Integrated PRP Extends Industrial Wireless Applications – Part 2 of 2

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Julia Santogatta, Belden’s director responsible for the wireless initiatives and Dr. Tobias Heer, Belden’s Head of Embedded Development.

In Part One of this series we explained how recent advances in technology and standards have revolutionized reliability for industrial wireless applications; they are no longer the Achilles heel of signal transmission. Specifically, Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP) as defined by IEC 62439, is helping in this revolution as it greatly improves wireless network performance in three important areas:

  1. It drastically decreases the potential for data loss because it is a zero-failover design –renegotiation and signal recovery times are non-existent
  2. It improves transmission time by decreasing latency.
  3. It reduces jitter throughout the data transmission

The improvements in these areas are dramatic. In practical tests, the perceptible packet loss for an application with PRP was reduced to 0.00021 percent using a PRP connection. That’s a 500-fold reduction in packet loss!

It is quite unbelievable – but true to the level of improvement you could realize in the field. (See the technical article “Doubling Multiplies the Benefit” for more details on improvement measurements.)

Now, let’s build on the gains from standardized PRP and look at two additional developments that make today’s wireless even more practical. These implementation options include frequency diversification and the integration of PRP right into wireless equipment.

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ICS Security: How Your IT Dept. Can Help

There’s no escaping the push to secure industrial applications. The end of support for Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system is just the latest situation that contributes to the need to make sure that industrial networks have cyber security measures in place.

The challenge is how to go about it. No one wants to be tagged with the responsibility to implement it because the technology can be confusing, the doublespeak from the experts can be frustrating, and the pressure to do something without clear direction or budget from management is commonplace.

If you’re the person tasked with security—and if you’re reading this, you probably are—the ambiguity surrounding security for industrial systems has probably struck you already.

Vendors are not offering security like they offer a PLC or drive. There are plenty of experts who can help you, but their approach feels more custom than standardized, and they tell you you’re never completely secure … just more secure than you were before.

One tool in the toolbox to help you improve the cyber resilience of your facility is to leverage the know-how of your company’s IT security experts. Before you start running for the hills at this suggestion, I hope you will read on and find out how this may actually help.

Why IT Are Your Friends When IT Comes to PLC Security

As daunting as solving the industrial systems security puzzle for your facility may seem, a part of the answer has been right in front of you the whole time:

You need to reach out to your friends in the IT department.

While many controls and process engineers have had their struggles working with IT, when it comes to security, they are your most valuable resource.

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Virtualization: An Ongoing Impact

virtualizationBelieve it or not, virtualization has been around for longer than one might think.

In the early 1970s, IBM offered the first commercial main frame to support virtualization. In 1997, Apple used virtualization technology to run a copy of Windows on a Mac to get around some of the incompatibilities.

But mainstream adoption of server virtualization in the data center didn’t really take off until the late 1990s when VMWare began offering products, followed quickly by several other vendors.

While there will always be applications that require a single server, virtualization has seen exponential growth over the past two decades. Gartner forecasts that the U.S. market is about 68% virtualized and will continue to increase moving forward. Accordingly, virtualization is continuing to make its mark.

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Belden Rings In a New Week at the NYSE

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It was an exciting day at Belden as we had an opportunity to ring The Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Our President and CEO, John Stroup, led other members of our senior management team on the podium.

John was joined by Henk Derksen, our CFO, Kevin Bloomfield, general counsel, Michelle Long, senior VP, Tax, Jeremy Parks, VP, FP&A and treasurer, Brian Anderson, corporate attorney, Matt Tractenberg, VP, Investor Relations and Tim Lenze, investor relations analyst.

This effort was secured by our investor relations team as a way to shed light on some of our significant accomplishments over the past few years.

  • Transformation: Since CEO John Stroup joined the company in late 2005, Belden has transformed from a cable manufacturer to a provider of high-quality signal transmission solutions in the broadcast, industrial and enterprise markets. Products include networking hardware, security applications, and innovative broadcast infrastructure.
  • Acquisitions: Belden has spent more than a billion dollars on acquiring attractive companies in the last 24 months. Belden continues to generate a great deal of cash and M&A is an important element of the Company’s strategy going forward.
  • Profitability: Since 2006, gross margins have expanded by almost 1300 basis points (13 percentage points) to a best-in-class 35%. Belden has expanded operating margins by more than 800 basis points. This direction and speed is what Belden has been telling investors to expect all along.
  • Consistency: Belden believes in providing insightful and transparent information to the market when setting expectations. Belden rarely adjusts full year earnings expectations, even in the challenging markets we’ve seen in recent years.
  • Stock Price: Belden’s stock price increased by 57% last year, outpacing all of its peers.

As you can see, the team has been very busy positioning Belden as a profitable and stable industry leader. Read more »

Protect Your Company From Today’s Security Threats

What’s protecting your business from today’s latest security threats? If you’re relying on a single defense – your company, communications network and sensitive data are open to attacks by cyber criminals and hackers. Even a well-designed solution can malfunction or be bypassed.

business-man-touch-lock-on-world-map-background_1To keep critical business processes up and running, a layered approach to security is far more reliable. At Belden, we encourage our customers to employ multiple security measures through a “Defense in Depth” approach.

Defense in Depth was originally used as a military strategy by the Romans. For security purposes, it means each layer of protection is designed to address a specific type of threat. If one security measure is bypassed or fails, the next layer steps in to defend the system.

Companies can be exposed to a variety of different security threats. Some are intentional, such as disgruntled employees, computer malware or information theft. Many others, however, are accidental – including employee mistakes or misconfiguration errors. No matter the aim, it is vital that businesses have a defense prepared for all possible threats.

