The changing landscape in industrial networking is being shaped by the continuing adoption of Ethernet technology for plant-wide networks, and while the rate of change for convergence may seem like life in slow motion, there is real movement in the design of networks and increased support from infrastructure products.
More than ever before, controls and IT groups are working together to improve security and management of networks. Trade groups for competing Ethernet communication protocols are working more closely on convergence topics. All of this ultimately supports the inevitable transition to real-time Ethernet connectivity from the simplest devices, up through the MES/ERP layers, to help produce more informed business decisions.
A growing trend in industrial networking is the desire to manage and maintain the entire network from one terminal, including diagnostics and historical reports of the network status. To address this demand, Siemens has developed Sinema Server as a tool geared for automation engineers to provide this comprehensive functionality.
Completely networked, plant-wide architectures
"One of the major trends we see is customers becoming more open and receptive to the idea of transitioning to complete Ethernet-based controls for their automation and motion application solutions," said Ming Ng, PROFINET manager for Siemens Industry, in a Design News interview.
In the past, Ng says there was more focus on use of fieldbuses, and engineers would use Ethernet for applications that required data capture and monitoring. But now, the solution portfolio has filled out, and the products and protocols have gotten to the point where it's truly a viable solution.
"This transition to Ethernet-based controls for applications leads us to this idea of a completely networked, plant-wide architecture. It's a situation where you have Ethernet at the field level, going all the way up to the management level and interfacing more closely with the business side of companies," Ng says.
Along with complete automation solutions that include HMI, PLC, I/O, wireless remote drops, and that level of integration, now there is also the possibility of wireless remote I/O drops that are in hard-to-access areas, and new possibilities when it comes to engineering solutions.