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Simply retrofitting TSN

by Michael Volz | Jul 16, 2018
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Ever since the last SPS/IPC/Drives trade fair, it is clear that TSN (Time Sensitive Networks) as per IEE 802.1 will become the new base technology for real-time communication and therefore play a significant role in automation technology. All leading fieldbus organisations and numerous automation manufacturers have announced ambitious timelines for the integration of the TSN protocol in their relevant standards and automation devices. This means that device manufacturers are presented with the challenge of adapting the communication interface in their automation devices to the new technology. For this, there are two options: complete new development or the use of ready-to-use embedded communication modules such as the Anybus modules from HMS Industrial Networks.

 

What is TSN?

TSN was originally designed for real-time transmission of audio and video data in Ethernet networks. However, it quickly became clear that TSN is also extremely suitable for other areas of applications because of its excellent real-time properties, namely for fast real-time communication in vehicles, in finance (real-time communication for the stock market) or in the multimedia world (synchronous distribution of audio and video via the network), and for real-time communication in industrial applications.

 

TSN - a collection of 10 standards

TSN real-time extension should, however, not be seen to be a single standard in the form of a specification that gives Ethernet real-time capabilities. Instead, TSN is a framework of specifications that currently comprises a set of 10 standards for individual mechanisms and functions. At present, 3 of the 10 parts have been approved; the remaining 7 are still in the specification phase.

Depending on the scope of application and its requirements, it is possible to put together the functionality necessary for real-time behaviour using all 10 individual standards as the basis. TSN mainly specifies functions at Layer 2 (Data Link Layer) of the ISO/OSI layer model, thereby forming the basic function for real-time transmission of application protocols such as IP, TCP, UDP, OPC UA, MQTT, including industrial application protocols like Profinet or Ethernet/IP. As such, the TSN mechanisms alone are not a complete solution for standardised data exchange between devices from different manufacturers. Only when used in conjunction with suitable application protocols, it makes sense to use TSN in automation.

 

Bridge between OT and IT

Thanks to its good real-time properties, TSN can be used throughout the plant – both in IT networks and in production (OT, Operational Technology). In this way, TSN can play an important role in system-wide communication (so-called IT/OT integration) and is consequently an important base technology when it comes to the implementation of innovative automation solutions according to Industry 4.0 principles. Additional advantages of TSN include its robustness, even with high network loads, its latency during communication and its good Plug&Work characteristics. TSN technology deploys its full capability in Gigabit Ethernet networks.

Don't miss the next part in our TSN series. 

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