The market for hardened industrial Ethernet switches and other types of industrial Ethernet network infrastructure will grow to nearly $1 billion during the next 5 years, according to a new ARC Advisory Group study, Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure Worldwide Outlook.
The ARC report notes this strong recent growth, and predicts that theres no barrier in sight that will bring this above-market growth to a halt.
The industrial Ethernet infrastructure market was measured in an earlier ARC report at $124 million in 2004. This latest ARC study finds that the market grew to more than $260 million in 2006. The report forecasts that the market will continue to grow at a 29% annual clip, and will reach $955 million in 2011.
Ethernet has captured a growing share of the global automation networking market, but ARCs market research has shown that many other types of industrial networks have also been expanding during the past two or three. Growing markets for many manufactured products and the huge expansion of new manufacturing capacity in China and other parts of Asia have resulted in growth among manufacturing automation companies.
Some, and perhaps many, of the applications now served by these various industrial device networks and motion control networks will eventually migrate to industrial Ethernet. As machine automation system designs evolve to use more Ethernet-based devices, the market for industrial Ethernet switching will grow as well.
Presently, Ethernet reaches only a fraction of the devices that use industrial device networking.
Industrial Ethernet Switches Far Different from IT
Industrial Ethernet switches are built quite differently from the type of Ethernet switches that are found in office wiring closets. Industrial switches usually feature rail mounting options that make them easy to mount in factory or field enclosures. Sometimes the switches are rugged enough to be mounted directly on production machinery. The switches also feature passive cooling schemes, and are protected against the dusts and spills that can be found in manufacturing areas. They also may use different and more rugged connectors than office Ethernet networks. As Ethernet penetrates down the automation ladder into more simple devices, network reliability and performance become critical in the production process. This is most evident when Ethernet is used to directly control the motion of machine elements, which is beginning to happen now. Harry Forbes, a senior analyst at ARC Advisory Group and the principal author of the new report, says, Ethernet continues to grow into a greater number of application areas within manufacturing. While Ethernet will never entirely replace device networks, it will continue to pick up more applications over time. We also see a trend for devices to embed some form of Ethernet switching internally, especially in motion control applications. This may blur the distinction between an industrial device and an Ethernet switch at some point in the future. Regardless, ARC expects this kind of double-digit growth for industrial Ethernet switching to be sustained going forward.