) for the MATE3?
Last edited by intellact on Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Some Modbus technical questions

Postby David LeBow on Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:16 pm

Just passing along what I can dig up.

D.(on't shoot the messenger)
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Re: Some Modbus technical questions

Postby intellact on Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:10 am

OutBack Development Team wrote:The SMTP software [used in the AXS port] only supports simple POP3 without security. Typically email providers support POP3 with SSL/TLS or STARTTLS security. The security protocols use different IP port numbers than POP3 which uses port 110. Because AXS Port only supports simple POP3 the IP port number POP3 email server is not configurable.

Yes, this was helpful information, however, upon further investigation, what it really tells me is something quite different from what it actually says, :-k

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is a mail sending protocol. Users login via SMTP to send email.

POP3 (Post Office Protocol v3) is a mail collection protocol. Users login via POP3 to collect email.

Obviously, the AXS Port does not go to get email, it was designed to send it, so unless I'm really missing something here, the POP3 information does not apply at all, and Port 110 is totally irrelevant. [-X (I won't shoot the messenger, David, but we really have to wonder about the folks writing the messages. #-o )

So I'm back to guesswork, but now I can make some more intelligent guesses. At this point, I am guessing that the AXS Port actually has the SMTP Port hardcoded to be Port 25 - the old standard. Not many email services support non-SSL SMTP logins on Port 25 any more - it is simply outdated and too insecure.

However, I'm going to assume that some AXS Port clients might be large enough to have their own email servers, where they might be able to allow this legacy usage of the SMTP protocol to proceed. I may have found just such a server in my own network, and I will run some minimal experiments. :smile:

Meanwhile, for the average AXS Port user out there, I think the possibility of their AXS Port sending regular Status and rare Alarm emails is pretty much out of the question. Which makes me wonder why such functionality is still touted in the AXS Port User's Guide, which was revised as recently as April 2016. ](*,) Does nobody at OutBack care what they are telling their clients? :mad:
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