If you’re like me, you don’t have time to read anything, let alone a blog. My colleagues at Corporate thought it would “be good” if I started blogging. Well, here I am. I’ve joined the dark side (no offense to the other bloggers).
But I only agreed to blog under one condition: to write about things that can actually help you do your job – and making sure to keep it simple and useful.
Just so you know a little about where I’m coming from … I’m an electrical engineer by trade and have worked in automation for over 23 years. Before joining Belden in 2009, I served as an application engineer and led the Systems Integrator Program at Rockwell Automation. I also played a role in inventing and launching automation networks such as DeviceNet, ControlNet and EtherNet/IP and helped to form the non-profit Open DeviceNet Vendor Association (ODVA).
Infrastructure is a big word that is often overused today. To make it easy to comprehend, I like to think of a city. I’ll use Indianapolis as an example. When you visit Indianapolis, it is easy to get around the city, including downtown. The sports venues are located in one easily accessible area. Things just seem to work. Traffic flows and visitors and workers and tourists benefit from good city planning and execution.
In contrast, think of a city where the infrastructure has not kept up with the load. I’m sure one city pops into your mind as a place where it’s not fun to get around, where productivity goes down and stress levels go up. Not your favorite place to visit, right?
In a down economy, it can be tempting for manufacturers to opt for cheaper networking components. However, before you pull the trigger on the cheapest price you can find, be sure to calculate what a network outage would cost you first. Here’s why.
In a previous life, I was responsible for a System Integrator (SI) Program for my employer. During that time, I had numerous conversations with SIs, and one shared a story that still sticks with me today. He did a job for a Fortune 500 food and beverage company. The installation and start-up went fine, but a few months later he got a call from the customer complaining that the system had been experiencing several annoying shut downs.
I visited a manufacturer customer recently (I’ll refrain from mentioning their name to protect the guilty – you’ll see in a moment) and received a tour from their IT lead for the manufacturing plant. He was gracious enough to let me take these photos:
He explained to me that he was asked to implement a network infrastructure to gather plant data and deliver them to various internal customers (finance, logistics, supply chain, engineering). He worked with his Operations and Manufacturing Engineering peers to determine where the “nodes” of data concentrators were, then he plumbed Ethernet to each of them. With some of the limitations of Ethernet (e.g., 100 meter drop lengths) and limitations of the physical plant itself (e.g., conduit & cable tray capacity), he implemented four Ethernet switch cabinets (two of which are in the photos) to collect the data from about 50 nodes each and home run fiber links to his on-site control room.
Adoption of Industrial Ethernet has delivered many benefits to you, from enhanced visibility into your manufacturing operations to simplified network infrastructures and many things in between. Unfortunately, there is a downside to all this “connectedness” – a risk of malware or in extreme cases cyber attacks. Therefore, it is imperative you invest in protection mechanisms to reduce this risk. I recommend a philosophy called “Defense in Depth”, which utilizes a layered security model that may include Policies & Procedures, physical security, network security, PC security, and device security. By implementing multiple layers – types – of security simultaneously, you present a difficult defense for a hacker or piece of malware to penetrate.
After talking to hundreds of customers for way too many years, it’s become quite apparent that the vast majority simply want control and information to go where they want, when they want, reliably and securely...
The fact that there's a network doing the "gets" and "puts" is just a detail. Further, they tell me that industrial Ethernet is the way to go, especially since it is so flexible & forgiving... in the real world the network is constantly changing and that flexibility makes all the difference.