Industrial Ethernet systems require some degree of determinism and improved reliability. Such systems have been developed and deployed in factory automation applications over the past several years. In this application, Ethernet has been used to replace legacy serial "field bus" connections. Ethernet was chosen because it has higher bandwidth and the ability to link with enterprise networks, however it did not inherently have the deterministic response that prior field bus systems enjoyed.
To overcome this limitation, the major Industrial OEMs each defined their own protocols which would run over the Ethernet network. These have since become "open standards" and are widely deployed within the industry. These Industrial protocols include PROFINET, EtherNet/IP, EtherCAT, ModbusTCP and several others. Some of these protocols are fully compatible with standard TCP/IP Ethernet networks. Others have modified the Data Link, Network and/or Transport Layers (layers 2-4 in the OSI model) to achieve deterministic performance. Although these protocols can coexist with standard Ethernet, they are not interoperable with each other in a deterministic way.
The challenge when designing products that need to support industrial Ethernet is to select an appropriate reference design that is compatible with the various standards. There are a variety of semiconductor and software solutions available on the market today, but not all of them provide true multi-protocol support. Multiprotocol support is needed so that a single hardware design can be made compatible with the key industrial protocols in use today. Another important factor to consider, is whether the solution can be updated to provide support for future enhancements such as TSN. See the "Getting Started" page for more information.