Rockwell launches Stratix industrial Ethernet switches

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Rockwell launches Stratix industrial Ethernet switchesRockwell Automation is introducing a full portfolio of industrial Ethernet switches and media, featuring a line of managed switches integrated with Cisco technology. Four product groups are being launched, with different levels of functionality, known as Stratix 2000, Stratix 4000, Stratix 6000 and Stratix 8000.

The Rockwell Automation switch portfolio also includes Ethernet switch technology embedded in popular Rockwell Automation and third-party products, which allows for flexible topologies, as well as lines of unmanaged switches and physical media. The portfolio contains many popular features that are in use today by IT and controls organisations that deploy standard, unmodified Ethernet, with settings optimised for use in EtherNet/IP applications.

Brian Oulton, director of Networks Marketing at Rockwell Automation, comments: "The co-branded line of modular managed switches directly addresses the widespread network convergence activities we see in manufacturing and IT organisations today. By combining the best features of Cisco and Rockwell Automation, we enable IT and manufacturing to bring their best practices together to create business efficiencies, agility and competitive advantage for manufacturers."

Modular managed switches

This Rockwell Automation and Cisco integrated and co-branded industrial managed switch line is said to be the first of its kind. The line uses the current Cisco Catalyst switch architecture and feature set, along with powerful configuration tools, helping to provide secure integration with the enterprise network and making IT professionals feel at home.

At the same time, it allows for easy setup and comprehensive diagnostics from within the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture. The switch can be configured using Allen-Bradley RSLogix 5000 programming software. It also automatically generates Logix tags for integrated diagnostics and includes FactoryTalk View faceplates for status monitoring and alarming.

In addition, the modular managed switch includes a removable Compact Flash card for one-step device replacement and default configurations for the manufacturing environment. Modular and industrially rated, the product line scales from six to 26 ports with options for copper and fibre to meet a variety of applications. This switch line will be available for shipment in mid-2008.

Shripati Acharya, director of Product Management in Cisco's Desktop Switching Business Unit, states: "Cisco is pleased to extend its collaboration with Rockwell Automation in the joint integration and co-branding of a highly secure and easy-to-use switch that is ideal for manufacturing environments. Together with Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture and Cisco's market leadership in Ethernet switching, customers gain a cutting-edge switch that extends the benefits of industry-standard Ethernet from the back office to the factory floor for improved collaboration and information flow."

Embedded switch technology for linear and ring topologies

Rockwell Automation embeds Ethernet switch technology directly into popular automation equipment – such as programmable automation controllers, distributed I/O and drives – to allow for better configuration choices for EtherNet/IP applications, such as daisy-chain and ring topologies.

The technology allows for high-performance ring capability (make/break <1ms), complete with diagnostics. The hardware embeds popular switch features useful in high-performance applications without the need for configuration. These features include IEEE 1588 time synchronisation, QoS (prioritisation), SFTP for ring configurations (fault-tolerance), IGMP snooping and cut-through. These features are common to the new line of managed switches and help improve network performance and troubleshooting, and allow for more network availability. A standalone three-port module will be available with the initial release of products and will allow single port Ethernet devices to participate in the new topologies. This technology is openly available to third parties, beginning in mid-2008.

Fixed Managed Switches

Featuring simple setup and default configurations for EtherNet/IP, this line of fixed managed switches is designed to help ease deployment of Ethernet on the plant floor. It integrates setup and diagnostic information into Logix using the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP).

The small, fixed form-factor provides four or eight copper ports with an option for a fibre uplink to higher-level networks. It is suitable for OEM machinery, as well as for applications with small or highly distributed networked devices. The fixed managed switches will be available for shipment in early 2008.

Unmanaged switches and media

To complete the product portfolio, unmanaged switches and a line of industrial media also are available. These are industrial-grade products with four to eight ports that offer a variety of copper and fibre options. Products also are available for more demanding on-machine (IP67) applications. These products will be available for shipment in early 2008.

Harry Forbes, senior analyst at ARC Advisory Group, comments: "With this announcement, Rockwell Automation is showing its plan to simplify industrial Ethernet networks for its customers. Now virtually any type of Ethernet infrastructure can be sourced from Rockwell Automation: managed or unmanaged, modular or fixed, mesh or ring, and embedded or separate infrastructures. Rockwell Automation also has included one-step device replacement and integrated configuration of both the Ethernet network and the automation application. The Cisco Catalyst features will certainly appeal to manufacturers' IT organisations. These products will alter the whole industrial Ethernet landscape in 2008. I am impressed."

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