The Push Toward Ethernet Networking in Industrial Operations

Oct. 1, 2003
Natick, Massachusetts -- Users in the automation and manufacturing process industries have taken careful notice of the power of Ethernet in the office.

Natick, Massachusetts -- Users in the automation and manufacturing process industries have taken careful notice of the power of Ethernet in the office. As an office-based network, Ethernet boasts a number of benefits, including ease of use, low-cost network implementations, high bandwidth, and integration with Internet/Intranet. Manufacturers in industrial automation environments believe that the benefits traditional Ethernet offers will transfer well to the factory floor.

Improved bandwidth

Recent trends in Ethernet technology have shown a steady migration toward Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) and Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps). These speeds, which respectively are 10 and 100 times as fast as traditional Ethernet, are attractive to users who transmit large data files over their networks.

Integration with Internet/Intranet

Ethernet TCP/IP protocols extend control and monitoring capabilities to remote or satellite operations without the use of gateways.

Open connectivity

Ethernet technology is based on an open standard. With Ethernet-based systems, consumers of industrial devices (such as PLCs, DCSs, etc.) are not limited to the device manufacturer’s own proprietary protocol or network structure. Users are free to mix and match devices from multiple vendors in the same network.

Standardization in infrastructure

One of the most significant advantages of industrial Ethernet is that this network can be implemented corporate-wide: from the device-level to the control-level, back to the enterprise. Such standardization in the network infrastructure will limit the cost of support programs and maintenance expenditures.

Reduced learning curve and training costs

Ethernet has long thrived as the major enterprise LAN technology. This long-term success has produced a deep understanding of the system’s protocols and components. As a result, many developers and users will not require much time in learning new application programs, thus reducing training costs associated with implementing industrial Ethernet systems.

Ethernet is a mature communication technology that has been the de facto standard of corporate enterprise systems around the world. Due to its cost-cutting benefits, this technology is now migrating toward the factory floor. Manufacturers of industrial control products, such as distributed/remote I/O, PLC, and DCS vendors, have realized the new opportunities that industrial Ethernet presents. As a result, those manufacturers have begun developing and distributing products designed for Ethernet connectivity. Yet, what is the development status of network infrastructure components and sub-systems for enabling industrial Ethernet? Who are the leading vendors and what are their product and service offerings?

Venture Development Corporation (VDC) will analyze the state of industrial Ethernet infrastructure components and sub-systems in its upcoming multi-client market research study titled “Industrial Ethernet: Wireline and Wireless Infrastructure Components and Network Software.”

The research program will be packaged in two parts: Wireline Industrial Ethernet: Infrastructure Components and Network Software

Wireless Industrial Ethernet: Infrastructure Components and Network Software

Highlights of the program include:

An evaluation of the opportunities for wireline and wireless industrial Ethernet Market segmentations, estimates, forecasts and trend analysis for the following product categories Wireline Ethernet:

- Networking components (examples include bridges, controllers, I/O devices, gateways, hubs, routers, switches, etc.)

- Interconnect products (examples include connectors, cables, cordsets, distribution boxes, terminal blocks, etc.)

- Network management and analysis software

Wireless Ethernet:

- Networking components (examples include access points {gateways, hubs, routers, switches, etc.} antennas, I/O devices, modems, repeaters, etc.)

- Network management and analysis software

Market estimate and forecast period

Estimates and forecasts will be provided in unit and revenue terms for the following periods:

- 2003 actuals

- 2004-2006 forecasts

End-user analyses

VDC’s report will provide analyses of end-user requirements, including product selection criteria and service and support requirements, for wireline and wireless industrial Ethernet and related infrastructure components.

Venture Development Corporation, a technology market research and strategy firm, was founded in 1971 by graduates of Harvard Business School and MIT. Over the years, VDC has developed and fine-tuned a unique and highly successful methodology for forecasting and analyzing dynamic technology markets.