Managing Industrial Ethernet in the IoT Age: Simplifying EtherNET/IP and PROFINET Network Management

  • November 02, 2016
  • Cisco Systems
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor,  

Industrial Ethernet networks have become more significant to business with the application of Internet of Things (IoT) concepts and technologies to improve manufacturing responsiveness and efficiency. New connected devices and industrial applications are providing the automation industry an expanding range of technologies available to solve problems, improve operations, and increase productivity.

Fundamentally, the IoT is the connection of uniquely identifiable electronic devices using Internet “data plumbing,” including Internet Protocol (IP), Web services, and cloud computing. The flood of new technology can be overwhelming and will inherently create a desire to drive new initiatives.  Managing this explosive growth can be accomplished efficiently for the most prolific industrial networks, EtherNet/IP CIP and PROFINET, using CISCO’s Industrial Network Director software. Adopting a network management tool is important with the accelerating growth of IP connected devices.

Market Outlook

A new McKinsey Global Institute report provides insights into the scale of the growth of IP devices, The Internet of Things: Mapping the value beyond the hype, provides some insights about the growth of connected devices:

  • 50 Billion smart devices by 2020 will connect the unconnected
  • IT and OT convergence, hyper connectivity across organizations
  • <1% of data currently used, more can be used for optimization and prediction
  • Interoperability across siloed systems required to capture 40% of IOT value


Network uptime is critical for efficient production, yet manufacturing operations teams may lack networking expertise.  Manufacturing operations teams need to stay focused on core issues. Training these teams to be networking specialists is a poor use of resources.  The practice of managing industrial networks in silos, disconnected from control systems, leads to higher asset management costs, and falls short of realizing the achievable gains in system efficiency.  Plant floor and IT personnel need common information about automation and network assets to operate and maintain the plant network.

Figure 1 : Managing industrial networks in silos, disconnected from control systems, leads to higher asset management costs

Systems Approach

Cisco has taken a systems approach with the introduction of the Industrial Network Director software that goes beyond enterprise Ethernet to include EtherNet/IP (CIP) and PROFINET industrial networks.  The software automatically detects the PLC brand and model of CIP and PROFINET devices to build a dynamic topology of the plant floor network.  This provides operations teams with real-time maps of automation PLC, control, and monitoring devices connected for increased plant floor asset visibility.  The software simplifies troubleshooting for technicians by generating network information in the context of the automation process. 

Rapid integration of network information with existing automation applications, tools, and processes through Open APIs delivers a common information framework shared by operations and Plant-IT to manage the industrial network including:

  • Discovers automation assets using industrial protocols
  • Displays dynamic topology of automation and network assets
  • Common view of Plant floor network for OT & Plant-IT
  • Telemetry of environmental conditions and network usage - Temperature, Power supply, Bandwidth
  • Alarms for common issues in industrial environments - Half-Duplex ports, Duplicate IP, Topology changes
  • Cisco Active Advisor integration for essential network lifecycle information, security and product updates
  • RESTful interface to integrate with automation systems
  • Easy to operate – no networking expertise necessary

Alarms are displayed on the Industrial Network Director web interface and available through the RESTful interface. The REST API can be leveraged to programmatically make the alarms visible on 3rd party applications including HMI, and DCS alarm management software.

Integration with asset management software can also be accomplished with the Industrial Network Director RESTful interface that exposes all functions of the software including asset details as well as connectivity graphs. 

Industrial Network Visibility

Understanding the configuration and makeup of industrial networks is fundamental to proper network, operations and cyber security management.  The Industrial Network Director software is nonintrusive and will discover plant floor network assets including CIP and PROFINET industrial protocol devices. This provides a single uniform source for IT and operations to understand and monitor network topology and connected devices to simplify industrial network management.

Figure 2: Visually and interactively view network topology

Management Tool

Ongoing configuration management is always a challenge in any industrial automation system and the Industrial Network Director provides a tabular inventory of assets including managed devices, clients, and other devices. This includes the status of most recent and severe alarms. Users can do searches to quickly navigate to device information.

Figure 3: Users can zoom into details.

Network Troubleshooting

Leveraging this real time industrial network tool increases productivity with customizable real-time alerting of network events in the context of connected industrial automation and control devices. Active alarms are displayed for analysis with details for rapid troubleshooting, problem isolation, and root cause analysis.

Figure 4: Network alarms indicate affected automation devices.

Holistic Approach

This holistic approach provides one uniform tool to understand network configuration, issues, and topology to improve manufacturing uptime and performance.

Figure 5: Common platform for IT and Operations to manage industrial networks

Getting Started

Getting started using the Industrial Network Director is easy.  Step one, download Industrial Network Director, executable on a Windows machine, and run the installer.  Step two, access Industrial Network Director through a web browser from any machine and trigger a Discovery.

Assuring Success

Gaining the benefits of the expanding range of IoT based solutions to solve problems, improve operations, and increase productivity requires reliable performing networks. The Industrial Network Director provides the tool to efficiently setup systems, automatically be notified of problems, and have real-time network information at your fingertips.


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