Ethernet continues to gain traction in industrial distributed/remote I/O market


Vendors of distributed/remote I/O and fieldbus organizations will step up the development of application protocols based on core layers of Ethernet now that the worldwide market for Ethernet-based buses and networks is forecast to grow at an annual rate of 13.3% through 2010. That rate compares to the overall industrial distributed/remote I/O market growth rate of 5.9% for the same period. The new study from Venture Development Corp. ( VDC) also reported that Ethernet-based buses/networks comprised 15% of worldwide distributed/remote I/O shipments in 2005 and forecast it to be over 20% by 2010.

Current & forecast worldwide shipment shares of distributed/remote I/O with Ethernet connectivity (percent of dollar volumes):

2005 Total: $3,188.8 million

  • Non-Ethernet-based buses/ networks: 85.3%

  • Ethernet-based buses/ networks: 14.7%

2010 Total: $4,256.5 million

  • Non-Ethernet-based buses/ networks: 79.4%

  • Ethernet-based buses/ networks: 20.6%

Ethernet offers many advantages over industrial fieldbuses, including easy integration with office IT, high bandwidth and large data packets, low cost, and remote configuration. Vendors of distributed/remote I/O systems and fieldbus organizations have taken steps to develop application layer protocols that operate on the core layers of Ethernet.

The largest 2005 worldwide distributed/remote I/O market shares with dedicated Ethernet-based bus/network application layer protocols were Modbus TCP, Ethernet/IP and Profinet. These rankings are not expected to change through 2010, although significant shipment growth is expected for products with these protocols.

'In addition to these, a number of other Ethernet application layer protocols have been introduced for industrial use and are gaining traction,' says VDC analyst Jake Millette. 'Lesser-used networks, such as EtherCat and Ethernet Powerlink, are starting to be implemented, particularly in applications requiring high speed communication.'

Millette notes that the decision by a distributed/remote I/O vendor or user of what Ethernet protocol to use can depend on the geographic region where used, the existing bus/network in place, and the application requirements. 'Choice of protocol often comes down to familiarity with the bus or system associated with it,' says Millette, 'and there are many viable options in the market. Ultimately, the choice to migrate to Ethernet from traditional fieldbuses will allow for greater intelligence in distributed/remote I/O regardless of the brand.'

For more information from VDC, visit:

—Edited by Lisa Sutor , Control Engineering contributing editor

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