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Ethernet Alliance to build relationship with industrial automation industry


The Ethernet Alliance, a global consortium dedicated to the advancement of Ethernet technologies, have launched an industry focus around operational technology (OT) networks found in building and industrial automation.

With development of single-pair Ethernet (SPE) creating new opportunities for solving challenges in OT networks, the Ethernet Alliance is seeking to connect with more expertise in the industrial automation industry.

“As the building- and industrial-automation industries come to rely more on SPE, there is a clear need to bring together the people creating and using the technologies so they can better understand one another,” says Peter Jones, distinguished engineer at Cisco and chair of the Ethernet Alliance, in a statement.

“We are well positioned as a bridge between the OT experts in building and industrial automation and the IT (information technology) expertise that we have traditionally served across the Ethernet ecosystem.”

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One of the key roles that the Ethernet Alliance plays is supporting the deployment of Ethernet technologies into markets not traditionally served by Ethernet. OT networks, which control manufacturing processes or provide occupant comfort and safety in a building, historically have been siloed from Ethernet-based IT networks.

Legacy, built-for-purpose protocols have instead dominated OT networking. In recent years, however, cybersecurity issues related to those protocols have arisen, and generational transition in the workforce is creating a shortage of expertise to manage and maintain OT networks based on the legacy protocols.

SPE is a crucial technology development for allowing OT networks to become part of an Ethernet-based network. Defined in IEEE 802.3cg, IEEE Standard for Ethernet—Amendment 5: Physical Layer Specifications and Management Parameters for 10 Mb/s Operation and Associated Power Delivery over a Single Balanced Pair of Conductors, which was published in May 2020, SPE boosts the performance, security, flexibility and manageability of the OT networks on which the building- and industrial-automation industries depend.