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Engineered Synergistic Interoperability

Reliable Network = Hardware + Software


The challenge in today's manufacturing and process environment is creating a reliable and robust network because more and more the data available at the device level is extremly important and therefore valuable to the entire enterprise. From the factory floor or process facility all the way up the corporate ladder to the executive branch, this information can enable a corporation to make decisions that ultimately mean profit or loss. The well being of any corporation is dependant upon how it manages its resouces (employees, manufacturing process, inventory, etc...). Information that starts at the device is where this all begins.

The equation above has been inverted in order to express the importance of a reliable network and how it can be attained. We don't just create a network with hardware and software and obtain reliability. It is the type of hardware and software chosen that will ultimately make an industrial network both reliable and robust. Regardless of industry,

Building Automation Manufacturing Oil & Gas / Mining Power Distribution / Utilities Transportation Water and Wastewater

reliability and robustness of your network should be a primary concern. Your network is the connection that brings your operation together. Through it, the very heart beat of your operation is transmitted. The requirements of an industrial network are more demanding than that of your typical IT network.

  • The environment can be harsh.

  • The devices are different

What does it take to make an industrial network reliable and robust?

Network Hardware

The first part of this inverse equation is hardware. A manufacturing floor or process facility will likely contain many devices where a wealth of raw data is being generated. The challenge is getting that raw data from point A to point B. The larger the facility the more complex the challenge. In larger facilities you may run into machines with devices from different manufacturers, running different communications protocols. The days of the simple point to point connections or somewhat simple daisy chain networks to a single client still exist but are more the exception than the rule. With the advent of Ethernet as the primary means of connection in industry today, more data can be moved at faster rates. The majority of devices are now Ethernet enabled. If they aren't, there are serial to Ethernet converts available to bring a legacy product upto Ethernet capabilities and therefore able to be part of a network of devices.

Connection of those devices via a physical connection is required. In order to bring multiple devices together, they would need to be connected to an Ethernet switch or router, depending on the functionality required. The switch / router is the pulse of the network. It is where the information of the device gets transmitted to its next destination, whether it is another switch / router or its final destination from the factory floor / process facility, being the client application. Having a reliable and robust physical network connection is extremely important to the efficient and continuous operation of a facility. An unreliable network connection could mean:

  • Disruptions in manufacturing resulting in machine down time, ultimately leading to loss of production

  • Loss of information that could lead to bad management decisions, ultimately affecting the company's financial health, such as over production, resulting in excess inventory or loss of sales due to ineffecient inventory.

The popularity of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) has lead to manufacturing and process facilities relying on this information generated at the device level for decisions that greatly impact the well being and prosperity of the company. In order to get that information to the next level, the hardware used should be reliable and robust for the demanding requirements of a manufacturing / process environment.

What should you be looking for in the hardware that will be the pulse of your factory network? Whether you are looking for a layer 2 switch or layer 3 router, consider this to be the minimum:

  • Fast Recovery of Network Topology (FRNT)

Westermo's unique FRNT (Fast Recovery of Network Topology) technology is the fastest network recovery protocol on the market. FRNT is able to reconfigure a redundant ring network consisting of up to 200 switches within 20 ms of the initial failure, regardless of network load. FRNT is a protocol supported by other Westermo switches like the Lynx, Wolverine and Viper series meaning that different types of Westermo switch can be configured in the ring.

Problem: Network Failure is Not An Option Solution: WeOS FRNT
On a solar plant the panels are in constant and controlled motion to ensure that they are always facing the optimum direction for power generation. During daylight hours every second earns money for the operator of the plant. A network failure will massively impact on the ability of the network to operate at 100% efficiency so resilience is critical.
If a failure does occur in a ring network then the plant will continue generating for the rest of the day until maintenance can be carried out overnight or at the next scheduled shut down.   It is during this period that the plant would be vulnerable to a second failure which is why a multiple resilient network is needed.

