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Ethernet invading substations

By Max Burkhalter
December 17, 2012
Alien invasion movies are almost all the same. Some ultra-high tech extraterrastrials show up in little pockets around the world, at a large enough scale to do some damage, but not significant enough to really get noticed. About half way through the film, more people start to notice the disturbing trend and, a couple of scenes later, the entire world is facing a widespread influx of angry, aggressive aliens.

Ethernet's emergence
Sometimes technology will emerge following the same model. For example, Ethernet has gained a larger hold in the electric grid and industrial network applications in a way that mirrors the prototypical alien invasion. Ethernet first began popping up in industrial and utility settings when organizations realized that there were some parts of the network where performance was not that big of a deal and serial connections were too expensive. As Ethernet gained prominence in these parts of the network, the technology evolved into a solution that could be used in a wider range of settings.

All of sudden, Ethernet is beginning to pop up everywhere in the industrial and utility sectors. The rise of smart grid solutions is a clear example of this, as is the pervasiveness of Ethernet in electric substations.

Ethernet in substations
According to a recent Consulting-Specifying Engineer report, Ethernet is emerging as a primary network system within the substation because it is capable of meeting ongoing performance requirements in the sector for a much lower cost. Ethernet is also easier to use and more interoperable with the WAN and LAN systems used by most companies. However, the reliability and hardiness issues that held Ethernet back in the past are still present, even though they are not as much of a roadblock to adoption.

The news source explained that substation engineers cannot just walk into a local store and pick up a router. Instead, they have to look at the environmental performance and reliability of switches and routers. In most cases, substation network demands will require specialized equipment designed to meet the unique functionality needs in such settings.

It is also important that engineers consider the possibility that they will need to make the Ethernet system work well with serial components and network systems. While Ethernet is becoming the predominant network type in many settings, there are still plenty of utility and industrial solutions that require, or often use, serial connections. This makes serial to Ethernet conversion tools critical for interoperability and efficient network deployment in many settings.

Perle’s serial to Ethernet converters connect serial based equipment across an Ethernet network. The Perle IOLAN range of Console Servers, Device Servers and Terminal Servers feature built-in support for IPv6 along with a broad range of authentication methods and encryption technologies.


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