Schneider Electric Boosts ODVA Presence

Schneider Electric (www.schneider-electric.com), the Rueil-Malmaison, France, supplier of electrical power and control products, has become one of the principal members of the Open DeviceNet Vendors Association (ODVA, www.odva.org), joining other principal members Cisco Systems, Eaton Electrical, Omron Corp. and Rockwell Automation. Schneider Electric’s increased participation in ODVA coincides with ODVA’s plans to extend the CIP Network specifications to provide compatibility of Modbus/TCP devices with networks built on the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP).

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This extension will give existing users of Modbus/TCP—an open standard industrial Ethernet protocol supported principally by Schneider Electric—a clear path to CIP Network architectures, while protecting their automation investments. CIP is an open architecture, upper-level networking protocol that is used by EtherNet/IP, another industrial Ethernet flavor

Multiple interview conducted by Automation World regarding the announcement made it clear that the move is considered major by all of the players. The interviews included Katherine Voss, executive director of ODVA, Joe Kann, vice president of global business development of Rockwell Automation, and a team from Schneider Electric that included Andy Gravitt, vice president of automation, Geoff Walker, director of automation and controls, and Fred Cohn, director of marketing for Ethernet products.

Gravitt said, “This is a big deal globally for us.” Voss said this is an important follow up to the agreement with SERCOS International, which accepted
CIP (common industrial protocol, the technology behind EtherNet/IP) Safety as part of Sercos III, another industrial Ethernet flavor. Kann reiterated how important EtherNet/IP is to Rockwell—in fact it is the underlying technology in its control platforms for communication.

The announcement, to recap, was that Schneider Electric has decided to upgrade its membership level in ODVA to “principal” from “regular.” Voss explained that the principal category was recently created,
partly replacing the “founder” category. Rockwell Automation, Omron Electronics, Eaton (at the time Eaton/Cutler-Hammer) and Hitachi were the founding members of the Open DeviceNet Vendors Association. In 2004 Cisco was added—necessitating the name change to principal. Principal members have the privilege of nominating a person from the company for the board of directors and another person to sit on the technical review board.

In addition to the membership commitment, Schneider announced that its roadmap for the future from Modbus/TCP will be EtherNet/IP and the CIP networks.

Adding more

Cohn said, “This continues and extends our philosophy begun as Transparent Factory and continued as Transparent Ready, which is standard, unmodified Ethernet in manufacturing. This adds more services and protocols to the Modbus/TCP foundation. Modbus is a good messaging protocol, but we needed to move to a higher speed, synched network with expanded profiles for safety and motion. We’ll be getting this into the PLCs first, followed by adding different services later.” Schneider has four motion initiatives in process right now.

There will be a special interest group (SIG) established by ODVA to work on the protocol coordination to encapsulate Modbus packets within CIP so that they may be passed on the CIP network. When this is finished and adopted, a test procedure can be established. Products can then be manufactured and tested for conformance. Schneider expects products supporting EtherNet/IP on the market in 2008.

Gravitt added, “This action brings together market forces of the two leaders in installed base with standard Ethernet solutions. Our customers with Modbus/ TCP can feel assured that their technology investment is secure in the future.”

One last caveat from Gravitt: “This announcement in no way signals a diminishment of our commitment to the CAN and AS-interface networks.”

The press release and conversations were peppered with the comment “unmodified Ethernet.” But no one would commit to a specific example of a “modified” Ethernet. At the very least, this refers to Ethernet TCP/IP exactly like standard commercial (office) Ethernet, with no special chips or protocols that don’t ride on the TCP/IP packets.

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