IT and Controls – Working Together for Better Industrial Networking

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Mark Wylie, a Belden manager with many years of experience working in both the controls and IT domains. He is responsible for our Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure and Certified Industrial Network programs.

If you are a controls or process engineer you will have noticed the direct involvement of IT while designing and deploying industrial Ethernet. While the networks and technologies come together easily, the language, culture and standard practices used by IT are very different. Indeed, they often pose a significant problem in a production environment.

If you are an IT professional working in a production environment you’ve probably run into a ton of resistance and anxiety from others based on perceived differences. Take heart, your skills are still valuable and may just require a few new twists and tweaks.

In today’s article, I hope to bring some understanding to both sides so that you can work together to better meet your company’s common goals.

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Redundancy, Availability, Reliability: Related but Not the Same

Understanding and determining data center redundancy, availability and reliability is a critical part of the holistic design process, and one that can significantly impact cost. However, there is often confusion surrounding these three factors.

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Some believe that redundancy, availability and reliability are one in the same, but that is not the case at all. Let’s take a closer look. Read more »

ICS Security for Oil and Gas Applications, Part 2 of 2

My previous article covered part of Scott Howard’s presentation on ICS Security for Oil and Gas applications from this year’s Design Seminar. In that article, we reviewed some of the cyber security fundamentals discussed by Scott.

For example, we examined the fact that most cyber threats are unintentional and originate from within the control network. We also looked at the fact that a perimeter defense is not sufficient and that IT solutions are not appropriate on the plant floor.

Instead, what’s needed is Defense in Depth, that is, multiple layers of defense that work together to prevent network incidents or contain them if they do occur. A key best practice for Defense in Depth is to implement the zone and conduits model as defined in the ISA IEC 62443 standard. While not a regulation, this standard provides practical guidance that leads to more robust cyber security.

Today, we will take a closer look at zones and conduits and then review how they were be implemented in three oil and gas applications.

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Stepping Up to Lightly Managed Industrial Ethernet Switches

No matter where your organization is on the path of adopting industrial Ethernet, it is likely that unmanaged switches play a role in directing traffic on your network. Perhaps your team waited for the early adopters of Ethernet to iron the kinks out or you recently invested in your first system because of supplier or management demands.

On the other hand, you may have a robust industrial Ethernet infrastructure that has unmanaged switches on its fringes or in smaller networks.

In any of these scenarios, ease-of-use and low cost were likely the factors that led to the selection of unmanaged switches.

I am writing today to let you know about a new category of industrial Ethernet switches, lightly managed switches. These devices offer the same simplicity as unmanaged switches and are very reasonably priced – but with additional features that make sure your networks are running at peak performance.

Reasons to Consider Lightly Managed Industrial Ethernet Switches

Once you start using Ethernet in your designs and you add a few nodes to your network you may notice behavior that piques your concern or curiosity. You’d like to get more information, but you are limited because unmanaged switches do not make it available.

Similarly, you may feel constrained because:

 

  • You want to implement redundancy to reduce downtime, but can’t do it with unmanaged switches.
  • You are worried that the unused ports on some of your switches are a security risk.
  • You need to accommodate one of the myriad of industrial Ethernet protocols in your infrastructure.
  • Your network is growing in size and sophistication and you need better monitoring and diagnostics.

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Don’t Get In Deep Water

wetcablesAs a follow-up to the blog on the reasons why UTP cables should not be painted, let’s talk about cables that have been exposed to water or other liquids.

While the jacketing on indoor riser- and plenum-rated UTP cables may seem impervious to liquids, let me remind you again that it is actually porous. In fact, any cable rated for indoor use only, whether copper or fiber, should not be exposed to liquids for any length of time.

Let’s take a look at why. Read more »

Cinema

Movie, Motion Picture, Flickers…which is it?

Coming-SoonI really have a problem with the word MOVIE. It sounds so juvenile. Pictures that move! Sounds like something from 1900s, back when the frame rate was really low, like 16 frames a second. No wonder they called them “flickers”.

I still occasionally hear someone say, “I’m going to the flicks.” Don’t you? I guess some things just stay with us. So, instead, we call it “motion pictures” which doesn’t sound a whole lot better. Last February at the HPA (Hollywood Post Alliance) the final speaker was an industry guru, John Watkinson (with his long hair and long beard, he LOOKS like a guru.) He got up and the first thing he said was a real epiphany. “I have never seen a movie or a motion picture.” The audience couldn’t figure out just what he was saying. “All I’ve ever seen is a series of still images, run rapidly in front of my eyes.” And because of ‘persistence of vision’ which we humans share with only a few other creatures on earth, it looks like a moving picture.

So where is the REAL moving picture? Read more »

250um vs. 900um

Ever wonder what the difference is between loose-tube (mini distribution) 250um fiber and tight-buffered 900um fiber?

Loose-tube 250um and tight-buffered 900um fiber cables actually start with the same 250um bare fibers that feature the same size fiber core (i.e., 50um for multimode and 9um for singlemode), 125um cladding and soft 250um coating.

The difference between the two is all in the cable construction. Read more »

InnoTrans Exhibition is Over for Another 2 Years

innotransWell InnoTrans, THE Transportation exhibition is over for another 2 years.

This year seemed to me to be a lot more international than previous years – perhaps a trend that will continue in the future.  Monday is the booth building day and as you can see from the picture, when I arrived at midday, everyone still had a lot of work to do before being ready to receive the 135,000 visitors. Read more »

ICS Security for Oil and Gas Applications, Part 1 of 2

This year, the Belden Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure Design Seminar is being held in Houston and therefore a number of the sessions are focusing on applications for the oil and gas sector. I had the privilege of attending Scott Howard’s session on cyber security. In it, he reviewed the primary goals of cyber security measures in industrial networks:

  • To improve safety
  • To reduce downtime
  • To increase productivity

In other words, the goals of cyber security are the same as the core goals of most manufacturing teams.

This article reviews the cyber security fundamentals that Scott described and also explains how Belden’s products fit into industrial networking solutions. In Part 2 of this article, I will look at three, specific oil and gas applications discussed by Scott and describe a cyber security solution for each scenario.

OffShoreRigImage_1Offshore platforms are an example of an oil and gas application with high cyber security requirements.

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Commercial vs. Industrial Cables: 9 Essential Tests

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Loredana Coscotin, product marketing manager for industrial cable.

Nowadays, manufacturing businesses rely heavily on their automation, instrumentation and control data communications for industrial networking. When it comes to relaying signals between devices, machinery and the control system to there’s no margin for error.

Indeed network availability of 99.999 percent uptime or better is often the goal. Given this reality a robust industrial Ethernet infrastructure consisting of environmentally-hardened network cabling, connectivity and active components is essential to long-term performance and reliability.

Maximum productivity with minimal downtime is paramount for achieving network performance. If a switch, connector or cabling system in the plant fails, the cost of parts replacement and repair represents only a tiny fraction of the overall costs of production downtime. If a cabling system component or Ethernet switch fails in, for instance, a power generation facility, the repair/labor costs alone could be 15-20 times the cost of the component itself.

The indirect costs of Ethernet system failure in any industry must take into account loss of productivity, delayed downstream processes, cost of system shut-down and start-up, and the potentially devastating loss of service to customers relying on the plant’s mission-critical output.

That’s why investing in a high-quality; rugged Ethernet infrastructure designed specifically for use in harsh environments is a wise business decision – one that can provide tremendous peace of mind to network engineers and the organizations they serve.

Windows XPFig. 1 Industrial grade cable is essential for achieving high availability and productivity in manufacturing environments such as this power station.

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