Bringing Down the Wall

I’m just back from a number of conferences and trade shows where Ethernet is a core subject for the factory floor.

This may be “pure” commercial Ethernet or one of the variety of industrial flavors—EtherCat, EtherNet/IP, Found-ation Fieldbus HSE, PowerLink, ProfiNet. Trade show booths abound with products previously seen only at information technology gatherings—managed and unmanaged switches, routers, hubs. So, it looks as if an engineer skilled at machine or process control and device level networks now must learn the skills of a corporate network administrator.



People often talk of the split between IT and engineering. Conversations about this topic were common at the recent Automation Fair sponsored by Rockwell Automation. My colleague Jane Gerold and I discussed this with several people and reached the conclusion that this wall is coming down. We heard examples of how the two groups would gather at a company meeting and an engineer would mention a problem about an Ethernet switch and an IT person would say “Oh, that’s a setting in the switch. Just do this and you’ll be back up.” These are the crucial conversations that need to occur more often—perhaps just over coffee. This issue
of Automation World’s Industrial Ethernet Review looks at network administration for engineers. What we hope to begin is a deeper conversation between the corporate IT world and the manufacturing engineering world.



Follow-up Webcast

Our Webcast on the IT/engineering partnership was held live on Nov. 9. It’s not too late to see it. Go to and view it (and previous ones on security and Ethernet to the I/O) from the archive at a time convenient to you.









4 Network Management Opens Up



Not all that many years ago, engineers didn’t have to learn networks beyond remote I/O. Then came fieldbus networks and now Ethernet. While engineers may not require the same level of network training as an IT professional, the expansion of Ethernet into the factory does require more network administration skills.




11 Ethernet Products




More in Control