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Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 98 / 3
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The changing face of future automation networks

"The Journey to the IIoT" reflects ongoing investments in products and technologies for the development of tomorrow′s automation networks, and the evolution of the classic automation pyramid.

A COMMON THEME AT THE SPS SHOW was the emergence of automation and control networking standards, with a focus on the needs of the Industrial Internet (IIoT).

"Automation networks usually have a very long lifecycle and experience only very little change throughout their operational time of life," said Dr. Oliver Kleineberg, advance development manager for Belden′s Hirschmann brand. "With this in mind, it is no surprise that the models, which are used as a basis to build automation networks, have been refined over decades and as such they have also experienced little fundamental change. However, due to the new requirements, change is becoming more profound and this will significantly change the face of the automation networks of the future."

Dr. Kleineberg outlined how automation solutions are evolving from the classic Automation Pyramid to a new model that is designed around new requirements: "The Automation Pyramid model has been at the very core of industrial automation systems for over a decade. It is a proven model that is able to separate complex industrial networks and applications into functional levels with high horizontal interaction."

Within each layer of the pyramid, the networked devices exhibit strong interaction with each other. In addition, a significant amount of interaction happens with devices on the directly adjacent layers, but pervasive communication through the entire automation system is rare. Through localizing and limiting functionality to separate layers and locations in the pyramid model, automation systems as well as the supporting networks are very resilient against large scale outages and faults. But systems built according to the automation pyramid tend to be strictly hierarchical and not very flexible.

Solutions are evolving from the classic Automation Pyramid to a model designed around the IIoT and Industrie 4.0.

TSN Real-time Ethernet

With the addition to new technologies such as TSN Real-Time Ethernet, wireless communication, miniaturization and field level control, as well as remote access solutions to automation networks, many vendors are already on a transitional journey, away from the strict pyramid model to a more open and flexible network model that can support their customers′ requirements. At the end of this long-term transformational process is a network structure that no longer resembles a pyramid: the Automation Pillar.

Key elements are a more diversified and larger field level, and a much more important and functionally stronger backbone layer.

In the transition, most functions from the control layer will transform into the factory backbone layer and will be provided by virtual PLCs, or it will transition into the field layer into dedicated or distributed control units.

The control layer itself will transition into a connectivity layer that utilizes high bandwidth real-time technologies such as TSN to provide the necessary high bandwidth - low latency connectivity between the backbone and the field layer. Since communication will be ubiquitous between most devices on the whole network, the stability of the automation pyramid will be replaced in the Automation Pillar by providing robust network planning, configuration and monitoring, seamless fault- tolerant communication and cyber security.

Industry news by Belden.

Source: Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 98 / 3
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