Future manufacturing networks will combine time-tested industrial automation systems running fieldbus protocols with sophisticated enterprise-level business IT systems that run on Ethernet. Of the many fieldbus and Ethernet protocols currently used in automation networks, PROFIBUS and PROFINET are notable for being maintained by the same standards authority. Consequently, PROFIBUS/PROFINET proxies are a convenient way to bridge between fieldbus and Ethernet gateways.
Simply installing a proxy may be enough to establish communications between the two networks, but a communications link is not the same thing as true integration. To be truly integrated, this combined field level and management level must both be able to use the same advanced IT tools that are used to manage office environments. IT engineers rely on management technologies to optimize the performance of their IT networks, and the true benefit of systems integration will only be achieved when these same management functions can be used to optimize the industrial field level automation devices. The conclusion is clear: beyond simply establishing communications, the proxy must also provide the essential management tools that will truly optimize the integrated network.
The Typical Integration Solution
When using PROFIBUS and PROFINET, the first step to fieldbus/Ethernet integration is a proxy. A proxy integrates intelligent devices in the field layer with the information layer of the network, such as the SCADA and HMI system. In effect, the proxy works as a translation agent—it is a PROFIBUS master in the device network, and a PROFINET I/O slave in the PROFINET network, and transfers data between the two networks, as illustrated below.
The Industrial Network of the Future: Integration of Automation and IT
The Three Must-Have Management Tools for Automation
System Logs for Regular Analysis ： In any network, the top priority is system reliability. Any network issues will cause substantial losses. Just like any complex system, the best way to maintain network health is to conduct regular check-ups. A proxy that records an event log will record all system issues for later review, so any potential problem areas can be resolved. For example, the proxy might record login failures that suggest attempts at unauthorized access, or IP conflicts that represent incorrect new device configuration. With a proxy event log, the network operator has the tool to identify these potential problems on the automation network.
Must-Have Tool #1: System Logs
Alarm Notification for Instant Notification ： Some events are so urgent that they demand immediate attention before they cause an interruption to operations. Emergencies such as power outages or Ethernet disconnection are examples of such extremely high priority events. In the case of a power outage, the network operator must be able to restore power before backup power supply is exhausted. The proxy can help achieve quicker response times by alerting network operators during emergencies, whether through relay alarms or email. The faster the network operator is notified, the faster the emergency can be resolved. This is why in addition to system logs, alarm notifications are an indispensable management tool.
Must-Have Tool #2: Alarm Notifications
Web-Based Console Access to Proxy ： It’s impractical to expect network operators to physically access the proxies whenever they need to review the details of that proxy’s operations. So how best to provide access to the first two tools, the event log and alarm status? A web console interface is the ideal solution because it is convenient and accessible through any web browser. Through this web console, the proxy should also provide the latest data exchange information and connection status of each field device, for troubleshooting purposes. It’s also important that information in the web console is secure and only accessible by authorized users. This means the proxy should support the HTTPS protocol for security purposes and use SSL/TLS to encrypt data.
Must-Have Tool #3: Web Console
Moxa’s Solution: Complete Proxy Toolboxes
Moxa’s gateway solutions include PROFIBUS/PROINET gateways that come with complete toolboxes to give network operators everything they need to successfully and conveniently manage their integrated networks:
System logs for regular analysis ： Moxa’s gateways keep detailed event logs that record all system or communication issues.
Alarm notification for instant notification： Moxa’s gateways leverage IT technology to send e-mails and trigger relay alarms in response to emergency events.
Web console access to proxy ： Moxa’s gateways include powerful yet convenient web consoles that come complete with data import/export, log recording capabilities, and HTTPS/SSH security.
For further information on how industrial Ethernet gateways can optimize your industrial network integration, visit