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Cisco, Rockwell Automation Collaborate on Ethernet Implementation Guides

Cooperation on reference architectures and market education will result in best practices for global manufacturers leveraging EtherNet/IP standard networking technologies.

Rockwell Automation Inc., a global provider of power, control and information solutions, and Cisco Systems Inc., a global provider of networking solutions for the Internet, have launched a new networking collaboration effort. The companies announced at the Hannover Fair, in Hannover, Germany, that they are working together on reference architectures, detailed design guidelines and education for the use of common networking technologies across the production and enterprise network. The intent is to address two industry challenges—greater efficiency, and visibility between plant floor and enterprise applications. The validated, lab-tested architectures portion of Cisco’s “Ethernet to the Factory” solution will enable the successful deployment of Ethernet-based production networks and secure integration with the rest of the enterprise, the two companies say.

Mark Wylie, manager, business development at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, and Joe Kann, vice president of global business development at Rockwell, in Milwaukee, told Automation World that the companies had a joint team that interviewed many information technology (IT) executives and manufacturing engineering managers at customer companies. When team members asked customers about their manufacturing network needs, they expected that discussions would involve protocols and the like. Instead, the request was for more help with best practices for an architecture and help actually configuring a manufacturing network.

Customers speak

The collaboration between Rockwell Automation and Cisco was formed to help leverage common open technology with security and reliability, while meeting the varied requirements across functions for an optimized networking solution — a desire strongly expressed by the companies’ joint customers.

“Customers are telling us they want linked reference architectures supporting both the office network environment and the factory floor,” said Paul McNab, vice president of Enterprise Marketing for Cisco. “Both plant and IT managers need secure, real-time visibility between the production floor and enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management systems. This network architecture will allow manufacturers to achieve real-time visibility with a secure control network using Ethernet.”

Rockwell and Cisco will continue to work closely with their customers to address current and future challenges facing various manufacturing industries.

“Use of standard, unmodified Ethernet is a key differentiator within the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture. Rockwell Automation and Cisco, through combined industry knowledge and expertise, have come together to determine how enterprise-wide Ethernet network topologies can help manufacturers meet current market challenges, as well as anticipate and be ready for demands of the future,” said Steve Eisenbrown, senior vice president of Architecture and Software, Rockwell Automation.

Bridging the cultural divide

Integration of network standards requires both contemporary technology and a mutual understanding of the issues and challenges facing IT and manufacturing environments. According to customer feedback, establishing dialogue between the two departments is key to better understanding of potential risks for each and, ultimately, to successful network integration.

Based on their respective knowledge of manufacturing and IT cultures, Rockwell Automation and Cisco will hold a series of educational seminars to help organizations implement change by establishing best practices between IT and manufacturing.

Cisco Systems Inc.

Rockwell Automation Inc.

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