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Open-source Ethernet stack will cut development costs

10 November, 2009

Austrian researchers have developed an open-source software stack that will help developers to connect devices cost-effectively to industrial Ethernet. The EtherNet/IP Adapter Stack, developed by the Automation and Control Institute (ACIN) at Vienna’s University of Technology, is aimed at developers seeking low- or no-cost communication stacks for simple EtherNet/IP products.

Developers will be able to use the stack in products such as sensors, actuators, simple drives, pneumatics and I/O components. Various vendors are already developing products based on the stack and the first of these are expected to reach the market during 2010.

“The stack`s small footprint, modularity and flexibility make it both a time- and cost-saving solution for product developers seeking a standard EtherNet/IP communication stack for industrial products,” says Alois Zoitl, director of research at the University’s Odo Struger Laboratory.

The stack, written in the C programming language, is an open-source implementation of EtherNet/IP, the open network standard promoted by ODVA. EtherNet/IP uses the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) on standard Ethernet to enable communications between industrial control devices and business-level systems. The stack will extend the reach of CIP technology to new classes of simple devices. Optional or vendor-specific CIP objects can be added.

The stack complements commercial Ethernet TCP/IP and UDP communication stacks already used in many Ethernet-enabled devices. When incorporated into a product, it can accelerate EtherNet/IP compliance testing.

A  community of developers working on the stack is already taking shape and improvements and modifications suggested by this community will enhance its performance.

“An open-source stack with a support community gives industrial product developers a faster, more cost-effective way to integrate their products with CIP-based networks like EtherNet/IP,” says Harry Forbes of the ARC Advisory Group. “Using open source will accelerate time to market, decrease software development risks, and reduce many costs of custom software development. In addition, the availability of a peer-reviewed open-source component for EtherNet/IP will provide product suppliers with greater assurance of full interoperability.”

Rockwell Automation has sponsored Vienna University of Technology in the development and release of the stack. “The availability of this open-source stack demonstrates the openness of EtherNet/IP and makes network connectivity more accessible to a greater variety of product developers,” says Kenwood Hall, vice president of Architecture and Systems Development at Rockwell Automation.

The license and royalty-free adapter stack can be downloaded for free via SourceForge.net






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