Linking OT and IT with Single Pair Ethernet

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The Ethernet Alliance recently launched an industry focus around Operational Technology (OT) networks in building and industrial automation, seeking to connect with more expertise in the building- and industrial-automation industries as Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) creates new opportunities in OT networks.

“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,” said Peter Jones, chair, Ethernet Alliance. “We need a bridge between the OT experts in building- and industrial-automation and the IT expertise in the traditional Ethernet ecosystem. This new industry focus will work to align the many disparate stakeholders and help the building- and industrial-automation industries get to where they want to go with Ethernet.”

OT networks, which control manufacturing processes or provide occupant comfort and safety in a building, historically have been siloed from Ethernet-based IT networks. Legacy, built-for-purpose protocols have instead dominated OT networking. In recent years, however, cybersecurity issues related to those protocols have grown more glaring, and generational transition in the workforce is creating a shortage of expertise to manage and maintain OT networks based on the legacy protocols.

SPE is a crucial technology development for allowing OT networks to become part of a seamless, Ethernet-based network. Defined in IEEE 802.3cg ‘IEEE Standard for Ethernet—Amendment 5: Physical Layer Specifications and Management Parameters for 10 Mbps Operation and Associated Power Delivery over a Single Balanced Pair of Conductors’, which was published in May 2020, SPE substantially boosts the performance, security, flexibility and manageability of the OT networks on which the building- and industrial-automation industries depend.