Microprocessors accelerate networking development

13th March 2017
Enaie Azambuja


Renesas Electronics has announced the new RZ/N Series of industrial networking communication MPUs that simplifies network-based application development. The RZ/N Series is ideal for use in industrial network devices such as network switches, gateways, PLCs, operator terminals, and remote I/O units.

The RZ/N brings together multiple industrial networking technologies within a single chip, enabling system manufacturers to develop systems supporting a variety of industrial network protocols and network redundancy protocols in less time.

Renesas also delivers broad ecosystem support to facilitate system manufacturers’ software development by offering a general application programmable interface (API) that provides a unified support for network protocol stacks implemented by industry-leading Renesas partners, in addition to compiler and OS environments.

The RZ/N lineup comprises three product groups for scalability: the RZ/N1D Group for high-end applications, the RZ/N1S Group for mid-range applications, and the RZ/N1L Group for low-end applications.

With the recent advancement of Industry 4.0 to implement network connections in factories for increased efficiency, there are growing demands for network devices with support for industrial network protocols enabling real-time processing, protocol gateway functionality, protected networking functionality, and support for network redundancy protocols to ensure highly reliable and efficient communication.

Due to factors such as differing time constraints and network control technologies, existing factory networks consist of field networks, which implement communication between control devices and other devices, and control networks, which implement communication between control devices and other control devices.

Field networks require real-time control and use real-time industrial network protocols such as EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP, ETHERNET Powerlink, PROFINET, Sercos, and CANopen. In contrast, control networks, which prioritise reliability, use network redundancy protocols such as Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP), Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP), and High-Availability Seamless Redundancy (HSR).

Thus far, there has been little development in unifying these two types of networks, which meant that when developing network devices, it was necessary to use components supporting one or another of the available protocols.

The new RZ/N Series was developed in response to this situation as a single-chip solution that will greatly simplify the development of industrial network devices by providing support for both field network real time protocols and control network redundancy protocols.

Key features of the new RZ/N Series:

1) Multi-core ARM architecture with Integrated R-IN Engine and five-port Gigabit Ethernet switch for single-chip support of leading industrial network protocols and network redundancy protocols

The new RZ/N Series integrates the R-IN Engine employing an ARM Cortex-M3 processor and a five-port Ethernet switch with advanced network management features. This enables both real-time processing of communication data and redundancy protocol operation.

The R-IN Engine improves power consumption and throughput, reduces jitter, and has already been successfully implemented in existing products and will be further developed in future. The RZ/N Series supports on a single chip a variety of industrial network protocols and network redundancy protocols.

2) Ecosystem supporting highly efficient software development

To assist system manufacturers with evaluation, Renesas is preparing CPU modules populated with the new RZ/N Series, boards equipped with a variety of peripheral functions, and solution kits configured including OS and protocol stacks sample software from Renesas partners.

In addition, to facilitate the task of implementing industrial network protocols such as EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP, Ethernet POWERLINK, PROFINET, Sercos and CANopen on new devices, Renesas is working with industry-leading protocol vendors to make available to system developers protocol stacks from PORT GmbH, TMG Technologie und Engineering GmbH, CANNON-Automata, and Net Module, among others.

Renesas will provide a Generic Abstraction layer API that will deliver unified support for a variety of industrial network protocols without performance tradeoffs. Using such API will enable system developers to combine supported protocols as needed with minimal impact on the application software, and to shorten the development time of industrial network devices by as much as 50%.

Furthermore, to support the development of sophisticated applications, system developers will be able to utilise compiler environments including IAR Embedded Workbench from IAR Systems and OS environments including Linux, VxWorks from Wind River, and ThreadX from Express Logic.

3) Lineup comprising three product groups for scalability from the high end to the low end

The new RZ/N Series achieves scalability by providing a unified architecture that supports a broad range of performance. System manufacturers can choose the processor that meets the specific needs of their applications with the knowledge that they can easily reuse existing software resources.

The RZ/N1D Group features a dual ARM Cortex-A7 and is suitable for high-end applications such as network switches, PLCs, and gateways. The RZ/N1S Group features a single ARM Cortex-A7 and is intended for mid-range applications such as nano-PLCs and operator terminals.

Finally, the RZ/N1L Group is suitable mainly for applications such as industrial equipment communication blocks or slave devices such as remote I/O units and enables system developers to develop devices that are more compact and low cost.

Renesas is positioning the new RZ/N Series as a single-chip solution offering support for the leading industrial network protocols and the latest network redundancy protocols used in factory networks.

Samples and solution kit of the RZ/N1D will be available from April 2017. Samples and solution kits for the RZ/N1S Group and RZ/N1L Group are expected to become available in the first half of 2018. Sample software and protocol stacks will also be available, together with evaluation boards. Protocol stacks from Renesas software partners will also be available from April 2017.

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