Mission critical infrastructure networks and industrial applications must operate for 100% of the required time for the systems they connect. Sometimes this can mean 24/7 or just during the operation for which they are critical.  Stopped manufacturing lines, interrupted infrastructure services, and other system failures are unacceptable as they inevitably result in costs for the operator.

If a single network failure occurs it is often not possible to carry out immediate maintenance. An engineer may not be available or the operator may not risk stopping a system that is currently working to repair a broken cable.

The processes running on mission critical networks often employ protocols that cannot tolerate packet losses of more than a few milliseconds before registering errors. Network errors will sometimes force an expensive  process shut down.

Networking Consideration:

If all data on a ring network was directed to known devices then the address learning capability of Ethernet switches would allow rings of basic switches to be used. Unfortunately many protocols generate broadcast traffic that floods to all parts of the network to find its destination. If normal switches are configured in a ring this data will circulate forever in the network, multiplying until eventually the network overloads.

Special protocols exist like FRNT that ensure that these broadcast storms never occur in a ring network.  When a failure occurs this protocol must rapidly reconfigure the network to ensure the process can continue.

For ultra-resilience networks must sometimes tolerate more than one failure. One method of building a resilient network is to use routers that learn paths through networks and rebuild these as the topology adjusts. Unfortunately these protocols like OSPF, RIP and BCP tend to have relatively long reconfiguration times as they were designed more for wide area networks. The automation type data transport protocol  (Modbus, Profinet, EthernetIP) often employed in these networks were originally designed for local networks and tend to flag faults if the recovery time of the network is too slow.

The Solution:

FRNT is a layer-2 network ring protocol that ensuring reconfiguration time less than 20ms in large networks.  FRNT Ring Coupling enables you to connect two FRNT rings, a sub-ring and a super-ring, with multiple layer-2 uplinks. This Ring Coupling functionality ensures that one of the uplinks is always active, while the other is in backup state, thereby providing redundancy and loop-free connectivity.  It is also possible to set priority on the uplinks to ensure the fastest path when different medias are used for the uplinks.

The ring coupling protocol reacts to link loss as well as an echo response from the interconnected switches. The uplinks topology can also be extended to connect rings in a ladder or tree structure.

With FRNT and FRNT Ring coupling protocol it is possible to design a network with multiple rings based on layer-2 technology. This then ensures a resilient network with fast reconfiguration time to all nodes even though multiple network failures occurs.

All are configured with Fast Recovery of Network Topology (FRNT). Westermo's unique FRNT technology is the fastest protocol on the market for providing rapid reconfiguration of your Ethernet networks as a result of link failure or hardware failure. FRNT is similar to Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) for redundancy. However, STP can only provide knowledge of neighboring switches, whereas FRNT can provide knowledge to the entire network on the ring.

  • FRNT and Dual Homing
Problem: Need Both FRNT Ring Coupling & Multilink Dual Homing Solution: WeOS FRNT and Multilink Dual Homing
Safety is the overriding design criterion for the systems in a modern road tunnel. Ventilation is vital as is the management of the traffic entering the tunnel. In the event of an incident it is important to be able to prevent more people entering the tunnel. When this kind of safety is at stake the fault tolerance of the network is a mission critical consideration. By the use of Multilink dual homing together with FRNT ring coupling protocol a resilient rapid recovery network is possible.

Some industrial networks are so critical that they must be resilient to both media and equipment failure. If there is a failure there may be no opportunity to carry out network maintenance for some time. For this reason therefore it is desirable to have a network that can tolerate multiple failures. The traditional approach to this is to use routing protocols, however these protocols can be slow to reconfigure the network  and also the network hardware tends to have a higher cost.

Networking Consideration:

Protocols such as OSPF and RIP have been designed for huge wide area networks. The protocols allow network hardware to be connected with multiple backup paths that are selected if the primary paths fail. As these protocols are designed for wide area networks they often take several seconds to reroute data in the event of a topology change. These router technologies are defined as a layer 3 function. For faster network reconfiguration layer 2 switch protocols need to be used to control the network topology.

