Rockwell Automation’s Plan for a New Controller Design & Ethernet Protocol

  • February 07, 2014
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor

At Automation Fair 2013, I spoke with Rockwell Automation’s Frank Kulaszewicz, Senior Vice President, Architecture & Software, about the progress on their new architecture developments. This conversation was a continuation of our discussion from the previous year. It is always a pleasure to talk with Kulaszewicz, because he is technically knowledgeable and straightforward.

Kulaszewicz is responsible for strategy development, driving global growth, and the worldwide performance of the Architecture and Software segment, which includes Logix controllers. Kulaszewicz is based in Singapore, where the Asia Pacific headquarters of Rockwell Automation is located. He has responsibility for the global manufacturing, R&D, marketing, engineering and management of two major product lines - control products and solutions and architecture and software.

Kulaszewicz termed the new Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) that we discussed last year as Integrated Architecture (IA) Services, which exists in the software and firmware framework of their new designs. He noted the first product based on this new technology may be visible when they release their View product, which will be integrated with the new Logix Common Design Environment software.

Distributed Architecture

Kulaszewicz described the new controller architecture as a backplane with each module having an IP address. He further described that every motor drive, intelligent overload, intelligent sensor, intelligent light curtain, and other device will have an IP address. This architecture will require IPv6 so they have enough addresses available to communicate with all these devices. He noted that it is their desire to push Ethernet into every device.

Four Port Ethernet Switch Chip

Kulaszewicz explained that Rockwell Automation is going to produce, “…a piece of silicone that is a four-port switch that allows us to do device level ring for any device at a fraction of the cost at very high speed.” These four-port switches will be on each controller module card, creating a virtual network on the backplane, located outside of the controller. They plan to start at 1 GHz speed and will over time migrate to 10 GHz. He explained how this will virtualize communication with devices across the backplane architecture and will increase performance, because each device is a consumer/producer of different services. Any IP address will be addressable from any intelligent device.

Standard Unmodified Ethernet with CIP

We then discussed the issues with switch latency that impact performance in these types of configurations. Kulaszewicz stated they are doing some innovative things in technology to improve performance with how they handle messages in the controller. I asked if they are using the EtherNet/IP protocol. He described an implementation of standard unmodified Ethernet with CIP protocol on it and said, “It is a subset of what you would think of as EtherNet/IP.” It will conform to IPv6 including IPsec. Kulaszewicz emphasized their belief in standard unmodified Ethernet because they always want to connect with business systems. The advantage of having CISCO as a partner is they possess the technology and experience to cyber protect communications.

Bridging IPv4 and IPv6

This is a novel architecture where the controller cards and connected devices, including motor drives, intelligent overloads, intelligent sensor, intelligent light curtains, and other devices, will have an IPv6 address, and the controller will communicate to the system with industry standard IPv4-based EtherNet/IP. I asked how they will bridge the network addressing, and it is unclear at this time. Kulaszewicz described how Rockwell Automation would produce the base technology for bridging these protocols, and then, by working through ODVA, it could eventually become an ODVA standard.

Thoughts & Observations

This is an interesting controller design that uses IP all the way and is similar to the approach Schneider Electric is taking with their new controllers.

The development of a new protocol that uses standard unmodified Ethernet with the CIP protocol sounds like a new version of EtherNet/IP to me.

Driving IP to the edge is consistent with the theme of the “Internet of Things.”

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