Industrial Ethernet migrating to devices

A new report finds that the migration of Industrial Ethernet into the device or I/O level of the automation network hierarchy signals its continued march downward in the enterprise architecture.

The ARC Advisory Group says that the worldwide market for Ethernet-based devices and I/O is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.5% over the next five years. The market size totaled over 1 million nodes in 2007 and is forecast to increase to over 3 million nodes by 2012.

Their report, Ethernet-based Device Networks Worldwide Outlook , claims that the advent of automation-applicable standards, intelligent implementation strategies, and overall improvements in product reliability have made Ethernet a lead option in even the most demanding motion control applications. Of even greater import as far as growth potential is the market emphasis on Ethernet’s commonality rather than its openness.

“Standardisation of layers 1 and 2 of the Ethernet stack in IEEE 802.3 makes Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) physical layer products widely available and familiar to potential OEMs and end users, but, as always seems to be the case in the industrial automation segment, each major supplier wants to support their own higher-level protocols. For the customer, this translates to common physical layer components throughout the enterprise but multiple competing protocols at the automation layer,” says ARC Vice President Chantal Polsonetti, the principal author of ARC’s “Ethernet-based Device Networks Worldwide Outlook”.

Availability of a single network technology that enables vertical integration throughout the enterprise over the same network, at least at the lower tiers of the network stack, is an increasingly compelling value proposition for manufacturers, ARC says.

Ease of network integration and configuration/reconfiguration, as well as the potential for less expensive, flatter architectures and enterprise-wide data exchange that can be used for multiple purposes ranging from process optimisation to asset management are all possible. A common skill base for configuration, installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting reduces the need for specialised personnel and allows customers to take advantage of a broader skill base and more readily accessible training and support. Ethernet’s worldwide availability and support by both major IT and automation vendors also makes it attractive relative to dedicated industrial networks.