GE Intelligent Platforms Selects PROFINET as Flagship Network |

GE Intelligent Platforms Selects PROFINET as Flagship Network

January 082012
GE Intelligent Platforms Selects PROFINET as Flagship Network
January 2012
By Bill Lydon, Editor
Bernie Anger, General Manager of Control and Communication Systems at GE Intelligent Platforms, discussed why they have adopted PROFINET for their PAC (Programmable Automation Controller) portfolio at the 17th Annual PI North America General Assembly Meeting in October, 2011.    Anger addressed the obvious question first - Why would GE want to adopt a technology closely associated with Siemens who they compete with in a number of industries including health care equipment, water treatment, turbines, and wind mills? His answer - GE understands the value of partnering with solid technology partners and, after detailed study, they decided the PROFINET technology and organization was the best choice for GE Intelligent Platforms.  
The PROFINET philosophy fits with GE’s evolving legacy of high performance distributed systems. Anger commented, “The idea of distributed I/O systems is a long one at GE starting with Genius I/O in the 1980’s.” For more than 10 years GE has had a high speed proprietary Ethernet, Ethernet Global Data (EGD) applied with turbine controls, on ships, and other applications.
Anger explained there was a recognition that GE needed to take advantage of an open Ethernet protocol. “We did a pretty exhaustive analysis of the alternatives,” said Anger. “At the end of the day we decided to pick PROFINET…” He noted that GE also supports the other protocols in some fashion so other control systems can be connected to GE systems. Anger elaborated, “We are adopting PROFINET as the backbone of what we call backplane on a wire.” GE has a vision of the controller backplane as a piece of wire over Ethernet that they are realizing with PROFINET.
Anger outlined the three reasons why PROFINET made sense for GE namely, organization, technical merit, and fit with core GE industries.   “We found transparency and open participation opportunities in the PROFINET organization…,” said Anger.   In addition, the PI organization has a rich Partner Ecosystem, strong marketing, strong certification support, interoperability commitment, and opportunity for active engagement in the process.  GE studied the technology. “From tests we’ve done it just works better...,” said Anger. Anger further defined technical criteria important to GE as performance, robustness & reliability, cross-network gateways and a strong technical roadmap.
GE Implementation
Anger described the characteristics for GE Intelligent Platforms implementation of PROFINET which he noted has been one of the largest GE automation product investments in years. 
  • Simplicity by not requiring external switches, they support but do not require them.
  • Single modules that support wired and optical connections.
  • Integration of diagnostics for configuration and network health monitoring.
  • Reliability with native support for redundancy with robust bumpless switchover.
  • Third party 3rd party device validation.
  • High speed performance with fast 1ms updates for 32 nodes that is scalable.
  • Integration of GE Intelligent Platforms software to natively support PROFINET.
Anger emphasized that they have invested a great deal in software development to provide a “seamless experience in terms of configuration” for PROFINET.
GE started shipping PROFINET products four months ago, including:
  • PAC 3i PROFINET controller that incorporates multiple Ethernet speeds (10Mb, 100Mb and 1G)
  • Embedded managed switch, and Multiple network media: copper, single mode & multi-mode fiber
  • VersaMax I/O Scanner and updated programming software with integrated network configuration, full name-based support, and Proficy Process Systems integration
When asked about sales of PROFINET products, Anger responded, “Last quarter we shipped about 50% more than we were anticipating to ship…”
Anger believes that PROFINET helps GE Intelligent Platforms drive lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), higher performance and reduced MTTR (Mean Time To Repair) for GE customers.
Thoughts & Observations
GE Intelligent Platforms commitment to PROFINET as their flagship network is significant. GE has never “had a dog in the hunt” in the race for automation protocol standardization.
Many companies commit to various network protocols but in this case GE is committing to the PROFINET architecture and tailoring their software to provide users seamless configuration and diagnostic tools. Configuration labor is a significant issue for project design, commissioning and servicing.
Bernie Anger has deep automation industry experience and knowledge that for me instills confidence and credibility in his comments.
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