Decoding Industrial Network Jargon
When it comes to industrial network jargon, it can create a lot of confusion. It often is in the form of acronyms that mean very little to those not well versed on the subject. This knowledge gap can make conversations about networking difficult and sometimes uncomfortable to have, especially between folks with different understanding levels.
Demystifying Industrial Network Jargon
A lot of industrial network jargon is simple to explain but rarely are. So, in this post, we will tackle some of the more common jargon and try to help demystify the language of networking.
IIOT stands for the Industrial Internet of Things. This term refers to the wide adoption of smart, connected devices that share information with one another. The IIOT allows for greater insight into a business, better analytic data, and enables mobility.
A packet is simply a unit of data shared between devices. Anytime requests are made, or data is exchanged on the network, it is done in the form of strings of packets.
A LAN is an acronym for Local Area Network. A LAN is a small, localized network that is typically confined to a physical location. An example of this is your office network.
When the acronym WAN is used in an industrial network discussion, it stands for Wide Area Network. A WAN is a larger network that typically has internet access and connections to numerous LAN's. An example of a WAN would be the network provided to you by your Internet Service Provider or ISP.
A router is simply a device for passing data packets back and forth. There are several types used on networks, including:
- Layer 2 Router: This type passes data back and forth on the same network. For example, an unmanaged ethernet switch passes data along a single LAN.
- Layer 3 Router: This type passes data back and forth between similar networks. For example, a fully managed switch can pass data along machine LAN and corporate LAN if they share the same protocol.
A gateway is a type of router that manages traffic between dissimilar networks. A device for bridging communications between ethernet/IP and RS-232 Serial is an excellent example of a gateway
VLAN, often used on industrial networks, stands for Virtual Local Area Network. A VLAN is a common way of connecting physically separate LANs, allowing remote connectivity between devices.
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (or SCADA) is a combination of hardware and software elements that allow process monitoring, data collection and processing, contributing to process improvement. All of these are significant benefits to a network. A typical SCADA system will collect data from HMI's, PLC's, sensors, and end devices, process the data based on predetermined parameters, and then send/display the processed information in a meaningful way.
Network Address Translation (also known as NAT) is a protocol used in some routers and switches that allows a private (not unique) IP address to be shared with a different network. A common use of this is for an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) machine builder to use a common IP address scheme on all machines that they manufacture and include a NAT capable switch for integration into an ethernet network of any IP scheme.
Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (or DHCP) simply means that the device's IP address is assigned by the router, gateway, or switch. This assignment is how most of us connect to the internet with our laptops and cellphones, and the same goes for your industrial network. DHCP allows us to connect to the ISP without needing to know the network settings.
DLR stands for Device Level Ring, an ethernet/IP based protocol that allows devices to be connected in a ring rather than in linear (series) or star (parallel) fashion. If there is a failure in the ethernet media in a ring on your network, the information is passed backward around the ring, circumnavigating the failure, and maintaining communications.
A Requested Packet Interval (also known as an RPI) is the period of time in which data is updated.
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