Industrial Ethernet Network Services

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Your industrial network infrastructure needs to be resilient, reliable, and secure. Network downtime is not an option and can be costly. Industrial Ethernet (IE) is unlike standard Ethernet; the requirements, criteria, and specifications differ. Ninja Network Services can help by using industry best practices and proven reference architectures to mitigate problems related to improperly designed and implemented network architectures. We are specialists in the ever-growing technology of IE (Industrial Ethernet) within control systems and factory automation.

 

IE_Illustration PROBLEM 1: DIFFERENTIATION OF NETWORKS

When your IE system fails, production comes to a grinding halt. Unplanned manufacturing downtime can incur significant plant costs and lead to safety/security-related issues to both your product and your employees. The continuous flow of information within industrial networks is vital. Network stoppages and delays on the factory floor or in the plant are simply not an option.

IE is unlike standard Ethernet (within a corporate environment); they are not one and the same.

Unfortunately, the problem comes about when the plant network is designed and treated as if it is a standard corporate office network. There has to be differentiation between the two.

The concepts of Ethernet are the only thing that IE and standard Ethernet have in common. IE (Ethernet within control systems and factory automation) have different criteria, software applications, and hardware platforms as compared to Ethernet in corporate networks. IE networks require deterministic and real-time control. This makes the designing, implementation, and maintenance of networks within these environments vastly different.

PROBLEM 2: CONVERGED NETWORKS

The hot topics in the industry right now are Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Factory 4.0.

Why? It is because it allows you to innovate/increase your workflow, create intelligent systems independent of location, gather and process huge amounts of data from end customers (big data), use advanced analytics, use the cloud, and scale your networks with the creation of virtual systems.

Although it is exciting, and even though the opportunities for it are endless, it does create a few mind-boggling questions... Do you have the network infrastructure and architecture for it? Do you have the means to integrate your networks efficiently? Do you know whether your control-level and device-level networks are capable of sustaining this convergence? Is your factory network secure enough?

A connected factory needs innovation, efficiency, agility, and one that mitigates risk.

Industry-4.0-connected-Factory (Infographic courtesy of Belden)

Our services help you to solve these problems and help you to make informed decisions.
The basic concepts of Ethernet (IEEE 802.3) apply to both standard Ethernet and Industrial Ethernet (IE). However, IE has many differences, requirements, and criteria. We list the differences below.

IE is different due to:

  • environmental characteristics.
    Industrial environments may have dust/dirt/oil, chemicals, increased/harsh temperature, vibration, and noise. To function optimally and accommodate these conditions, the network infrastructure and equipment may have to be robust/industrial grade, have convection cooling, and have relay output signaling.

  • power requirements.
    Power requirements in industrial environments are different from those in standard Ethernet environments. IE equipment often require 24v of DC power and have redundant power supplies.

  • latency, time critical, real-time automation, and deterministic applications.
    It is important to have low latency within the switched industrial networks. Latency is the time it takes for a network packet to go between the source and target. Industrial applications may need latencies of 10-50 ms. The data packet would need to be sent and received in a specific period of time to fulfill the application requirements. This is a non-requirement (and of low importance) in standard Ethernet and corporate networks. Whereas the corporate IT network supports administrative functions and non-time-critical corporate applications, the industrial network can comprise control-level network devices, such as programmable logic controllers, PC-based controllers, I/O racks, and human machine interfaces (HMIs), and a device-level network comprising devices such as photoeyes, transducers, sensors, flowmeters, drives, and actuators. These control-level and device-level networks may have to function in real time and require time-critical functionality.

  • network reliability.
    Reliability is of the utmost importance, as downtime is not an option and can be costly. The characteristics of each hardware/software application may contribute to the reliability of the network and how it is designed. As a result, the physical infrastructure, applications, and usages may have to be monitored, validated, and controlled on an IE network. Data transmission efficiency, network redundancy, and availability are key requirements in an IE network. Unlike a standard corporate IT network, an IE network must be available to users at all times on a continuous basis and with little or no downtime. The network has to be designed such that one single device does not take the entire network down.
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  • OSI Modelindustrial protocol usage.
    Specialized industrial protocols are used within industrial devices and applications. IE networks use layers 1-4 (from the physical layer to the transport layer) to characterize the communication functions. The application, presentation, and session layers (layers 5-7) may adhere to the industrial protocol standard (see the diagram example demonstrating the CIP protocol). With this comes behavioral differences and characteristics. Industrial protocols, such as Ethernet/IP, Profinet, EtherCAT, Modbus/TCP, CC-Link IE, SERCOS, and Powerlink display characteristics on the network that are unlike those of a standard Ethernet network.

