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Whitepaper: Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) explained

17 July 2019

Depending on the era and application, industrial automation technology has been influenced by a wide variety of fieldbuses and protocols for connecting individual field devices and control systems since the 1980s. So far, these specific fieldbuses have satisfied the real time conditions of the relevant application while remaining incompatible with one another.

In IT by contrast, Ethernet has established itself as the dominant data transmission technology. The Ethernet used today was set out in IEEE 802.3 in 1983. Layer 1 (physical layer) and Layer 2 (data link layer) are thus defined in line with the OSI network reference model. Familiar modes of data transmission include LAN cable at 100Mbit/s; 1Gbit/s; 10Gbit/s, WLAN (IEEE 802.1) or fibre optics. 

Hitherto it was customary to keep IT apart from OT (operational technology) or the industrial automation layer. In the wake of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) this approach is undergoing a radical rethink. IT and OT should and must be dovetailed in order to converge the physical and virtual worlds. This is the only way to record and analyse key sensor and production data in big data systems and cloud applications and perform targeted production improvements. 

It would seem natural to use Ethernet for data transmission in both worlds, however the current (standard) Ethernet does not meet real time requirements, as it can only send data packets on a best effort principle, thus precluding time-synchronise data transmission. 

A new transmission standard called "Time Sensitive Networking (TSN)" is therefore gaining ground. The TSN standard is specified in der IEEE 802.1 Working Group, see:

TSN is based on (standard) Ethernet and enables deterministic OT data transmission with guaranteed latency and QoS, parallel to conventional IP traffic (from IT, for instance) on the same medium, thus paving the way towards merging the two worlds.

If you wish to learn more about the TSN standard and how it applies to automation, download Murrelektronik’s latest whitepaper.

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