There is an increasing need to effectively manage Ethernet traffic in industrial environments in order to prioritize real-time automation system information over less time-critical but more bandwidth-intensive content such as graphics, pictures and video. Cyber security threats and regulations are also escalating daily, further fueling the necessity to manage traffic and prevent intrusion.
For an existing configuration, once the network speed is improved to the maximum allowed by the connected components and the network cabling, the next step is to strategically add managed switches and upgrade unmanaged switches.
Until fairly recently, managed industrial-grade Ethernet switches were very expensive, but change is afoot with the introduction of the EKI line of managed switches from Advantech. These components provide managed switch performance with some key additional features such as exclusive X-Ring technology, all at a price point close to what unmanaged switches were selling for just a few years ago.