New Cost Effective Industrial Ethernet Switches for Substations

Every industry today is under pressure to lower costs yet increase flexibility. A particular example is the electric power industry where on the one hand there are initiatives to increase the two-way communication of data to meet the vision of the smart grid, and on the other hand, keeping costs down is essential.

At the substation level, many are being upgraded to industrial Ethernet communication networks, and as we reported in an earlier blog, that includes incorporating legacy serial devices to keep costs down. Another way to control costs is to address the Ethernet switching needs with a value-priced yet rugged, flexible switch.

Hirschmann has just introduced a new Gigabit Ethernet switch, which is ideal for meeting this need. If you are an engineer or system integrator in need of a substation hardened entry-level switch, this device might be very useful. Plus, it has an additional benefit – it comes with field exchangeable port modules for high flexibility.

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Today’s substations are being upgraded for two-way “Smart Grid” communications at a time when utilities face high cost pressures. In this environment, the new Hirschmann GREYHOUND Gigabit Ethernet Switches are ideal.

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Substation Design – Integrating Serial Devices into the Smart Grid

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

A huge amount has been written about the “Smart Grid” in recent years and most of it leads you to believe that every substation is communicating using high-speed Ethernet between all of its various components. But let’s face it – utilities don’t replace anything until it’s absolutely necessary.

The intelligent electronic device (IED) that was installed 15 years ago to monitor the status of the transformer is still out there. No one is even going to think about upgrading that IED until it or the transformer fails. This means the outdated serial port on the IED is going to be the main way to communicate to that device for quite a long time.

This begs the question of how to incorporate serial communication devices into a modern Ethernet infrastructure. Today, we’re going to take a look at this critical, and often times overlooked, issue.

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Combining old and new – today’s electrical grids must support old serial devices and
integrate new technologies, such as energy from renewable resources. 

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Industrial Network Design for Physical Security Systems

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.

There are many reasons to update your network from an ad hoc design to an industrial Ethernet infrastructure. One of them is that it allows you to separate applications that generate high volumes of traffic, such as physical security systems, from other network applications such as control systems.

Good network segmentation groups devices used for a common purpose or with common cyber security requirements into segments, making network management and expansion easier.

Today, I am going to take a look at how to integrate physical security systems that include cameras, video servers, client viewing stations and other equipment into a well-designed industrial Ethernet network.

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Physical security systems often include numerous outdoor video cameras with high bandwidth transmission requirements.

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7 Key Questions for Industrial Wireless Security, Part 1 of 2

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Julia Santogatta, Belden’s director responsible for the wireless initiatives, with expertise from Daniel Wade, Chief Architect-Wireless Products and Jeffrey Caldwell, Chief Architect-Security.

What is the No. 1 concern when it comes to wireless solutions in the industrial world? While the answer might be debatable, if you’ve read some of my other blogs you know I feel passionately that it often comes down to one of two things – is it reliable enough and can I secure it?

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While you may fear that industrial wireless is insecure, today’s reality is different. By turning on the security features available in current equipment offerings and following our Wireless Golden Rule, it is possible to secure wireless applications.

At our recent Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure Design Seminar, Jeff Caldwell, chief architect for security at Belden, posed this question to the audience – is wireless more secure or less secure than a wired network? Crazy question, right?
But when you start thinking about it and boiling it down to the basics, maybe he has something here. Consider this:

  • Passwords generally aren’t needed to plug a wired PC into a router and access a network, but they are required to connect to a wireless network. You can lay down a hub, use Wireshark or the like and see all of your data streams.
  • Not the case with wireless, even if you’ve only set up the most basic and common place security, which 95% of the population does.

Thus while saying wireless is more secure than wired networking may be hard to grasp, comparing the reality of the two options can be helpful.
I know. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “I still worry. I hear about so many attacks these days.”

Well, today I’d like to introduce you to the 7 key questions to ask yourself when planning your WLAN. Shared medium or not, wireless can be secure. So let’s combine these questions with the “Golden Rule of Industrial Wireless Security” and calm your fears a bit.

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The Fast Way to Commission Industrial Ethernet Switches

Editor’s Note: This article was created with expertise from Juergen Schmid, a senior product manager in our Hirschmann group.

The drive for productivity and high-availability manufacturing means you likely don’t have the time you would like to learn new things -even if doing so would ultimately save you time. In addition, you may be relatively new to industrial Ethernet networking and the equipment that comes with it.

If this is the case, you might be surprised to learn of the capabilities in managed switches, such as the Hirschmann RSP family, that make getting a switch up and running fast and easy.

Today, I am going to walk you through how to use features built into switches to speed up their commissioning and deployment. With only the time it takes to read this article, you will be able to make switches operational much faster next time.

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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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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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4 Big Trends that Impact Industrial Automation and What To Do About Them, Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of this series I described 4 big trends affecting manufacturing and pointed out the challenges and opportunities with each of them, at a high level. The 4 big trends are the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Cloud Computing and Industry 4.0.

The technologies related to these trends are available today. Like the Good Witch tells Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz , “You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas”…or, in our case, take full advantage of the opportunities these trends support. Instead of clicking your heels together though, there are a number of steps to take to realize business benefits.

In this article I am going to describe these steps and also present some ideas of how the 4 big trends might be used by forward thinking organizations.

Step 1 – Move from Ad Hoc to Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure

The first thing to do is make sure your network is well-designed and that it lets you scale-up dramatically, easily and reliably. If you’re like most, you’ve been moving to industrial Ethernet and away from fieldbuses. You’ve found Ethernet to be big, fast, and pretty forgiving.

Chances are, however, that your network has grown ad-hoc but just keeps working. As your network grows, you’ll need to evolve to a design that includes segmentation, security and redundancy in the right places, along with easy network management and expansion.

For more information on this, see my Automationworld article “Here’s Your Sign … That It May be Time to Turn Your Ad Hoc Network Into a Real Infrastructure”. Also, Belden resources for helping with this are listed at the bottom of this article.

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4 Big Trends that Impact Industrial Automation and What To Do About Them, Part 1 of 2

Every decade has its big manufacturing trends and hyped-up IT issue(s). Remember Y2K? Nowadays there are several topics that have been the subject of numerous articles in manufacturing trade publications. These include:

The Internet of Things (IoT)

  • Big Data
  • Cloud Computing
  • Industry 4.0.

All of these trends involve a lot of devices networked together and a lot of data available to do things. They also include deciding whether data is stored and applications accessed from the computer next to you or from a server located somewhere else.

The good news is: The supporting technologies behind all the buzzwords are already available. Are they empty hype, a valid threat, or an opportunity? (the answer is yes). In this article, I’ll tackle each of these topics one by one, focusing on what you need to know to sort out reality and react to each.

1. Connected Industrial Devices aka the Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT is about a lot of industrial devices networked together. For example, I’ve encountered automotive plants with 8,000 devices on a single network and consumer products plants with 12,000.

The benefits of networking these devices include:

  • Managing everything from anywhere.
  • Reducing complexity and hardware costs with one network technology.
  • Moving control and information at will.
  • Expanding it all easily.

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