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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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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3 Steps to Selecting the Right Industrial Cables for Oil and Gas Projects

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Peter Cox, cable expert, and a Project Manager in Belden’s Industrial IT group, for his contribution to this article.

From subsea drilling 6,000 feet below the surface to pipelines that cross many landscapes to intense refining processes, the range of conditions for oil and gas installations is very broad. As a design engineer, you may be involved with many types of projects with very different requirements. How then do you approach selecting the right cable for an oil and gas application?

But won’t any cable do? Certainly not! Cable issues account for more than 70% of signal transmission issues and they are difficult to diagnose and resolve. With downtime costing thousands of dollars per hour, availability requirements demand that the right cable is specified for each use.

The good news is that despite the broad range of oil and gas applications many of them share common cable requirements. In this article I take away the voodoo and spell out the 3 easy steps to selecting the right cable.

Windows XPFigure 1: These drill rigs are an example of “harsher” environment for cable use.
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5 Steps to Selecting the Right Industrial Ethernet Cable

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

Industrial Ethernet networks are becoming more sophisticated as organizations strive for high reliability and performance plus seamless data access and reporting. Flat networks are evolving into managed infrastructure and there are many new technologies, such as redundancy using PRP (Parallel Redundancy Protocol) to consider.

However, basic principles still apply and one of these is that it is essential to use the right industrial Ethernet cable to achieve reliable performance. Network components and media are the cause of over 70% of all network faults, with operating systems accounting for fewer than 20% of failures and application programs for the rest. Furthermore, when cable failures occur, they are often difficult to diagnose and resolve.

When the cost of cabling is compared to the high costs of network failure, which can be thousands of dollars per minute, it is abundantly clear that it makes good financial sense to select and install the right cable for the application.

This article outlines the 5 key steps to selecting the right industrial Ethernet cable.

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The Ultimate 600V Ethernet Cable for Heavy Industry

Recently we introduced a new industrial Ethernet cable to the market with a techy name, “DataTuff TC Cat 5e Cord Sets for 600V Cable Trays”. While I am not a fan of the name, I am impressed with what this puppy can do. If your application is in heavy industry, or you just want to learn about a very large and very feature-rich Ethernet cord set, I encourage you to read on.

As Ethernet networking gains popularity, it is starting to penetrate more deeply into industrial applications. Manufacturing, power utilities, oil and gas, transportation and other sectors want to attach more types of equipment to their industrial Ethernet infrastructures. This includes power hungry machines such as Motor Control Centers (MCCs), robots, mobile machines, and heavy equipment.

Cabling in these environments can be difficult to install, and it requires extra protection and resilience. Our long-named new cord sets meet these challenges remarkably well. Read more »

Industrial Ethernet Cable: Should It Be Copper or Fiber?

Recently I attended the Belden Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure Design Seminar and one of the sessions that I sat in on was regarding selecting copper and fiber cable. This event has traditionally focused on networking topics but the cable sessions attracted attendees seeking proficiency in end to end systems.

The fact that the majority of industrial network failures occur due to signal transmission issues is a very good reason to be more knowledgeable about cabling solutions. Downtime costs for mission critical networks can range from $25,000/hour for an oil pipeline to $45,000/hour for a power plant.

If damaged or unsuitable cable is at the root of an outage, its duration can be lengthy because it is difficult to troubleshoot cable issues. With cable then, there is a real incentive to install the right product for the job the first time. With this in mind, let’s consider industrial Ethernet cabling options.

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Four pair copper cable is shown on top and fiber cable is shown on the bottom. Signals are transmitted via copper when using copper cable and by light when using fiber cable.
 

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3 Tips for Selecting Industrial Ethernet Cable & Connectors

As industrial Ethernet is increasingly adopted, the purchasing of Ethernet network components often falls to electrical or installation contractors. If you are one of these people in charge of Ethernet cabling for an industrial application, you may think that you can save money by using commercial (office) cabling.

Unfortunately, the money you might save will disappear the first time there is a failure.

For example, a contractor installed a fire protection system for a large power generation plant, including the cabling. When it came time to run the network, it didn’t work.

Investigations revealed that the contractor had installed 4km (2.485 miles) of speaker wire instead of the industrial Ethernet twisted-pair cable specified by the engineers. Their reasoning: “It looked the same as the other wire”!

The outcome was that the contractor had to go back, pull the wire out, replace it . . . and pay for all of it. There goes the profit on that job. Read more »

Why High Performance VFD Cable is Important

Many industrial manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce their power consumption both to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Industry accounts for over 40% of worldwide energy consumption and 65% of its power demand comes from electric motor-driven systems. One way to reduce greatly reduce the energy required to run motor systems is to use what are called “VFD”s. Read more »

Networking Cables for Harsh Environments Webinar

ind_cablesDo you believe that all networking cables are equal?

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, your answer is certainly “No.”

In particular, harsh environments require that networking cables be built to meet the environmental challenges in order to insure signal transmission quality. Environmental hazards include EMI, chemicals, water, crushing, flex and temperature extremes.

So what should you look for in a cable to stand up to these hazards?

Frank Koditek, our product line manager – industrial cables, will present exactly what you should look for in the upcoming Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine Webinar: Cabling for Industrial and Other Harsh Environments.   Read more »

When Do You Need an Industrial Ethernet Solution? – Part 2

Networking safety, uptime and control should be key factors in selecting networking cabling and hardware components such as switches and routers. ‘Industry’ is a broad term encompassing a multitude of diverse operations — from discrete manufacturing of every kind, to processing of foods and beverages, pulp and paper, chemicals, oil/gas and petrochemicals, to commercial and government sites such as power generation plants, wind energy farms, water and wastewater treatment facilities, airports and transportation hubs, military bases, ships and shipyards, rail yards, tunnels, dams and bridges. Read more »

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