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Top Benefits of Using Managed Ethernet Switches



When choosing between managed and unmanaged industrial Ethernet switches, it is a simple calculation: the more complex or likely a network will grow in the future, the more managed switches are needed. A managed vs. unmanaged switch ultimately comes down to control and what level users want. 

Managed switches are often referred to as “intelligent switches”, offering advanced control and used for applications requiring network traffic monitoring or segmentation and a high bandwidth. They use software to analyze and improve network performance and users are able to choose the optimal operating parameters for the application at hand. 

In this white paper, we will explore some of the top benefits of using industrial managed Ethernet switches: 

1. Advanced management & troubleshooting capabilities 

Finding data and functionalities you need in a switch can be frustrating if you do not have the ability to manage and monitor diagnostics and network performance capabilities. With these types of tools, users can get help with field troubleshooting in industrial applications, verifying the first-line connection in the same network, log system messages based on severity level and more. 

In addition to these features, some managed switches also offer fiber SFP monitoring. This monitoring system allows users to see “Temp,” “Tx/Rx Power,” “Voltage” and get automatic warnings sent directly to “E-mail,” “SNMP” or “Log.” 

2. Network traffic optimization 

With managed switches, users have the ability to examine how much data — and the various types — that are being received and sent from each port. With the ability to examine the traffic flow, comes the ability to decide how to control and optimize it, such as network segmentation with multiple groups. Managed switches are able to logically group devices together to isolate traffic between groups, even when the traffic is passing over the same physical switch. 

Also, the Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) capability allows a switch to “listen in” (commonly called “IGMP Snooping”) on network multicasts. The switch then delivers traffic to ports where the attached device signals that it is available to listen to the broadcast. 

3. Virtual Local Area Networks distribution 

Managed network switches may be programmed to distribute data to Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs). VLANs are subgroups of data interfaces, created by programming instead of wired connections. 

There are two basic types of VLANs: 

• With an IEEE 802.1Q VLAN, the switch inserts a VLAN header in each information packet to identify VLAN recipients. 

• With a Tag VLAN, the VLAN is assigned to a specific port. All users of the port must be members of the same VLAN, which simplifies network management. A single connection can be used to manage multiple VLANs – physical location is irrelevant. 

4. Cybersecurity – features & security access 

The key of successful cybersecurity is for only necessary communication to flow through a network when it is needed and only with the devices that need it. Managed switches are an important part of that success.

Switches can limit network access to only trusted devices and prevent users from setting up an unauthorized sub-network. Managed switches also limit management plane access via user authentication such as RADIUS, LDAP and more. 

Specific managed switches on the market also offer advanced security options such as secured connections (HTTPS & SSH), 802.1x and IP security function and account privilege capabilities. With multiple account management, users can set up several levels to access/ configure the switch. This also allows for more flexibility in the field. The Storm Control feature gives users the ability to manage the occurrence of packet flooding on the LAN and consequent traffic to prevent the degrading of network performance. 

5. Redundancy & resilience 

Redundancy — where mission-critical components and functions are duplicated — is the surest path to system reliability. Avoiding unplanned downtime in industrial applications is a main objective to keeping processes, data and the business as a whole in top condition. A practical solution that provides a high degree of redundancy is “redundant ring technology” using managed Ethernet switches. 

For example, you can reduce redundant network cabling and planning costs through “self-healing X-Ring™ recovery technology” of managed Ethernet switches available from B+B SmartWorx powered by Advantech. The sub-20ms self-healing X-Ring ™ rapid auto recovery technology allows different ring-healing methods to coexist in one switch and supports different topology options, providing a substantial improvement over Spanning Tree and Rapid Spanning Tree. The original redundant ring technology, Spanning Tree Protocol or STP, allowed ring recovery times of 30 seconds, which is too slow for many industrial applications. Different ring-healing methods include couple-ring, dual-homing and multi-couple ring. 

6. Flexibility & future expansion 

Network change and expansion is easier with industrial managed switches. Adding or reconfiguring a collision domain or VLAN is simple when done through the control interface. Changes made with fewer errors in less time certainly meet the industrial engineer’s prime directive of: “Do it better. Do it cheaper. Do it faster.” 

Ethernet can transmit data from a variety of older technologies and has effectively extended the life of these technologies into the foreseeable future. It is also leading-edge in its potential for speed and applications. History suggests Ethernet will long be the standard, meeting the demands of new technologies. Managed switches will likely continue to be essential components of advanced networks.