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Optimizing PLC Network Performance and Management


According to recent studies conducted by IMS Research, three of the most pervasive Ethernet-based protocols, EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, and Modbus TCP, account for more than 65% of the world’s existing industrial automation deployments, and their collective growth from 2010 to 2015 is expected to exceed 18 million new nodes. As industrial automation networks expand and factory systems converge, integration of various Ethernet-based protocols and bridging of fieldbus systems will be inevitable.

An Ethernet-based single-network infrastructure offers operators the efficiency of centralized network management with greater network scalability, higher bandwidth availability, and faster failure recovery. But in order to optimize these industrial Ethernet capabilities and streamline industrial automation deployment/convergence, system integrators must surmount two considerable challenges:

  • Standard industrial Ethernet switches do not process industrial automation protocols and therefore are unable to be monitored on the same SCADA as the PLC and other I/O devices.
  • Standard industrial Ethernet switches are not interoperable with fieldbus devices and require industrial gateways for systems integration. In addition to PLC configuration, system integrators must spend a substantial amount of time to manually configure the switches and gateways.

To address these concerns, many manufacturers offer switches and gateways to integrate fieldbus-to-Ethernet communication for automation systems consolidation, with emphasis on device-level features and system interoperability between components and PLCs. But these are just the basic requirements of systems convergence. Most industrial switches and gateways available today are designed with automation-centric perspectives. The optimization of the PLC network, such as overall performance, deployment/management efficiency, and application flexibility, seems to have been overlooked.

Three components for PLC network optimization

As device networks expand into larger control networks through fieldbus-to-Ethernet integration, network deployment and management become more complex, and network performance becomes highly critical. To optimize PLC network performance and management, Moxa’s industrial Ethernet switches and fieldbus gateways are designed with a network-centric approach to enhance overall performance, improve deployment and management efficiency, and provide application flexibility.

Performance optimization of industrial automation networks is critical for maximum productivity and reliability. Maintaining high network availability requires speedy recovery of network components, including fast boot-up times and millisecond-level redundancy recovery. Moxa’s switch and gateway solutions can be integrated seamlessly to optimize PLC network performance, such as PI-certified PROFINET switches and PROFIBUS gateways, which are certified for conformance and interoperability.

  • PLCs operate by using simple ladder logic and start-ups usually take less than one minute. Moxa’s industrial Ethernet switches feature fast booting in under 10 seconds to allow PLC connection attempts, avoiding the trigger of alarms and faults on the PLC network.
  • New automation systems can be integrated by using Turbo Chain redundancy technology, which can save substantial cabling costs and allows network segments to be added without requiring system downtime and switch reconfiguration.
  • When network segments fail, network recovery through Turbo Ring/Turbo Chain can be achieved in less than 20 milliseconds.
  • Moxa’s Modbus gateways are equipped with a powerful 32-bit ARM processor to handle requests from up to 16 master-device connections (such as SCADA, HMI, and PLC) and up to 31 slave-device connections.

Efficiency of switch and gateway configuration during fieldbus-to-Ethernet integration has previously been reliant upon the expertise of system integrators. Gateway configuration can be extremely time consuming, which requires manual input and is verified through trial-and-error. In addition, the isochronous nature of hard real-time industrial automation systems does not tolerate delays and requires precise calibration of critical parameters such as gateway response time-out settings.

To optimize deployment efficiency, Moxa’s industrial Ethernet switches are plug-n-play for simple deployment, and the industrial gateways provide effortless configuration innovations, including AutoScan and QuickLink, to enable fieldbus-to-Ethernet integration in a fraction of the time. Automatic detection of PROFIBUS I/O modules and Modbus device settings eliminates the possibility of manual-input errors. In addition, Moxa’s industrial gateways also feature relay alarm settings, event logging, complete device status for troubleshooting, and a powerful utility to analyze and monitor protocols.

Flexibility of switch and gateway devices, such as port density, connector/interface type, IP (ingress protection) rating, and protocol compatibility allows operators to optimize PLC network deployment. Many industrial automation applications are deployed in harsh operating environments and can require wide-temperature operation and industry-specific certifications.

  • Moxa’s industrial Ethernet switches are offered with over 200 variations, including a wide range of fiber/PoE/Gigabit/10GbE port combinations, EN 50155/EN 50121-4 compliance, -40 to 75°C operating temperature, ingress protection, M12 connectors, IPv6-ready, DIN rail and rackmount models, and power injection.
  • Moxa’s industrial fieldbus gateways offer intelligent bridging for fieldbus protocols (including Modbus RTU, PROFIBUS, and DF1), -40 to 75°C operating temperature, various topology configurations, innovative auto-configuration wizards, and cost-saving diagnostic tools.

Moxa solutions and professional services

Moxa provides a selection of networking products for optimization of PLC network performance and management, including industrial Ethernet switches and gateways designed specifically for EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, and Modbus TCP applications. With multiple locations for professional support and customization services available, Moxa is the innovative leader in industrial Ethernet solutions for automation networking applications.

For a list of Moxa’s industrial Ethernet switches, please visit:

For a list of Moxa’s industrial Ethernet gateways, please visit:

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