By itself, the announcement of OPC UA (Open Platform Communications – Unified Architecture) over TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) may seem like just another flavor of industrial Ethernet. But it is much more, it is the standardized industrial Ethernet with deterministic fieldbus attributes that failed to emerge from the mid-1990’s ‘fieldbus wars.’
As a result, automation users and technology providers for decades have been forced to support multiple networks and limit their automation networks to non-interoperable protocols. As the many fieldbuses have migrated to as many ‘flavors’ of industrial Ethernet, the problem has persisted.
Industry observers have watched with interest as TSN has emerged as an IEEE 802.1 standards based industrial Ethernet technology capable of providing the time synchronization required for critical automation processes such as motion, safety and robotics. It soon became clear that simply migrating all the fieldbus protocols to TSN would not provide the interoperability required of emerging IIoT integration.
And so, the competing automation technology providers themselves came to the conclusion that the same OPC Foundation with its successful track record for opening data communications on the factory floor could provide the ideal organization for, at last, delivering this interoperable networking standard to automation users.
But, the ARC report contends, in addition to the suppliers, it will take the involvement of automation users, machine builders and industry consortia like VDMA and OMAC to develop companion specifications for machines and processes. Likewise, the report foresees a generational transition period that nevertheless needs to begin now.
Note: B&R Industrial Automation sponsored this ARC Brief in the public interest, and the opinions and observations stated in this report are those of ARC Advisory Group.