Earlier this month I heard from a company that doesn\u2019t usually make much noise: N-Tron introduced a series of Fast Ethernet switches intended for industrial environments.The switches in the 500 Series have from eight to 16 ports of 10\/100M bit\/sec Ethernet, and a couple models have an additional 100M bit\/sec uplink port.N-Tron says the switches are designed for \u201cthe most demanding industrial communications requirements while providing high throughput, minimum downtime and high EMI noise immunity.\u201dThese are switches that are fine in places as hot as 185 degrees Fahrenheit or as cold as 40 degrees below zero. They have redundant power inputs and are enclosed in rugged steel.The switch ports can use Category-5 wiring, and the uplinks are fiber-optic, using multimode fiber up to 2 kilometers.N-Tron has software to collect 45 different traffic metrics per port and five system-level metrics for the switch. The information covers network load, service quality and packet traffic, the company says.The switches have some advanced features, such as virtual LAN capabilities and quality-of-service controls. Ports can even be aggregated to act as an uplink to another N-Tron switch.The 500 Series is available now. Prices range from $725 for the basic eight-port version to about $4,000 for a 16-port version with all the bells and whistles.