The Network is an Asset

I always think of PROFINET as facilitating Asset Management – conveying messages from assets (especially process devices) to warn of impending failure and allow proactive maintenance. Then at PI Australia’s PROFIBUS & PROFINET Global Forum and Automation Innovation Summit, one of the speakers said something simple, yet profound: “The network is an asset.”

What asset management information do you get from your network? If it’s PROFINET (or PROFIBUS), a lot!

Of course, PROFINET and PROFIBUS provide asset management information about the automation devices too:

To deal with the network as the asset:

With PROFINET we add the ability to use standard IT protocols to get asset management messages about the network itself:

  1. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to query Ethernet switches in devices or standalone for excessive retries or disconnected cables.
  2. Link Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP) to extract the network topology and pinpoint missing devices or links.
  3. Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to web browse to web pages in devices for diagnostic (and configuration) information.

These protocols can be used with HMI’s, engineering tools, or purpose-built diagnostic devices that are always “on.” See “PROFINET and IT Protocols” for more protocol details.

With PROFIBUS there are hardware devices that attach to the network permanently (or as needed) to provide details about the network’s behavior. Is a terminator missing? Is a wire working loose? Is a connection corroded? Is there electromagnetic interference? Diagnostic tools can prevent these problem from causing unexpected downtime.

The network is an asset. Treat it as one.

–Carl Henning