The Solution:

A combination of Westermo’s Multilink Dual Homing and FRNT Ring Coupling provide a rapid recovery resilient network solution. Different media can also be incorporated to make use not just of normal copper and fibre network cables, but also twisted pair connections using SHDSL technology.

IGMP Snooping is a method that actually 'snoops' or inspects IGMP traffic. The protocol will only enable multicast streams to switch ports that have requested to 'join' the feed. In this way switches can control multicast data on networks. When using IGMP snooping in conjunction with redundancy protocols, problems can occur when a network reconfigures. The network topology change by definition means that the IGMP data paths changes. It is for this reason that Westermo has closely integrated their IGMP solution with FRNT to ensure that these delays do not occur.

Problem: Breaks in multicast data streams during ring recovery Solution: IGMP Snooping
Long distance transmission of IP Video over existing backbone systems makes it possible to selectively monitor trackside cameras without draining the system’s bandwidth when cameras are not monitored. In the same way, it is possible to ‘broadcast’ a single stream over the network and make it available to an unlimited amount of users, using only the single stream to each network node. With the implementation of IGMP Snooping and redundancy protocols supported in WeOS, Westermo is able to offer a IP CCTV and IP Broadcasting solution based on any kind of media. Whether it is copper, fiber, or inter-station transmission over SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) backbones, WeOS offers all the protocols needed to build and manage the network solution.

Also available in Red Fox, Viper and Wolverine products through WeOS operating system


Microlok® II gateway - Resilient network solutions for rail networks

The Westermo Microlok® II gateway is available in our Lynx Ethernet device server switches and Wolverine Ethernet extenders. This functionality delivered by WeOS allows rail operators and system integrators to implement cost savings on interlocking and signalling projects as well as helping provide additional resilience to networks.

L105-S1 L106-S2 L106-F2G L108-F2G-S2 DDW142 DDW226
L205-S1 L206-S2 L206-F2G L208-F2G-S2  

Microlok® II is a protocol developed by Ansaldo STS specifically used within rail interlocking solutions. The Westermo gateway converts data from the native serial format to a UDP (user datagram protocol) packet that can then be transmitted alongside other data on a trackside Ethernet network. Westermo Lynx and Wolverine also provide the networking infrastructure capability allowing the use of gigabit fiber optic inter-connections and also the ability to use existing twisted pair or telecoms cables as the data path.

Functionality is provided to allow up to 64 Microlok® address translations to be made and monitored. Legacy key-on/key-off support is provided as well as a unique hot/standby configuration to provide a resilient channel for hot standby controllers.

For the kinds of installation where Microlok® is used product reliability is critical to ensure maintenance costs are minimised and trains are not delayed. To provide the best solutions Westermo design all these products to have MTBF figures in excess of 500,000 hours (MIL-HDBK-217F (Gb) 25°C).

Operation at the trackside can be tough on Ethernet switches, but the Lynx and Wolverine are designed for that environment. The products will cold start at –40°C and operate over a long life time at 70°C without the need for cooling holes or fans. EMC levels trackside can be harsh and hence these products are tested and certified to meet the EN50121-4 and IEC 62236-4 standards.

Resilient layer 2 and layer 3 protocols like RSTP, FRNT, LACP and OSPF allow highly reliable backbone networks to be created, bringing layer 3 routing protocols to the edge of the network. Built in firewall functionality also allows security to be implemented down to individual port level to ensure both accidental and deliberate security breaches are prevented.

Depending on your company's requirements, Westermo will likely have a solution to meet your needs:

Falcon Lynx+ RedFox Viper Wolverine
ADSL / VDSL with Industrial Ethernet Layer 2 & 3 Managed Industrial Ethernet Layer 3 Managed Industrial Ethernet Layer 2 & 3 IP65 Industrial Ethernet SHDSL Industrial Ethernet Extender

The power behind the Westermo products is found in its operating system, known as WeOS. You can learn more about this powerful operating system that is the backbone of these products through the following documentation.

