Low Tech Language for High Tech Industrial Ethernet Design

Feb. 13, 2013
While the complexity and volume of industrial Ethernet features can be overwhelming, effective design and implementation of an industrial Ethernet network can be simple, manageable and fairly absent of technobabble.

If you pop into the back row of any industrial Ethernet seminar, close your eyes for a few seconds and just listen, you might swear the presenter is reading some mash-up of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.

… with the VLANs all stacked and the NATs all indexed,

Can you really be sure your subnet mask is addressed?

You’ve got TCP, IP and UDP in the queue,

Put your router and switches and gateways in too.

About packets and traffic and collisions don’t fret,

You already know what to use … industrial Ethernet.

Instead of this confusing mash-up, industrial Ethernet design should really be as simple as Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Here are three key steps to help keep your industrial Ethernet network design simple for a jargon-free process — even if you have to deal with a lot of separate networks and different technologies in an existing facility.

  1. Start by making fewer networks and using fewer technologies. While this may take some time and cost money up front, you’ll be keeping things simple and saving money and time in the long run. And by choosing industrial Ethernet, you're future-proofing your industrial communication design because Ethernet is the most popular network choice today because it is big, fast and most industrial equipment connects to it. And what doesn't connect to it today will be connecting to it very soon.
  1. Organize your network. Don’t make a network by hooking things up to each other any old way until something breaks. Divide your big network into smaller ones, but make sure the smaller segments can still talk to each other in the process. You do this by connecting those smaller networks to a special device called a Layer 3 switch or router. Those smaller network pieces will keep the network running right and make it easier for you to manage.
  1. Make it industrial.  Factories are pretty tough places, but that’s where network devices have to live, so be sure everything you spec for the network—cables, connectors, and all of the electronics—are designed for industrial use. To read more about why opting for industrial grade equipment is the right choice for your facility, see these articles on choosing the right switch and why industrial cable selection is mandatory.

Of course, industrial Ethernet network design can become complex. But by following these three simple concepts, you can avoid complexity and create a robust, flexible network architecture capable of doing anything you need it to do today as well as grow with the business.

Now that you know how to keep it simple at a core level, take the next step and learn how to keep an industrial network simple by making it invisible. You’ll see much of the concepts discussed in this easy-to-understand article revisited and you’ll see that the “invisible network” concept isn't so daunting after all.

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