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SPE sparks initiative to link OT networking expertise

11 August, 2020

The Ethernet Alliance, a global consortium dedicated to advancing Ethernet technologies, has launched an initiative to bring together people involved in OT (operational technology) networks used in industrial and building automation. The initiative is a response to the development of the Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) cabling technology.

“As the building- and industrial-automation industries come to rely more on SPE, there is a clear need to bring together the people creating and using the technologies so they can better understand one another,” explains Peter Jones, who chairs the Ethernet Alliance. “We are well-positioned as a bridge between the OT experts in building and industrial automation, and the IT (information technology) expertise that we have traditionally served across the Ethernet ecosystem.

“This new Ethernet Alliance industry focus will work to align the many disparate stakeholders,” he adds, “and, in turn, help the building- and industrial-automation industries get to where they want to go with Ethernet.”

OT networks used for manufacturing processes, or to provide comfort and safety in buildings, have historically been separated from Ethernet-based IT networks. OT networks have been dominated by dedicated proprietary protocols. In recent years, however, cybersecurity issues related to those protocols have intensified, and experts who can manage and maintain OT networks based on the legacy protocols are becoming harder to find.

Following the approval of SPE connectors as an IEC standard earlier this year, this is the planned future roadmap for the technology

The Ethernet Alliance predicts that SPE will allow OT networks to become part of seamless, Ethernet-based networks, adding that it will boost their performance, security, flexibility and manageability.

“The benefits SPE can bring to building and industrial automation are exciting,” comments Brett Lane, chief technical officer at Panduit. “SPE is a vital next-generation technology which stands to help industry achieve better business outcomes through the continuation of convergence across the enterprise, and the Ethernet Alliance’s launch of this industry focus around OT networks is well timed.”

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