  • the topology.
    Although standard Ethernet may be configured in a star topology, the IE topology is designed to fit the software applications, control/monitoring devices (e.g., programmable logic controllers, I/O racks, HMIs) and physical end devices (e.g., sensors, actuators, drives, etc.). IE topologies may include a mixture of a star, tree, and/or ring.

  • IP distribution and communication.
    IE networks may use one-to-many/many-to-many IP datagram communication modes, also called multicast routing. An IE network may have a mixture of UDP and TCP packets. Unlike standard corporate IT networks, IE applications have specific prioritization and synchronization needs/features in message delivery. Traditional multicasting (on a standard Ethernet network) scales automatically if the population of receivers increases (i.e., it does not need prior knowledge of who and how many receivers are on the network). Unlike multicasting in a standard Ethernet network, IE multicast applications do not scale with the number of streams. It uses the produce-consumer model approach, where a specific device (producer) generates data "tags" that only relevant devices consume (consumer). In other words, a traditional video/multimedia multicast stream is different from an IE multicast application. A standard corporate IT network emphasizes the efficiency of bandwidth use rather than synchronous data access. In an IE network, the opposite is true: Synchronous data access will need to be optimized/prioritized for the network/ network application to be efficient.

  • security.
    An important need exists for the controlled exchange of data between inter-operable networks. Due to the critical and high reliability requirement of an industrial application, security is more important than ever before. Data integrity, access control, authentication, and connectivity are a requirement and a higher priority in IE than in a standard corporate IT network. With the increased threats of sabotage, malware, and intentional/unintentional activities that can be catastrophic to the network and company as a whole, it is unwise to mix a standard corporate network and an IE network without proper network design considerations.

 
We use a methodical approach that can help you in any stage of a network lifecycle.

  • Assess Are you ready for IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and Factory 4.0? Do you know how your network is running and what is on your network? Through time, it is common to lose track of the state of your network. This could be due to a lack of documentation, growth, and expansion. Taking a snapshot of what is on your network allows you to be properly informed about your network architecture and infrastructure. It helps you to expect the unexpected if you are planning to migrate, modify, and expand, and it helps you to plan for the future. Assessing your infrastructure ultimately allows you to plan and make informed decisions regarding your network.

  • Design We can design your network in accordance with industry best practices and reference architectures/guidelines. We know that no such thing as a one-size-fits-all network design exists. We design your network for you, your business requirements, and the future.

  • Maintain We can assist in periodic maintenance, validation, and troubleshooting to make sure that your network adheres to industrial standards (e.g., EIA/TIA, IEEE, and ISA-99) and specifications. This helps you to keep your network running in optimal shape and keeps it free from unexpected surprises.

From the design and implementation to the maintenance phase, our IE solutions can help to:

  • decrease the downtime of your production/factory networks;
  • reduce the costs of implementation, maintenance, and repair;
  • improve the performance of your networks and infrastructure;
  • ensure that your industrial networks follow the required specifications and standards;
  • optimize your plant capabilities/resources;
  • plan for the future; and
  • get you ready for IIoT (IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things).
We have over 20 years of expertise in Industrial Control Systems, Control Systems design/architecture and are specialists in Industrial Ethernet (IE).

We were early adopters of Ethernet on the plant floor and have developed, tested and implemented reference architectures and validation processes to fit the industrial environment.

Specialties

  • PLC: Rockwell Automation/Allen-Bradley, Siemens, GE Fanuc, Schneider Electric
  • DCS: Emerson, Siemens, Foxboro, Honeywell, ABB/Bailey, Yokogawa
  • Applications: Motion Control, S-88 Batch Control, MES/ MRP
  • Industrial Networks: Profibus, Fieldbus, DeviceNet, ControlNet, Ethernet, Ethernet/IP, DH+, EtherCat
  • Industrial Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 802.15.4, Bluetooth, Radio Networks
  • Industrial standards & compliance: IEEE, EIA/TIA, ODVA, ISA-SP 99, ISA-100, CFR21 Part 11

Methodology

We use the OSI model layered approach to designing, implementing and troubleshooting Industrial Ethernet (IE) networks. This allows us to make sure the physical hardware (cable and hardware platforms) and software are working optimally.

 

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