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Modular, flexible manufacturing solutions are more important than ever – and also easier than ever to implement, thanks to technologies like OPC UA and TSN. In this second part of our series, Stefan Bina answers frequently asked questions on the topics of performance, cybersecurity, migration and how TSN works in combination with existing fieldbus systems.

What kind of performance can I expect from OPC UA over TSN?

The technology is capable of addressing more than 10,000 network nodes, scalable from 10 megabits to 10 gigabits and beyond. Testing conducted by B&R achieved cycle times below 50 microseconds with a jitter of less than ±100 nanoseconds in a network of 200 remote I/O bus couplers totaling 10,000 I/O points. This is consistent with claims that OPC UA over TSN is "18 times faster than today's fastest solution." This level of performance makes proprietary fieldbus networks obsolete. OPC UA over TSN allows high-performance motion control traffic and bandwidth-intensive IT traffic on a single cable without interference between them.

Will OPC UA over TSN help integrate factory and machine networks with our IT requirements?

OPC UA was designed to communicate with IT systems. OPC UA over TSN will enable you to converge OT and IT networks without disturbing machine operations. This is thanks to TSN and the use of OPC UA security mechanisms familiar to IT departments today, including user authentication and authorization, encryption and certificate handling.

Can TSN and non-TSN OPC UA or normal IP devices be used in the same network?

Yes, because TSN is an evolution of standard Ethernet. TSN simply enhances standard Ethernet with real-time capabilities, so it is possible to have standard Ethernet devices and TSN devices present in the same network. Standard Ethernet devices would not need any interface or gateway to connect to a TSN network. However, only TSN-capable devices will be able to communicate in real time.

Will it be possible to synchronize POWERLINK and OPC UA over TSN?

Yes, it will be possible to synchronize POWERLINK and OPC UA over TSN devices in B&R systems.

Networking specialist Stefan Bina answers some of the most important questions about OPC UA over TSN with regard to performance, cybersecurity, migration and the combination of TSN with existing fieldbus systems.

What about running existing fieldbus protocols – such as EtherNet/IP, Profinet, EtherCAT, EtherCAT G or CC-Link IE – over TSN?

The legacy fieldbus protocols would share a common TSN network, but the devices would not be interoperable as OPC UA devices would be. These protocols also lack the semantics and methods that OPC UA provides. OPC UA has built-in security and is recognized an international standard for communication from sensor to cloud with new developments being added all the time. The key difference is system interoperability: without it, you are locked into one vendor and one automation solution, with no ability to communicate or synchronize with other systems. In a multi-vendor plant, this means you are unable to secure your communication and implement advanced functionality such as condition monitoring, line balancing, predictive maintenance, machine optimization and plug-and-produce startup and maintenance. As a machine builder, this means you are limited to the level of innovation offered by your chosen vendor.

Did you know that OPC UA over TSN...

...is 18 times faster than today's fastest solution?

...lets you converge OT and IT networks without disturbing machine operations?

…provides vendor-agnostic interoperability as a recognized international standard for all communication from the sensor to the cloud?

...guarantees cybersecurity through OPC UA security mechanisms like user authentication and authorization, encryption and certificate handling?

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