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Ethernet becoming more prominent in industrial networks

By Donna Donnowitz
October 4, 2011
Ethernet already enjoys an important role in industrial settings, but the network technology is positioned to gain an even more meaningful place among industrial network technologies, according to a recent AutomationWorld report.

The news source explained that the demand for industrial Ethernet is rising at the device level, which is creating a more diverse range of value propositions for organizations investing in the technology. Currently, expansion is being fueled by increased deployments of industrial Ethernet for horizontal and vertical integration.

Industrial Ethernet's move toward increased use in this manner underlines how diverse the technology has become and how many opportunities businesses have when deploying Ethernet infrastructure. The report explained Ethernet now plays a role in integration and as a control network for motion, machine or process controls.

Furthermore, these diverse Ethernet capabilities do not address especially high-performance industrial networks, which play a critical role in improving bandwidth, supporting faster data rates and allowing organizations to use commercial off-the-shelf products, according to the news source.

The diversity of industrial Ethernet can be a major challenge for organizations attempting to establish networks for multiple purposes. The report explained a company establishing a high-performance Ethernet network to handle horizontal and vertical integration could face challenges if it is also using the Ethernet setup to support a traditional multi-tiered industrial Ethernet network. As a result, businesses need to plan carefully when establishing their network infrastructure to ensure the various uses of industrial Ethernet are capable of working well in conjunction with each other.

The challenge in using Ethernet for integration while also performing other industrial functions comes because of the diverse range of protocols used to support these network establishments, the report said. For example, industrial Ethernet for integration typically uses transmission control protocol/internet protocol, while commercial off-the-shelf technologies are used to support motion control networks.

Industrial Ethernet networks often present different problems than business networks when it comes to deploying the correct equipment. This is especially prevalent in the switching sector. In a recent interview with Manufacturing Business Technology, industry expert Andrew Bronson said industrial Ethernet switches are typically designed with the ability to handle a wider range of temperatures, which leads to a number of unique design architectures to support this ruggedness.


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