Industrial Ethernet fits in at the host-level in the control system architecture. The days of proprietary control system backbones are fast ending. Until date, most control systems have used ‘backbone’ networking with proprietary hardware and protocol at the host-level.

Introduction

Industrial Ethernet fits in at the host-level in the control system architecture.
The days of proprietary control system backbones are fast ending. Until date,
most control systems have used "backbone" networking with proprietary
hardware and protocol at the host-level. Some systems have indeed used Ethernet
or variations thereof, and even TCP/IP, but even so the application layer remained
proprietary.

As a result, the network as a whole is still proprietary. Although open standard
field-level networks in various forms have been used in systems for more than
a decade, system manufacturers have been slow to change the backbone and opening
up their systems. The reason may be that they are comfortable being the only
supplier of the "guts" for their DCS, such as controllers and gateways.
As Ethernet now has become deterministic and industrially hardened, users are
demanding Ethernet solutions for their system backbones.

A new cottage industry of companies making control products, accessories and
software based on Ethernet has emerged. Many users believed that Ethernet is
a magic bullet that would solve all interoperability problems. However, users
that connected equipment from more than one supplier soon realized that there
are thousands of different protocols on Ethernet and started to demand Ethernet
products using a standard application layer.

Many consortiums have realized this and are working intensely on open networking
technologies based on Ethernet media and new alliances are frequently announced.
Users need to choose between FOUNDATION™ Fieldbus HSE, EtherNet/IP, Modbus/TCP,
IDA as well as PROFInet (a.k.a. CbA) and OPC-DX etc. host-level technologies
for their plant.

Although manufacturers of equipment using proprietary networking, or Ethernet
with a proprietary application layer, may at first be reluctant to change, we
have come to a point where they – like it or not – will have to adopt one of
these standards for their products, its just a question of which one or ones.

For end-users as well as manufacturers the decision of which technology to
chose may not be based on the Ethernet solution alone, rather the whole system
architecture that comes along with it should be taken into account.

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