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Reliable Industrial Networks for a Smarter Future

Industrial Ethernet Trends and Challenges

The rapid rise in global population and quick depletion of our limited resources has prompted industries around the world to develop solutions for a smarter way of life. In particular, businesses around the world are leveraging the Internet of Things for a smarter future in the form of critical initiatives in smart manufacturing, smart transportation, and smart grid applications through the convergence of industrial automation networks and control systems. Although the consumer Internet of Things and industrial Internet are both based on cutting-edge Ethernet technologies, system integrators face a number of challenges when deploying converged industrial automation networks. Fortunately, edge-to-core automation network solutions are available to help mitigate these obstacles.

The Challenges of Converged Automation Networks

Compared to office IT networks and the consumer Internet of Things, converged automation networks for industrial applications face a number of particular challenges:

  1. To ensure high productivity and non-stop operation, all equipment and network devices today need to withstand tougher conditions resulting from device overheating and severe environmental conditions including shock, vibration, humidity, voltage spikes, high EMI, and extreme temperatures.
  2. IP-based convergence has also led automation networks to migrate to Quad Play services to enable multiple communication services (video, voice, data, and control data) on a single network. To ensure stable, reliable, and predictable performance, the network must have increased bandwidth for high-volume data transmission and accurate, real-time control.
  3. Industrial control system (ICS) convergence presents another challenge. Currently, industrial Ethernet networks and control systems are based on a number of open and proprietary protocols including Modbus TCP, EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, SERCOS III, EtherCAT, POWERLINK, SafetyNet, and DNP 3 among others. Interoperability between these communication protocols is essential for leveraging the capabilities of networked devices (such as PLCs, switches, gateways, and routers) and allowing automation engineers to configure and manage systems more smoothly.
  4. Although industrial Ethernet convergence brings open interoperability to automation networks, it also raises the risks from intentional hacker attacks as well as worms or viruses introduced unintentionally by authorized users. In addition to managing security issues from personnel, converged industrial automation networks also need to address the machines themselves. For example, out-of-order machines may produce unexpected broadcast storms of Ethernet packets that disrupt the operation of other machines. Moreover, both industrial PCs infected with viruses as well as devices that are not working properly can easily compromise the performance of an ICS network, and in this way affect availability.
  5. Industrial networks are constantly expanding as production machinery is expanded and new networked nodes are added. Network complexity and the cost to monitor and maintain a large-scale converged automation network therefore also increases. Real-time network visibility with easy manageability is highly desirable to maximize plant productivity and minimize system downtime.

Answering the Challenges

In order to successfully support converged automation networks and fully leverage the benefits of the Internet of Things for industrial networks, system integrators need to consider the requirements:

  1. High Reliability
    Besides high component reliability at the device layer, deploying a converged automation network also requires the overall system to have high network availability and manageability. For example, using equipment with high electromagnetic immunity helps ensure high hardware component reliability. In addition, preventing data packet loss during transmission while also deploying a redundant network can ensure high availability. Lastly, an optimally converged automation network should also have fully integrated network management capabilities in an automation-friendly interface to maximize system uptime and cut down on troubleshooting time.
  2. Network Scalability
    To handle a growing amount of data, video, voice, and control packet over a converged automation network, a system integrator for a converged automation network should consider building a layered network architecture. A layered architecture would enhance network flexibility and scalability to bridge all subsystems together based on open IP standards and allow operators to deploy a future-proof infrastructure for easy extension and management.
  3. Greater Performance
    Network designers and integrators face substantial challenges when trying to achieve a network that is capable of real-time efficiency, packet-loss prevention, and QoS prioritization. In addition, an IP network today may support insufficient bandwidth for tomorrow’s cutting-edge HD surveillance technologies. As a result, deploying a high performance backbone of at least 1 Gigabit is necessary – especially for safety-critical applications such as oil and gas, transportation, and mining – in providing uninterrupted video viewing/recording and preventing network congestion.
  4. Industrial Cyber Security
    Recognizing the unique security challenges facing industrial automation networks, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Society of Automation (ISA) have promulgated the ANSI/ISA-99 (IEC 62443) standards, which describe best practices for ICS security. By deploying equipment and solutions that adhere to these stringent government regulations and industrial standards, system integrators for converged industrial automation networks can address security challenges for critical assets protection and remote access security.

Moxa’s Reliable Edge-to-Core Automation Network Solutions

The automation industry is accelerating network expansion and convergence to meet emerging opportunities and challenges. To stay ahead of the curve, Moxa's edge-to-core industrial Ethernet solutions speed up automation network convergence by constantly providing automation-friendly network management solutions, transcending the boundaries between wired and wireless networks, enabling plant-wide cybersecurity, improving industry-focused reliability and interoperability, as well as offering comprehensive legacy and modern technologies. Moxa’s industrial Ethernet solutions bring you reliable, low cost, and easy-to-deploy edge-to-core networks for smart applications in harsh conditions.

  1. Integrated Network Management Suite
    Designed for automation engineers, MXstudio is a suite of network management software with smart graphical user interfaces that make configuration, deployment, monitoring, and troubleshooting quick and easy.
  2. Wired and Wireless High-Bandwidth Solutions
    Moxa's industrial Ethernet portfolio addresses edge-to-core multilayer network deployment. A wide selection of 10GbE, GbE, 802.11n, and PoE+ product lines provides the most comprehensive scalability and future-proof performance.
  3. Multi-Layered Cyber Security
    Network security is never optional. From field sites, to function zones, to critical assets, Moxa facilitates multi-layer cybersecurity to protect your entire infrastructure with a full line of secure routers that delivers up to 500 Mbps throughput.
  4. Smart Redundancy Solutions
    Moxa offers innovative wired and wireless redundancy and seamless roaming technologies that optimize your network designs with superior availability and scalability, and also large savings on deployment time and cost.
  5. Seamless Interoperability with Automation Protocols
    All Moxa Ethernet switches and gateways support industrial PROFINET, EtherNet/IP, and Modbus protocols to enable communications across different manufacturing protocols for more sophisticated SCADA applications and lower cost of operation.
  6. One-Stop Shop for Legacy-to-IP Solutions
    From industrial Ethernet gateways for fieldbus and Ethernet integration, to industrial serial device services for easy and reliable serial-to-Ethernet connectivity, to DSL extenders for long-distance communication over existing copper wire infrastructure, Moxa offers a complete portfolio of solutions to connect legacy serial, video, and DSL assets over Ethernet IP.

To learn more about Moxa’s reliable edge-to-core industrial networks, download our latest Industrial Ethernet brochure here or read our white papers on high reliability, greater bandwidth, and industrial cyber security.

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