Testbed Pushes Forward on Time-Sensitive Networking

Driven by an overarching goal of interoperability for machine and automation control components, one of the biggest trends in automation and control for 2017 is the emergence of Time-Sensitive Networking technology.

Driven by an overarching goal of interoperability for machine and automation control components, one of the biggest trends in automation and control for 2017 is the emergence of Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) technology. This is a story that we will continue to follow as it unfolds because of its far-reaching impact on how automation and motion controllers could be evolving moving forward.

In a new testbed report on the Industrial Internet Consortium website , titled “Results, Insights and Best Practices from IIC Testbeds: Time-Sensitive Networking Testbed,” the working group reports on its progress with testing of early prototypes that have implemented TSN.  A group of a dozen or so leading automation and control suppliers announced late in 2016 that they intend to support the developing TSN standards, and developing new products based on the technology.  Suppliers are working in conjunction with both the Industrial Internet Consortium and the AVnu Alliance , and pledged allegiance to the goal of developing product solutions based on this technology including as TSN Testbed partners currently focused on the technical aspects of technical development.

Emergence of Time-Sensitive Networks

For those not familiar with TSN, two of the key benefits it aims to provide is an approach that uses standard, unmodified Ethernet for control networking, and the ability to provide interoperability between components and systems operating on the network.

According to the IIC report, new integrated technology will address three critical areas that this growing group of automation control suppliers hope will lead to the next generation of automation control networking: time synchronization, traffic flow on the network, and the ability to achieve a centralized system for automatic system configuration.

These three key capabilities form the core of TSN:
1.    Time synchronization: A distributed, precise sense of time is a base requirement for distributed automation and control. It is also a requirement for the deterministic delivery of information needed between the sensors, actuators, controllers that comprise the manufacturing systems, as well as the network infrastructure.
2.    Sending scheduled traffic flows: Based on a precise sense of time, network infrastructure must be capable of forwarding critical automation and control traffic on a timely basis. This is considered an enhancement to the quality-of-service capabilities in most network infrastructures.
3.    Central, automated system configuration: Recently, a key trend in networking has been software-defined networking which enables automated, easier configuration. Software-defined networking is particularly important for TSN in manufacturing because it consolidates application requirements, develops paths and schedules for the traffic flows and distributes that to the relevant network infrastructure.

 

Time Sensitive Networking testbed
A number of technology companies and industrial companies are very interested in TSN technology, and are readying products and solutions for TSN. Technology solutions will require coordination and synchronization between network infrastructure, switches and routers, as well as end-devices. Source: Industrial Internet Consortium

 

At this time, the group reports that a wide variety of vendors have brought in infrastructure, devices, switches and test equipment to conduct rigorous testing and creating successful demonstrations. A lot of the effort has been focused on getting various parts and types of TSN-enhanced Ethernet components to work

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