Networks: two worlds cooperate
Enterprise IT and industrial communication networks are considerably different, and yet have one thing in common: their secure connection is decisive for creating added value in a company – especially in the age of big data and increasing data volumes. Only those that understand the requirements of the enterprise IT and industrial networks can establish a reliable connection – and keep communications running.
By 2020, up to 15 billion smart machines will be connected in the industrial IoT and exchange information, which offers huge potential. With the help of intelligent data analysis, processes can be planned in advance and implemented in a way that saves resources. However, this is only possible if the enormous volume of data can also be stored, processed, and transmitted – in real time. High-performance industrial communication networks lay the foundations for this. They ensure data security, stability, and high plant availability. The prerequisites are the reliable connection of industrial networks to the enterprise IT network and the knowledge of how to meet their varying requirements. But what are they exactly?
A lossless exchange of data
The communication is set up differently for each of the two networks: while traditional IT transmits telegrams, industrial communication focuses on applications. Network components and topologies must therefore be tailored to suit the respective requirements.
Terminal equipment in the office, for example, generally communicates with one or more servers, and the network topology is vertical and designed for a wider bandwidth. If individual clients fail, it does not usually have a critical impact on the business. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is different: integrated data exchange – without delay or loss – is a vital prerequisite for avoiding plant downtime and the resulting high financial losses. For this reason, data transmission in industrial communications must be conducted and completed within a defined response time (deterministic).
This major difference is also reflected in the infrastructure. A network designed purely for vertical communication, as in traditional IT, cannot ensure a continuous flow of data. This is why certain network designs have been established with appropriate redundancy mechanisms, among other things, to facilitate an Ethernet-based information exchange in industrial networks. They are developed specifically for applications in various industries and enable a connection to the enterprise IT.
Service and security make all the difference
An additional factor is quick and easy troubleshooting. If a malfunction occurs in an industrial network, a rapid recommissioning of the components is the top priority. Employees must be able to identify faults and access the location of the faults for maintenance purposes. Because unlike standard IT, where outsourcing is widespread, the responsibility in industry is lies with the company’s own IT experts or trained automation engineers.
Safety and security leave no room for compromise in data transmission. In an emergency, for example, safety-related communication must switch entire plants to a safe state via the industrial network to prevent harm to people and machines. In order to fully protect plants against cyber attacks, industrial networks require holistic, scaled security concepts that provide reliable protection against unauthorized access.
The differences between industrial networks and enterprise IT are considerable, but are they irreconcilable? What’s the secret to ensuring both networks work together?
Curious? Then read the whitepaper “Connecting two worlds”.