The When, Where and Why of Ethernet

The somewhat manufactured controversy over “Ethernet” versus “Fieldbus” continues to rage on, albeit in a slightly weaker form.  Some months ago analyst firm IMS published a report that seemingly foretold the death of “fieldbus” networks in favor of Ethernet-based protocols.   The issue of fieldbus and Ethernet being mutually exclusive is tenuous at best.  The FOUNDATION fieldbus specification, for example, includes H1 FOUNDATION fieldbus that operates over twisted pair wire and is designed specifically for use with process sensors and actuators.  We also have HSE, which is a high speed Ethernet based network that shares the same fundamental block-based structure of H1.  

A closer look at the data from IMS actually shows greater than average growth in Ethernet-based network node counts over the next several years, while node counts for “fieldbus”-based devices will still represent the majority at the end of the forecast period.  You can read my analysis of the IMS research here.  
This recent article from Control Engineering provides a refreshing perspective to this issue as well, and discusses how application requirements dictate the type of protocol and network infrastructure you should use in your plant.  It’s worth a read.  

About FieldComm Group

The FieldComm Group is a global standards-based organization consisting of leading process end users, manufacturers, universities and research organizations that work together to direct the development, incorporation and implementation of new and overlapping technologies and serves as the source for FDI technology. The FieldComm Group’s mission is to develop, manage and promote global standards for integrating digital devices into automation system architectures while protecting process-automation investments in HART and FOUNDATION Fieldbus communication technologies. Membership is open to anyone interested in the use of the technologies. For more information, visit their web site at

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