Why industrial Ethernet is gaining momentum

I recently looked at one company's industrial Ethernet evolution, and this week analyst firm Frost & Sullivan explained the reasons behind the growth of the technology in this new sphere.

The firm says that process industries are trying to reduce plant downtime by deploying whole bunches of intelligent devices across their plants. These devices are expected to give the plant’s operators better remote control over other automation components. They will deliver information about what’s going on in the plant to business-level decision-making systems. They allow a larger plant to be managed by a smaller team.

All of those devices have to communicate their data to the central management system using something, and the openness of Ethernet is compelling. Plus, it’s compelling if enterprise applications and the production process equipment both use the same network medium. Reduced cabling becomes possible.

The flexibility is interesting, too, because if the production system is connected to the plant’s intranet, information from various plants could be accessed from different places in the company, quickly and across vast distances, Frost & Sullivan says.

Despite the advantages, industrial Ethernet so far is mainly going into new projects, and many companies aren’t yet ready to retrofit their current systems with industrial Ethernet. Frost & Sullivan says the slow economy is to blame for that. Plus, oil and gas companies and chemical companies have often been slow to adopt new technologies.

Still, the firm believes that education will help with users’ awareness of industrial Ethernet and that economies of scale are bound to bring down the prices of the systems.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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