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There are many Industrial Ethernets to choose from – what features set PROFINET apart?  There are many, but for today let’s focus on these: Adoption, Speed, Diagnostics, and Ecosystem.

Adoption – PROFINET has the largest installed base of any Industrial Ethernet.  And it’s growing faster than number two globally and in North America.  Having the largest installed base attracts additional users and additional vendors.  Expect a broad variety of products, diagnostic tools, and services as a result.  GE Intelligent Platforms, Siemens, and Phoenix Contact have established PROFINET as their exclusive backbone and most other controller suppliers offer PROFINET connectivity as well.

Speed – Whether you need update speeds in the hundreds of milliseconds or in fractions of a millisecond, PROFINET provides it.  This makes PROFINET suitable for slower systems sometimes found in process applications and in very fast systems needed for high speed IO and motion control.  One network does it all; there is no need for a separate IO network and a different motion control network.  This simplifies configuration and diagnostics.  And installers and maintenance folks only have one network to be trained on.

Diagnostics – PROFINET leverages the lessons learned from its serial fieldbus predecessor, PROFIBUS, and from the IT protocols for today’s Ethernet.  Like PROFIBUS, PROFINET provides diagnostics at the device, module, and channel levels.  So you are alerted if an IO rack becomes disconnected or defective; if a module stops working; or if one input on a module has a problem.  For example, if a digital output is indicated as on but no current is flowing, you are alerted.  Ethernet protocols like Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) are used to extract data from Ethernet switches whether those switches are standalone Ethernet switches or switches built into automation devices.  Is a connection bad? Are there an excessive number of retries?  These answers can be pinpointed using SNMP.  Diagnostics prevent downtime!

Ecosystem – There is a healthy community of PROFINET aficionados.  Some folks advance the technology through participation in the Technical Committee / Working Group structure.  Others work in our Regional PI Associations (RPAs), PI Competence Centers, PI Training Centers, and PI Test Labs.  Still others prepare newsletters, websites, webinars, and training classes.  Vendors develop PROFINET products.  Other vendors provide developer tools or diagnostic tools.  One trade press editor commented at one of our PI North America General Assembly Meetings that he had never seen so many competitors behaving in such a collegial fashion.  All of us – competing vendors, users, support staff – are committed to advancing PROFINET.

–Carl Henning

[Cross-posted at GE Intelligent Platforms blog:]