OPC UA is a platform-independent standard through which various kinds of systems and devices can communicate by sending request and response Messages between Clients and Servers or NetworkMessages between Publishers and Subscribers over various types of networks. It supports robust, secure communication that assures the identity of OPC UA Applications and resists attacks.

In the Client Server model, OPC UA defines sets of Services that Servers may provide, and individual Servers specify to Clients what Service sets they support. Information is conveyed using OPC UA-defined and vendor-defined data types, and Servers define object models that Clients can dynamically discover. Servers can provide access to both current and historical data, as well as Alarms and Events to notify Clients of important changes. OPC UA can be mapped onto a variety of communication protocols and data can be encoded in various ways to trade off portability and efficiency.

In addition to the Client Server model, OPC UA defines a mechanism for Publishers to transfer the information to Subscribers using the PubSub model.