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Cisco switch taps into Time Sensitive Ethernet; software bolsters industrial network mgmt.

Michael Cooney | April 26, 2017
Cisco introduced three products aimed at increasing the speed of communications while controlling and analyzing the substantial data stream of the factory floor.

Cisco this week took the wraps off three products aimed at increasing the speed of communications while controlling and analysing the substantial data stream of the factory floor.

The products build on Cisco’s Connected Factory portfolio which offers a variety of technologies from networking and security to analytics the company says will help customers quickly and more securely integrate industrial automation and control with business systems while improving industrial and manufacturing operational costs and efficiency.

Cisco also says its new and existing industrial products help move factory customers towards the Industry 4.0 concept that signifies an industrial model move to cyber-physical systems over the water/steam power, mass production and automation that marked the previous three important revolutions.

The Industrial Internet of Things, millions of robots and the need for better control of all of these systems is driving dramatic changes in the industrial world, said Bryan Tantzen, a senior director at Cisco in the manufacturing vertical for the Internet of Things Technology Group. Look at what large industrial companies are doing, like the recent General Motors announcement that it has connected about a quarter of its 30,000 factory robots to the internet. In 2016, automotive factories installed 17,600 robots compared with 5,100 for electronics manufacturers and 1,900 for metal producers, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Those are the kinds of changes coming to the industrial world, Tantzen said.

One of the requirements of that environment will be standardized and optimized Ethernet networks, which is where Time Sensitive Ethernet will play well, experts say.

“The IEEE 802.1 TSN (Time-Sensitive Network) standardization activity brings the prospect of true real-time operation to standard, unmodified Ethernet networks. TSN has numerous value propositions that address legacy industrial Ethernet drawbacks in terms of perceived reliability, fault tolerance, scalability, latency, and ability to configure deterministic control loops, while at the same time adding incremental benefits like central configuration and the prospect of network convergence,” said Chantal Polsonetti, vice president, Advisory Services for the ARC Advisory Group.

“True real-time industrial Ethernet has traditionally been the realm of vendor- or protocol-specific implementations like PROFINET IRT or EtherCAT. Among other drawbacks, this specificity limits the supply base, raises costs, and limits interoperability. Support for this activity through the core IEEE 802 standardization effort, rather than vendor-specific implementations, holds tremendous promise in industrial applications. IEEE 802.1 TSN promises to bring real-time deterministic behavior to IEEE standard Ethernet, eliminating the need for these vendor- or protocol-specific implementations. Because TSN addresses only Layer 1 and Layer 2 of the network stack, ARC believes that the industrial network protocol organizations will also play an important role in defining capabilities and guaranteeing interoperability.”


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