Getting the best out of Ethernet/IP standard networking

06 June 2007

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Rockwell Automation and Cisco have announced that they are working together to help manufacturers achieve the visibility, flexibility and collaboration necessary in today's global manufacturing environment. This will come about through optimised network integration across the factory floor and throughout the enterprise, using standard Ethernet technology.

Based on feedback from customers, Rockwell Automation and Cisco are collaborating on their common technology view, building reference architectures using standard networking technologies such as EtherNet/IP, and providing market education to enable people and process optimization.

The two companies are working together on reference architectures and detailed design guidelines for the use of common networking technologies across the production and enterprise network. This addresses two long-standing industry challenges – getting greater efficiency and improved visibility. Validated, lab-tested architectures which are part of Cisco's "Ethernet to the Factory" solution will enable the successful deployment of Ethernet-based production networks and secure integration with the rest of the enterprise.

"Manufacturers operate in an environment that requires a pervasive exchange of information across all domains of the manufacturing enterprise," said Craig Resnick, research director, ARC Advisory Group. "As manufacturers move into a global business climate that demands the integration of manufacturing operations and business systems, collaboration must move beyond hype to become a commonplace reality. Rockwell Automation and Cisco will provide manufacturers with the guidance needed to facilitate plant floor and IT network integration in a manner that achieves secure connectivity through the use of EtherNet/IP technology."

The collaboration between Rockwell Automation and Cisco was formed to help leverage common open technology to address current and future challenges being faced by customers in several different manufacturing industries.

"Use of standard, unmodified Ethernet is a key differentiator within the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture. Rockwell Automation and Cisco, through combined industry knowledge and expertise, have come together to determine how enterprise-wide Ethernet network topologies can help manufacturers meet current market challenges, as well as anticipate and be ready for demands of the future," said Steve Eisenbrown, senior vice president of Architecture and Software, Rockwell Automation.

Integration of network standards requires both contemporary technology and a mutual understanding of the issues and challenges facing IT and manufacturing environments. According to customer feedback, establishing dialogue between these two departments is key to understanding potential risks achieving successful network integration.

Rockwell Automation and Cisco are leading members of ODVA – an international association comprising members from the world's leading automation companies who support network technologies using the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP), including EtherNet/IP. Through their collaboration and membership in ODVA, the companies will drive continued innovation into validated open network standards.

EtherNet/IP uses standard, unmodified Ethernet and CIP. By bringing together CIP capabilities, EtherNet/IP enables companies to integrate automation equipment, simplifying the overall system architecture and enabling direct communication between enterprise and factory floor devices.

This convergence of network technology and cultures allows data to be used in real time, thereby increasing data availability for use by other applications. Participants share control and information on a single network and an open network architecture leads to reduced costs, improved productivity and savings in time.

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