Is Your Network Infrastructure Meeting Your Performance Needs?

Is Your Network Meeting Your Performance Needs?

When designing your industrial network infrastructure, careful planning is required to help ensure you get the performance needed for today, and in the future, as more devices are integrated into your control system architecture.

There is a lot to consider when choosing the appropriate industrial switch for your network, and it can be overwhelming with all the options now available.

We offer many options from unmanaged, to lightly managed, and even fully managed switching solutions. So how do you know which is best choice for your industrial application? Let us help you decide.

First, you will have to examine your network closely to determine your performance needs. You want to make sure you get the right balance of functionality and ease-of-use at the right price-point for your application.

On-demand webinar: How to Select the Right Switch for Your Application.

Unmanaged and managed network switches appear to have common performance characteristics at a port level, but our experience shows this is not the whole story. You’ll validate this the first time you are challenged with adding capacity or migrating legacy equipment to a common network protocol.

Managed switches offer key functionality that is critical for performance optimization of your network. Port speeds on individual switches are only part of this story as more devices and ports get added over time to connect the unconnected.

This is where scenarios resulting in network bottlenecks can be created. Connectivity provides the data needed to optimize processes and increase production. As these applications are brought together, the distinctions between performance optimization features emerge.

Now, it’s time to ask yourself whether you are considering the network performance you need to deal with the unexpected?

Scenario One

Imagine that you are a production manager, and you receive a call that two production lines are down because of communications errors.

Your maintenance staff clears the faults and restarts the equipment.  Ten minutes later, one of the lines shuts down again. Now you call in the experts to look at drawings of your network infrastructure.

You determined that a production line that is currently shut down for maintenance is connected through the same control cabinet, and the team working on that shut down line has plugged in an Ethernet camera locally to provide a remote expert with a view of a machine fault on the line that is shut down.

Could this be the source of the communication errors?

Unmanaged switches do not have any segmentation features and provide no ability to segment devices into their own domain to reduce performance impact risk associated with the unknown. 

Because of this, existing network loading was affected by the camera — resulting in deployment risk and potential unplanned downtime.

Using VLAN features available in lightly and fully managed switches help provide this segmentation. Additionally, quality of service (QoS) features will prioritize traffic within a lightly managed or managed switch, enabling prioritization of critical traffic on that switch that was being shared by those two systems.

Scenario Two

Imagine that someone plugged an Ethernet camera into your network on the other side of your plant to help troubleshoot with a remote expert.

You’re supporting motion, safety and standard control across a common network infrastructure as part of your operations to optimize costs and resources. You find that other equipment in the facility begins to shut down due to communications faults.

Blog: Is Your Plant Network Helping You Avoid Downtime?

Unmanaged switches and lightly managed switches do not have QoS policy granularity to support multiple disciplines as described in this scenario. Because the camera is repeatedly sending large image files across the network, the bandwidth of shared communication paths is being completely consumed, and other devices do not get expected packets and start to experience faults. This can all result in costly downtime.

Using QoS functionality can help. QoS with expanded queue support is available in fully and high-performance managed switches, enabling prioritization of critical traffic. Quality of service features in our fully managed line are also optimized to scale across a larger network as described in the scenario. 

To further maximize performance, PTP features available on these same families will help ensure time synchronization service integrity.

These common scenarios can happen to you.

By leveraging the proper industrial switches, along with our validated Converged Plant-wide Ethernet reference architectures, you can build a more robust, secure network infrastructure to optimize performance and improve operations.

You can hear more scenarios that could help you select the appropriate switch in this on-demand webinar about how to select the right switch for your application.

Jessica Forguites
Posted August 11, 2017 By Jessica Forguites, Technical Platform Lead, Rockwell Automation
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