It’s time we give Jim Montague over at Control Global a head nod for his recent coverage of the process fieldbuses. For those of you who have been following Jim’s writing you know he has been quite the advocate for Ethernet, but it is his most recent writings on the current state of the process industries that have been the most enlightening. “Okay, so it’s obvious that fieldbuses never went away. It turns out I was too focused on over-hyped technology trends and wasn’t paying enough attention to what was going on in the real world” said Jim.
In our current world of faster and faster processors, bigger and bigger hard drives and our unquenchable thirst to consume information, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest “sexy” new tech development that promises to be faster and better than the previous. Wireless was the sexiest new thing for a while until common sense kicked in and people started realizing that while it has some killer applications (large rotating equipment was one great example I heard), it doesn’t fit everywhere and frankly can’t be used everywhere. As with all technology, the market ultimately dictates where and how technology will be used and more often than not common sense applications drive implementation. This is the reason that Ethernet hasn’t yet grasped the process industry. It just wasn’t necessary. The killer application wasn’t there yet. FOUNDATION fieldbus’ HSE has seen slow adoption because prior to FOUNDATION for ROM, there wasn’t a strong value proposition since the increased speed alone wasn’t needed. (FOUNDATION for ROM certainly has changed the HSE landscape and a very strong value proposition exists now for HSE, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Unlike the internet service providers of the world who have to meet the demands of users streaming massive high definition video files, the process industry is a historically slow moving giant with slow moving networks. Why is that? Simple, because faster networks have just not been needed. A “large” file in the world of FOUNDATION fieldbus is a DD download of something in the neighborhood of 2 MB. In fact, did you know that the average file size of a registered FOUNDATION fieldbus DD in 2012 was 640 KB? That’s right. Kilobytes. By comparison, the average file size for a single MP3 music file is somewhere in the ballpark of 6 MB. That’s almost 10 times larger than an average DD file. Despite the obvious sufficiency of “slow” speed fieldbus networks, Ethernet seemed to be the next “sexy” tech advancement where speed and common interface connectivity would take over the industry. Jim Montague, however, seemed to come to the realization that Ethernet may just be another big uproar that doesn’t have the strong footing it might otherwise want our industry to believe. After all, is Ethernet actually addressing a user’s needs or is it an advancement for the sake of advancement?
Jim’s take on it is that while there is a lot of media buzz going on right now about Ethernet, the true work horse of the process industries quietly lumbers along at 31.25 kbps picking up project win after project win all while meeting the needs of the user today and in future expansion projects.
Jump on over and read Jim’s article on Control Global’s website called “Fieldbus Protocols Support All Processes“.