When acquisition of data is critical, the last thing you want to happen is for your network to be the source of your problem.

Network Software

Hardware is one aspect of creating a reliable and robust network. The software that connects and manages your network should be given intense consideration as well. If the hardware is the pulse, the software is the heart that maintains the pulse. The following needs to be taken into account when making your selection:

  • Device connectivity - What protocols are required?
  • Device management - How do we manage our devices?
  • Device monitoring - Is there a way to monitor our devices separately from our client application?
  • Redundency - Is there a way to protect our network and set up?
  • Client connection(s)

One software package can address all of the above requirements: KEPServerEX

  1. Device Connectivity: KEPServerEX offers over 70 different Driver Suites that comprise over 250 device drivers. View the listing of available Driver Suites through this link.
  2. KEPServerEX isn't only about drivers, but also deals with other aspects, such as device management. KEPServerEX offers an SNMP suite whereby incorporating MIB tags from your Ethernet hardware (Westermo) enables you to monitor your devices through your Ethernet network. Functionality reserved for your IT department is now available to manufacturing and process:
    • Import MIB files from manageable devices and easily map network device MIB addresses to SNMP tag names.
    • Network Analyst gathers raw SNMP data from network devices and continually performs calculations to generate data that can be used, such as bandwidth utilization and network error rate statistics.
    • Save time by using the Auto-Discovery tool to search your Ethernet network for managed network devices.
    • The SNMP OPC Server provides convenient "Specialty tags" to help users know more than the current value of a single polled OID. The tags include: History tags, Events tags, Table Offsets, and ScanFloor tags.
    • Historical values are generated by the SNMP OPC Server (not the remote Agent/device) when an OID has valid historical modifiers appended to it.
    • The Ping Device Driver is provided for monitoring your network devices via the ICMP protocol (Ping). The Ping driver was designed specifically for use with 32 bit OPC Server products. The Ping driver provides the ability to monitor the Status of a network device, and the time that it takes for the ICMP message to reach its destination and return a response, the RoundTripTime.
    • MIB Support for managed switches and Ping for unmanaged switches.
  3. KEPServerEX offers an OPC suite called System Monitor. The System Monitor Device Driver uses the Microsoft Performance Data Helper application interface to provide access to performance information on Processes, Threads and other system components on the user's system. Install KEPServerEX and the System Monitor driver on each System/PC to begin monitoring the performance of your PC from your OPC Client applications, including HMI, SCADA, Historian, MES, ERP, and countless custom applications.
  4. RedundancyMaster increases the reliability and availability of OPC data by allowing multiple OPC Servers to be configured into redundant pairs. Each redundant pair seamlessly appears as a single OPC Server to any OPC Client application. RedundancyMaster can be added to an existing server/client application without any reconfiguration of the application, keeping your processes going with out any down time.
  5. In addition to client ready software packages, typically SCADA, Kepware also offers product suites enabling connectivity to other client type applications - Databases, Oracle MES, Oracle MOC, Microsoft SQL, etc...

Additional functionality is offered in KepserverEX through their plug-in options that can further enhance your industrial network:

When you put the right pieces together, you will end up with that robust and reliable industrial network that you require for uninterupted and dependable connectivity for gathering, maintaining and protecting a corporations most valuable intangible asset - INFORMATION.

In talking with a Kepware customer, the comment he made about their product was so profound because it was so simple. What did he say?


No elaborate explanation, just the plain and simple truth, based on his experience.

Regardless of the devices that make up your manufacturing / process facility and regardless of the clients that have been selected for interaction and data harvesting, the key components that will ultimately make these two areas communicate are your Ethernet connection and your OPC server.

When all is said and done, this is what your final outcome should resemble - the ability to have multiple devices interact with multiple clients through a reliable and robust connection that comprises both hardware and software. This is what ESI offers.


Devices:           Clients:
PLC / PAC / DCS / CNC           SCADA / Database / MES / ERP / SQL



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