Rockwell Automation and Cisco announced a pact at the Hannover Fair this morning that promises to ease the design and implementation of Ethernet IP on the factory floor.
One of the biggest problems for Rockwell customers is designing Ethernet infrastructures, so when Cisco asked for factory expertise Rockwell seized the opportunity, according to John Lewis, Rockwell director of partnering and alliances.
"Cisco recognized that manufacturing is an evolving space. They came to us as switch guys and said 'we need factory expertise'," he said.
Factory floors have unique characteristics that don't map well from an office environment, Lewis explained. For instance, factory floors lack server and wiring closets found in offices. What's more, security, diagnostics, troubleshooting and the environments are different. Another problem to be addressed is what Lewis called the "1,000 mile screwdriver."
"Our customers can't send folks around on planes all the time to fix problems. They need video for diagnostics and troubleshooting. You put that on Ethernet."
Cisco industry solutions manager Dan Knight said the two companies hope to publish a reference model with design and implementation guidelines by early this summer. The model is being developed and tested in a Cisco lab, he added.
The model should help relieve the frequent tension between control engineers who design factory automation systems and IT which oversees the Ethernet infrastructure, Lewis added. "The control guy worries about filling a thousand bottles a minute while the IT guy wants to get data for management reports."
Rockwell is unlikely to strike any more deals with other telecom and switch makers, Lewis added. "They take a lot of work. We're not looking for more work and Cisco is the leader."