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Stop Chasing Your Tail with Industrial Network Loops

Dog chasing his tail to represent struggles with network loop topology

“Chasing your tail” is one of those phrases that just rolls off our tongues without too much thought. But what does it really mean? We’ve all seen a dog or cat startled by its own tail who decides to give chase. They can expend a lot of energy, time, and effort in pursuit, but where do they end up? Right back where they started. It’s entertaining to watch, but incredibly frustrating to participate in.

When it comes to industrial networks, The Agilix Solutions team has seen that frustration from customers firsthand. In the latest installment of our Operational Network Effectiveness (ONE) content series, Industrial Network Specialist Ted Davis covers the four biggest reasons you may have found yourself chasing your tail with an industrial network loop, and details steps to overcoming it.

Reason #1: Multiple Device Types Around the Ring

Many organizations experience problems because they lose sight of the number of different devices around the ring. Rings are inherently easy to introduce instability into the network. The more variables you have around the ring, the higher the likelihood it becomes unstable. Defining which types of devices will be on the ring allows you to know which type of protocol to deploy. You want to keep the number of different types of devices on the ring to a minimum to create predictable data flow around the ring.

Reason #2: Inconsistent Firmware Releases

Over time, devices will be replaced in the ring.  This can begin to introduce more firmware versions on the ring.  The more firmware versions present within the loop, the more you open up your loop to undocumented features or bugs leading to unpredictable communication flow.

Reason #3: Data Flow and Process Around the Ring

When troubleshooting issues with your industrial network loop, ask yourself “Where is the aggregation point? Where is the data flowing to on the ring?” The answer to this question will help you to ensure the bandwidth on that part of the ring is sufficient to handle the data flow.

Reason #4: Inconsistent Bandwidth (The Roundabout Conundrum)

Roundabouts used as an example of bandwidth in loop network topologyA traffic roundabout can be compared to an industrial network ring. Imagine a standard roundabout with four roads leading to it, each with a traffic inlet and a traffic outlet. The roundabout consists of a single, predictable lane all the way around it. It’s clear where and how you’re entering the roundabout and where and how you’re exiting it. Traffic flows freely and congestion is minimized.

Now imagine there is a different number of lanes between each of the four inlet and outlet roads. There are three between streets A and B. That’s number gets constricted down to one lane between streets B and C. But from street C through street D and back to street A, there are seven lanes. Back at street A, we switch back to three lanes.  How functional is that roundabout going to be? Confusion and traffic problems will run rampant because drivers don’t know which lane to get into or out of.

With a variable bandwidth between each street, unpredictability runs rampant and leads to collisions and traffic flow interference. The same goes for the bandwidth of your ring. It’s important to maintain a consistent bandwidth to ensure the smooth flow of traffic.

Ready to Stop Chasing Your Tail?

Agilix Solutions Operational Network Effectiveness logoAgilix ONE is an Agilix Solutions service designed to help you overcome common (and unique) industrial network issues. It starts with a network assessment. Ted and his team will help you understand the current architecture and limitations of your network so we can develop a plan to overcome them together. Reach out to your account manager to start the conversation.