Industrial Automation

Future-Proof Now: How the Next Generation of Switches are Meeting TSN Network Demands

Juergen Schmid

As many readers know, Belden is no stranger to the world of compact managed switches, and we’re proud of the fact that network operators have made the company the market leader with more than 700,000 units in active operation worldwide.

While operators have been using these switches with great success for more than a decade and continue to do so, Belden has been hearing from customers that the accelerating demand for more and more data in their industrial operations was leading to a need for switches with advanced capabilities.


This industrial internet of things (IIoT) driven trend for ever increasing volumes of production data zipping around the plant floor, helping manufacturers to increase yields, reduce downtime and minimize waste, led Belden to embark upon one of the most intensive R&D projects in its 118 year history. The result of that effort is the new Hirschmann BOBCAT family of switches, with the first units released to the market in late 2018. And, no matter what the state of your network or what industry you are in, BOBCAT switches likely have some capabilities that you could benefit from.


Time-Sensitive Networking

One can’t pick up a networking trade magazine or attend a conference these days without hearing about Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), the emerging IEEE Ethernet standard that allows near real-time data connectivity on the plant floor, helping sync processes in ways never before possible for huge potential productivity benefits. TSN, of course, was a key driver for Belden in the development of the next generation switch, and, BOBCAT is indeed TSN-ready and will be fully TSN-enabled by a firmware upgrade by the end of the third quarter. In fact, BOBCAT is one of the only switches that offers the capability to enable TSN at every port; that means 12, 24 or 26 ports as the product line continues to grow into early next year.


Interestingly, we are finding that many customers are eagerly installing BOBCAT switches in their operations even if they are not immediately interested in the real-time benefits of TSN. Even if they are going to put off upgrading to TSN for a couple of years, they know that in order to remain competitive in most heavy industrial and production-based industries, they will ultimately need to migrate to the new protocol, and getting “future-proofed” today is a great strategy. Of course, they tell us that seeing some of the other powerful new features in the switch didn’t hurt their decision either.


For one thing, Belden had also been hearing from operators about an increasing need for speed that was not properly satisfied by existing products. While they were eagerly installing greater bandwidth devices, they were finding that 1 GB/s at the switch port was becoming inadequate for their needs. Yet the jump to 10 GB was much more than needed—and way too costly for their budgets. BOBCAT solves this problem by providing up to 2.5 GB connectivity at every port—enough speed for all but the most demanding applications. And, you can even combine two ports to generate 5G/s if you needed to for a specific application! Further, all ports provide the flexibility of a tri-speed solution—configure each port to 100 Mb, 1 GB or 2.5 GB as you desire, and change them as your needs change. These switches also enable a huge jump in cyber security performance. They have advanced security features embedded right in the switch to complement the firewall and provide true “defense in-depth” against malware and intrusions.


In addition, due to Belden’s long years of experience on the plant floor, the company ensured that the BOBCAT switches are all “industrial grade”—with rugged metal housings and built-in resistance to extreme temperatures, vibration, shock, dirt, dust and more. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know that, since Belden has so many existing RS switches in the field, we decided to offer a limited time “trade in” discount for existing customers who are considering upgrading now and proactively future-proofing their network. We’re finding that if anyone is still on the fence, this helps gets them off of it! So if that’s you, feel free to reach out to your distributor or sales rep to find out more.



New Capabilities Being Added Over Time

The BOBCAT product line is a growing family of products with growing capabilities. Not only will TSN be available soon and higher port counts added over time, Belden plans on releasing Power over Ethernet (PoE) versions of BOBCAT late in the year. Stay tuned. And, if you have any questions or want to discuss how the next generation of compact managed switches can help you gain benefits today, as well as quickly and effectively future-proof your network, contact us any time.