Belden’s expertise helps protect critical assets from intrusion or manipulation. With a portfolio of security solutions designed for various mission-critical industries – from data centers to city wastewater plants to commercial buildings – Belden provides companies with a pragmatic approach to cyber and physical security.

New PRP Redundancy Extends Industrial Wireless Applications – Part 1 of 2

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Julia Santogatta, Belden’s director responsible for the wireless initiatives and Tobias Heer, Belden’s Head of Embedded Development.

Several months ago we asked whether you have moved wireless projects off the back burner yet. The reason we asked is because new advances in technology and standards mean it’s probably time to take a fresh look at industrial wireless.

One of the most common concerns about wireless for wide-ranging mission critical applications has always been – and still is – reliability. Will it work in your noisy environment? Will it be robust enough to ensure your data makes it to its destination? Can it ever provide you the assurance you need that it is stable enough?

These are all good questions. Up until now, there have been many techniques and planning guides written to help address those concerns. However, there hasn’t been an integrated, tried and true solution to really hit the mark I’m sure you’ve been striving for – zero failover, zero data loss.

Recent advances in technology and standards have changed this. These advances have made industrial wireless applications much more stable, reliable, fast, secure and a lot easier to deploy. This is in part thanks to the use of an updated and improved protocol called Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP).

In this Part 1 of a two-part series on redundancy techniques for reliable industrial Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs), I will explain why PRP technology makes wireless worth another look.

Yesterday’s Industrial Wireless Applications

  • Traditionally, wireless LANs have been used in industry when:
  • Cable is too heavy for the application.
  • Cable will not perform under the wear and tear of the application.
  • Cable is impossible to use because the application involves mobile machines or vehicles.
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DCS Award Nomination for FX Brilliance Connectors

PrintThe Data Centre Solution Awards were established to honor the achievements of end users, manufacturers and suppliers in the Data Center sector. Now in their fourth year, they are seen as a recognition of excellence.

I am pleased to see that one of our products, the Belden FiberExpress Brilliance Universal Connector, has been selected as a finalist in the Data Center Cabling Product of the Year category.  And it is easy to see why: brilliant in design and universal in implementation, FiberExpress Brilliance Universal no-epoxy, no-polish, no-crimp field-installable connectors make fiber field termination faster, easier and better.  Thanks to its industry-leading design, it only takes three simple steps to terminate a connector.

Naturally, we are proud to be nominated – and would be delighted to receive your support – and your vote.  Simply go here to cast your vote. You can cast your vote until 1 May – so there is still plenty of time.

And click here if you want to learn more about Belden FiberExpress Brilliance Universal Connectors.

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Category 8 Cable For Offices and Commercial Buildings

Do you think that Category 8 will be specified in standards for offices and commercial buildings in future?

Category 8 cabling is under development to support the next generation 40GBASE-T Standard over balanced copper cabling for distances up to 30 meters.  It is primarily intended for switch-to-server connections in a data center.  In the IEEE 802.3 Call for Interest on Next Generation BASE-T a chart was presented that forecasted the demand for higher speed switch-to-server connections as shown below.  The demand for 40G (blue) will start to pick up in the 2015 to 2018 time frame.

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Today’s server is tomorrows desktop.  For offices and commercial buildings, the planning today should be to support 10 Gigabit to the desktop using Category 6A cabling in the horizontal and 40G/100G optical fiber cabling in the backbone.  There is a possibility that Category 8 could be used  in the future to support 40G connections for high end work area environments from a Telecommunications Enclosure.  This would require 100G/400G optical fiber cabling in the backbone.  I see this more of an exception than a rule, because of the limitations to support than much bandwidth, at least using today’s technology.

10GBASE-T Today or 40GBASE-T Tomorrow

1040With 40GBASE-T standards and Category 8 cabling in development and only a few years away, many looking to upgrade today are asking if 10GBASE-T and Category 6A cabling is the right investment option.

The answer isn’t a simple one. From cost and availability, to power consumption, distance and cabling media characteristics, there is plenty to consider.

Down in Price and Up in Availability

According to a recent Hewlett-Packard (HP) white paper, 10GBASE-T and Category 6A cabling costs less than using either optical fiber or SFP+ direct attach copper (DAC) options that have been widely deployed to date for 10 Gb/s.

With a potentially large market for servers in the data center, as well as for high-end desktops and 802.11ac wireless applications in the LAN, the 10GBASE-T market is positioned to accelerate dramatically over the next few years.

We’ve already seen a rise in 10GBASE-T server adoption as the more than half million 10GBASE-T server ports that shipped in 2012 jumped to nearly 5 million in 2013. If this trend continues, 10GBASE-T port shipments will likely pass SFP+ DAC sometime in 2015. Switch manufacturers are also ramping up their offerings, and the price per port for 10GBASE-T has dropped significantly.

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3 Keys to Good Network Infrastructure for Offshore Oil and Gas Platforms

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Tim Wallaert, Belden’s director responsible for the Energy sector.

On a recent trip I had the opportunity to fly over the Gulf of Mexico and get a feel for the density of offshore platforms, rigs and vessels that are in operation there. It was a clear day and you could see the various platforms and surface vessels, especially as you approached the coast.

Even though it looked spread out, it’s actually really dense – somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,0000 facilities, and that doesn’t include all of the support vessels! And that’s just what’s on the surface. I can’t image all the gear below the surface that connects facilities with extraction equipment.

While the people involved with offshore platforms are well aware of the economic imperative to keep operations running, they may not be aware of a few areas related to network infrastructure that can have a large impact on uptime and “time to first oil”.

In this article I look at 3 such areas: network design, cable selection and management of network traffic.

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