Industrial Ethernet: Switches help flexibility, security

Designing and deploying a robust and secure network infrastructure requires protecting the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of control and information data. Smaller LANs can help manage different types of network traffic. Creating domains of trust limits access to authorized personnel. These practices require a new segmentation methodology.


Designing and deploying a robust and secure network infrastructure requires protecting the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of control and information data. Establishing smaller LANs helps manage different types of network traffic and creates domains of trust to limit access to authorized personnel. These practices require a new segmentation methodology.

Users traditionally segmented networks by location, but they can now segment by function. That’s because VLANs (virtual local area networks) provide traffic segmentation like separate networks did, enabling users to logically segment areas of control to increase performance and minimize network latency and jitter.

A Layer 3 switch can route traffic between and across VLANs based on IP addresses. This enables a more flexible segmentation model that directs traffic only to where it is needed. A number of routing protocols have been developed that allow Layer 3 switches and routers to reliably route packets to their destination based on IP address.

These routing protocols allow various devices to communicate and maintain viable routes between each other so that packets can always be forwarded if a viable path exists even as connections or devices fail.

Choice of routing protocol, and the configuration and maintenance of the Layer 3 switches and routers typically raise a point of contention between manufacturing and IT personnel.

- Gregory Wilcox, Mike Hannah, and Mark Devonshire are with Rockwell Automation;

- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media,,

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