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Industrial Ethernet Solutions

Industrial Ethernet

High-availability process data networks

Industrial Ethernet is the term generally used to cover all efforts to use the Ethernet standard for networking systems in industrial production and similar fields. Ethernet is used almost everywhere in the LAN sector, which is why it is interesting to add the production area to the existing LAN using industrial Ethernet to simplify network structures and transitions. This makes all the information required for the management and control of production processes directly available. Optical fibre, CAT-x, double copper wire and radio (cellular, WLAN) can be used as transmission media.

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Industrial LAN

Industrial Ethernet is used in many situations:

  • Production (manufacturing, automation, etc.)
  • Energy supply (station networking, renewable energies, smart grid, etc.)
  • Public transport (rail, bus, airport, shipping)
  • Mining
  • and many more

Industrial Ethernet productsIn addition to switches, hubs and media converters, today there are also products that bring aspects such as mobility and security into these sectors. All devices do, of course, have to be adapted to industrial environments. This applies, for example, to:

  • Mounting on a DIN rail
  • AC and DC power supply (e.g. 24 V DC)
  • Redundant power packs
  • Extended operating temperature range
  • Type of protection (protection from dust, water spray, explosion, etc.)
  • Vibration resistance
  • Increased availability of the overall system, e.g. by using no moving parts

Industrial Ethernet networks are often arranged in rings to limit each failure to a maximum of one switch. High network availability is guaranteed by appropriate redundancy protocols. If one line or network component fails, the remaining network can continue working. Ring reconfiguration is done either by rapid spanning tree protocol (RSTP) or by normed ring redundancy protocols such as G.8032 or MRP (IEC62439) with fast switching. New redundancy mechanisms such as PRP or HSR allow for uninterrupted switching in case of error.

Many different types of data have to be transferred in industrial Ethernet. In addition to the Ethernet-based protocols like DNP3, ProfiNet IO, IEC 60870-5-104, Modbus TCP, etc., some systems also offer the option of transmission using the still widespread serial data communication (V.24, X.21, etc.) via Ethernet.

Stuxnet and the like have shown that industrial networks are specifically targeted. Data loss or data manipulation can have serious consequences in industrial networks, so protecting data from various external and internal attack scenarios is necessary:

  • Official security requirements must be met
  • Due to large-scale networking, data must often be transmitted via public networks; data encryption is necessary here (VPN tunnel)
  • Network access must be protected (user authentication at the port)
  • Data traffic within the network also has to be controlled and secured

Mobility is also becoming increasingly important in the industrial Ethernet environment. Connection problems, varying transmission quality and a lack of standards used to be reasons against using wireless LAN in the industrial sector. But with the right components and careful planning, even these jobs can be done in modern networks.