Hand plugging in different network cables

Myth: You can intermix different types of traffic on the same industrial network.

TRUE.                                  

One of the key elements of IT/OT convergence is using a single network infrastructure for I/O, real-time motion control, safety, HMI communications, and non-industrial traffic.

Standard, unmodified Ethernet supports all IP-based applications and devices, regardless of whether they were designed for the industrial environment. Video cameras, bar-code scanners, RFID systems and printers – all these devices can be leveraged on the industrial floor using standard Ethernet as the network backbone.

Still, some skeptics continue to question: Can a single, converged network infrastructure meet the demands of so many different types of traffic – while effectively managing real-time control and information flow throughout the plant?

The answer is a resounding yes – if the infrastructure is designed, engineered and configured based on industry standards and best practices.

Design and implementation guidance from Rockwell Automation and Cisco includes tested and validated industrial automation and control system (IACS) network architectures for manufacturing.

The manufacturing framework establishes a foundation for traffic management and policy enforcement, such as security and remote access. It includes recommendations for network segmentation to reduce the impact of broadcast and multicast traffic.

Most importantly, the guidance addresses prioritization of network traffic within the Cell/Area zone.

That’s because in industrial settings, not all network traffic is created equal, nor should users treat it equally. Control data is more sensitive to latency and jitter than information data, and requires more priority on the network.

Quality of Service (QoS) accomplishes this critical task, minimizing risk and maximizing production and safety. QoS mechanisms are engineered to handle what sheer bandwidth or data-compression techniques cannot – guarantee timely delivery of specific application data or resources to a particular destination.

So when you apply best practices effectively, you can intermix different types of traffic on the same industrial network and achieve the benefits of a converged network infrastructure – reduced risk, simplified design, and faster deployment.