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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.

Specifically Cisco added support for TSN protocols to its Industrial Ethernet (IE) 4000 Series switches. The 4000 family features 20Gbps non-blocking switching capacity with up to 20 Gigabit Ethernet ports per switch. It supports high-density industrial PoE/PoE+ support offering in-line power to up to eight power devices, such as IP cameras, phones or wireless access points.

With the latest IOS s/w release (version 15.2) customers will be able to take full advantage of TSN, the company stated.

“Cisco entering the TSN fray is a very important development for the industrial Ethernet switch market due to their increasing market share in this segment in recent years and continuance of the ongoing convergence of IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operations Technology) in manufacturing applications. Traditionally an enterprise-level IT player, Cisco originally entered the industrial market with the Catalyst 2955 series switches that were essentially extensions of its enterprise offering, but that line has been largely sunsetted in favor of the IE series industrial products,” said Polsonetti. “Cisco’s industrial Ethernet switch offerings emphasize connectivity between IT and industrial automation environments by enabling advanced features and the use of IT-based tools for management and security while operating in harsh environments. Adoption of the IEEE 802.1 TSN standard in their industrial line furthers this convergence between IT and OT technologies, which brings significant value to customers in areas such as common technologies and skill sets, flatter architectures, and overall lower costs.”

Leading suppliers of industrial Ethernet switches by market share (revenues) in 2016 included: Belden, Siemens, Cisco and Moxa, according to Arc Advisory Group.

Beyond TSN, Cisco rolled out a cloud-based software package called Connected Asset Manager for IoT Intelligence designed to help industrial users get a handle on the devices and resources connected to their networks. According to Cisco, the software can let users mine data from a variety of sources and bring them together in the plant across legacy systems. Reporting is simple – just drag and drop data in a user-friendly interface designed for business users, not programmers, Cisco stated.

With the package users can monitor for activities such as energy usage, location tracking and resource trends via analytics and predictive analytics. Cisco says the package can also help customers detect and prevent theft through security surveillance, sensor alerts, alarms and policy integration.

The company also rolled out the Cisco Industrial Network Director, a Windows-based network management system for industrial automation networks. Industrial Network Director is specifically designed to help operations teams manage automation by providing full visibility and control of the Industrial Ethernet infrastructure.

“The Industrial Network Director is intended to provide a common framework for operations and IT personnel to manage and maintain the industrial network and quickly recover from unplanned downtime, furthering the company’s IT/OT Convergence strategy and Connected Enterprise vision. Examples of Industrial Network Director functionality include optimized alarm management with real-time alerts and monitoring of device metrics, traffic statistics, and network infrastructure status,” said Polsonetti.


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