Three ways TSN is driving opportunities in the IIoT

25th November 2019
Alex Lynn

In the growing industrial market, the evolution of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will increase the amount of data harvested through distributed networks, requiring new standards for managing and transferring critical and non-critical information. 

By Anil Kumar, Intel; Denzil Roberts, Ph.D., Intel; Steve Zuponcic, Rockwell Automation, Avnu Alliance Industrial Segment Members

Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) is one way to ensure that this control data traffic is delivered in a timely manner by securing bandwidth in the network infrastructure, while simultaneously allowing non-critical forms of data traffic to coexist on the same network. TSN provides the tools to enable the convergence of different data traffic on the same physical network, reducing the infrastructure cost.

In the recent whitepaper, ‘Avnu Business Impact Whitepaper on Time Sensitive Networking: New tools to manage and converge networks, improve performance and reduce costs’, published by Avnu Alliance and targeted toward C-Suite, operational and other decision-making leaders in the IIoT, we explore the reasons how TSN could change operational structure and enable companies to move forward with the future of IIoT.

Three key takeaways and benefits of a TSN-enabled infrastructure from the paper include: 

1. TSN creates a simpler system for network configuration for end-users managing IIoT networks

Today, technicians have to configure each device manually on conventional networks, but TSN can allow for automatic configuration via intelligent configuration tools. The network understands what must happen to achieve the desired performance and will turn specific services on and off as necessary. Standardised methods for network-wide configuration and commissioning required by TSN also creates the avenue for offline simulation and modelling of the network and the architecture.

In the future architecture to the left, the user is provided a view of the system that allows for the configuration of the I/O and control devices as well as for the layout of the topology and the infrastructure devices. In this example, a Centralised Network Configuration engine, or CNC, is used to configure the system. In this future reality, the CNC is an intelligent tool, enabled by the information collected and conveyed from TSN standards; it will calculate the best possible solution to accommodate all the traffic flows between all connections in the network. 

The system sees the available bandwidth and configures the infrastructure components in the network (i.e., the bridges) to accommodate the traffic flows. If the system is not able to solve for a configuration that meets the performance requirements and loads of the traffic streams in the subnet, it will notify the user so that topology, performance requirements, or loading can be modified. TSN makes it possible to run the calculations that can help the implementor predict if a network design will be successful for a given application. This wasn’t possible in previous generations.

With TSN’s intelligence in the network, the system can become more automated and less dependent on human intervention and subsequent error.

2. A simpler network configuration translates into a greater range of network design freedom and system modelling – and future system success

TSN is expected to bring a holistic approach to network management, enabling new tools for system-level configuration. This approach to network management would dramatically change the workflow for designing and planning networks. TSN provides the foundation for network calculus and planning as part of the solution toward managing traffic and guaranteeing performance. 

If designs prove inadequate or a solution is not achievable given system constraints, then network design could be modified to accommodate the system requirements.

Today, there is no reasonable capability for predicting network success or outcomes; empirical system designs can help managers to baseline their designs, but the system may not work for every application. TSN helps manage the configuration and modelling of these systems, enabling the software-designed environment for predictable system design and advanced planning systems. Smart modelling in this way will maximise the life of the system and future-proof the components to facilitate, adding switches to the infrastructure to scale with the system needs.

Modelling capabilities made possible with TSN will bring predictability to the success of the future system.

3. An ecosystem approach is needed in order for TSN and the greater IIoT to continue to mature and evolve

Today, many of the underlying systems for Industry 4.0 applications are based on proprietary standards and could present integration challenges. A lack of a broader industrial networks ecosystem perspective in terms of business systems, platforms and standards as well as interoperability could present a significant challenge for the adoption of industry 4.0 into modern workflows. 

Consortia, industry and government bodies as well as standards associations are working to establish standards, associated profiles and tests. It is incumbent upon everyone involved in the ecosystem to work with partners to stay current on evolving standards, make them interoperable and coexist to maximise the value delivered by Industry 4.0. 

As a standards association supporting the growth of TSN in the IIoT, Avnu Alliance facilitates a common TSN platform through various services, including open-source software, testing tools, and test plans to develop and verify the correct operation and implementation of TSN-enabled products. Avnu works alongside other industry consortia and standards organisations, such as IEEE and Industrial Internet Consortium, to collaborate in creating a set of unified standards and an interoperable ecosystem for the industrial market. 

Avnu works to ensure that TSN is successfully implemented to realise the maximum possible benefits of configuration, data use, and cost savings in industrial settings and beyond.

Avnu Alliance has been developing conformance specifications and test plans across various markets based on market accepted requirements of TSN, since 2009 and recently released a full listing of its specifications and test plans available to members. The document is meant to offer insight into the depth and breadth of Avnu test plans and specifications and highlight the growing number of resources available to Alliance members across all segments.

To download the whitepaper, click here.

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