The coming changes to standard Ethernet: Extra answers from the webcast
Todd Walter, National Instruments, AVnu Alliance Industrial segment chair and board of directors, answered additional questions after the Sept. 30 webcast, "The Coming Changes to Standard Ethernet: Industrial IoT Convergence with the Control System."
Question: What has changed between AVB and TSN?
Walter: Standard Ethernet continues to expand its range, functionality and applications with the Audio Video Bridging (AVB) standard evolving into Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) to enable next generation control systems. TSN builds upon the AVB specifications to expand the range, functionality, and applications of the standard. TSN is the new name for the same IEEE 802.1 task group that developed AVB. The new capabilities of TSN provide the industrial community with the ability to use standard Ethernet to support highly reliable and precise synchronized networking appropriate for industrial control.
TSN promises through standard silicon to converge the previously disparate technologies needed for standard Ethernet communication, for deterministic high speed data transfer, and for high accuracy time synchronization. These developments will allow convergence of low latency control traffic and standard Ethernet traffic on the same network for demanding applications like multi-axis motion control. They will provide a foundation for more advanced manufacturing and production models where data can be shared more flexibly between layers of the control system, and where technology for the Internet of Things (IoT) can be applied into production environments.
The new capabilities of these open standards enable high-speed closed-loop control networks to support any Ethernet device using standard IT components and creates the needed foundation for IoT integration with industrial production.
Question: Why so much buzz about industry 4.0 and industrial IoT, isn’t this stuff us automation people have been doing for a long time? a) Is this truly something new? b) What will make industrial IoT really viable from a customer benefit perspective?
Walter: The IoT covers a very large set of applications and markets. To help clarify, I find it useful to sub-divide the discussion into consumer IoT and Industrial IoT (IIoT). For the IIoT or Industry 4.0, there is currently a lot of development and a lot of deployment. Industrial processes have been interconnected with embedded decision making for decades.
The IIoT is giving engineers who are building and maintaining these systems a greater variety of options and better data visibility when they are maintaining the processes. We are seeing the fastest adoption in areas of industrial monitoring where new options for sensing and data analytics can help with predictive maintenance. We are also seeing investment in new control applications for power grid, micro-grid, and smart city infrastructure.
With pending new capabilities for standard Ethernet, we are expecting IIoT adoption for control applications to ramp up quickly. Developments to standard Ethernet will create a common foundation that will impact numerous applications and markets ranging from machine control and asset monitoring to outfitting test cells and vehicle control.
Question: Is there a trend to standardization of industrial Ethernet? a) How to simplify IoT connectivity b) How to achieve full standardization for interconnectivity of parts? c) Ecosystem: There will be a need for application software to handle schedule distribution, establishing redundant paths, etc., and where will this ecosystem come from?
Walter: Many industries have invested heavily in the creation of protocols and standards for their applications. Many of these focus on vertically specific features such as data encapsulation and device profiles which may be difficult to merge into one universal standard. For instance, it would be technically challenging to fully merge the capabilities of a power grid protocol such as IEC 61850 with the streaming and performance of the GigE Vision standard.
AVnu Alliance’s expectation and hope for IIoT is that we will create a common foundation for data transport and secure connection between devices that thin application protocols can run on top. This type of layered approach, with common infrastructure and shared services, is how the IT industry is built today, and it provides both high coexistence/interoperability and mechanisms for optimization and innovation.
The AVnu Alliance is a community working hand-in-hand with standards organizations like IEEE 802 to create an interoperable ecosystem for low-latency, time-synchronized applications, and it is the only community consortium driving the expansion of AVB and TSN standards. This community includes traditional IT vendors, automation suppliers, silicon suppliers, and software tool vendors. As new capabilities are built into standard Ethernet we are focused on providing standard mechanisms for configuration, data transport, and time synchronization. The member companies are participating in AVnu so they can assure an interoperable ecosystem.
AVnu standardization allows the companies to divide the complexity of the system design into smaller pieces that can be assembled to build coordinated control systems. One of the pieces that member companies will provide is the application software for system scheduling and configuration. Additionally portions of this software could be provided through the open source OpenAVB project that AVnu manages.
AVnu Alliance has created an Industrial Advisory Council for manufacturers and end users to learn more about the Alliance and the standards and to get involved with shaping the future of industrial networking. If you or someone you know is interested in joining or finding out more, please contact administration@AVnu.org.
– Edited by Peter Welander, content specialist, CFE Media, Control Engineering, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on this topic, see the archived webcast, "The Coming Changes to Standard Ethernet: Industrial IoT Convergence with the Control System."