Downtime can really bite

03 May 2019

Downtime can really bite: Increase your fiber optic network’s reliability with fault tolerance and early warning diagnostics

Fault tolerance is critical to any control system for a mission-critical process to mitigate the risk of expensive or hazardous process downtime. For control applications that require fiber optic cabling, achieving fault tolerance can be complicated. Many solutions end up pieced together with disparate components that consume valuable time to locate, design, install, configure, and maintain. When a downtime event does occur, these piecemeal solutions can be expensive to diagnose and bring back online. If that weren’t enough, the fiber optic cable itself is susceptible to breaks. When this occurs, it can lead to disastrous problems if the control system is not aware that a break has occurred.

The ideal approach to increasing the resiliency of a control network with fiber optic cabling is to use plug-and-play modular fiber optic networking components designed to create a self-healing ring (SHR). This approach maximizes return on investment by leveraging fiber optic networking components to provide far more than just media conversion between copper and fiber optic cable.

Self-Healing Rings: Redundancy Without Repetition

In the traditional Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) paradigm, increasing network reliability through fault tolerance requires substantial investment in additional equipment and programming. PLCs traditionally include dual-channel redundant communication options, which create a Channel A-Channel B system, but only with additional equipment inside each node to handle the identical communications being transferred via Channel A and Channel B.

A fiber optic self-healing ring can provide the same type of fault-tolerance as a two-channel system. The fiber optic SHR is created between two or more fiber optic nodes of a network. Firmware monitors the fiber optic pathway health and performs rerouting when necessary to ensure communications data delivery throughout the network.

Self-healing rings provide uninterrupted network functions without requiring a “second network” to be built, which prevents costly downtime and eliminates the costly investment to set up and maintain a secondary system.

Equipment Change With No Downtime: Hot Swappable

When equipment does fail, or when it needs to be replaced as part of a preventative maintenance schedule, the downtime incurred to make this change comes with a cost just as it would if it were an unplanned downtime event. Modular fiber optic components enable the replacement of modules without requiring the control system to be taken down. The modular components operate on a common backplane that allows for changes in real time.

Early Warning Diagnostics

The same communication link that establishes the self-healing ring can also provide early warning alerts about the health of the fiber optic network.

These alerts can warn the control team of:

  • Fiber optic component/module health
  • Fiber optic cable health (cable degradation or breakage)
  • Power supply health
  • Enabling early warning of problems with key network cabling and equipment can eliminate expensive and/or hazardous downtime, another scenario in which modular fiber optic network components avoid downtime

The Advantage of Modular Fiber Optic Networking Components

Ultra Electronics’ fiber optic networking components are designed from the ground up as an elegant solution for busy control engineers. A key feature of these components is simplicity: they are true plug and play components that can easily scale and adapt to changes in the network topology. Once they’re plugged in, these components also increase your network’s fault tolerance with a self-healing ring, hot swappable component changes, and early warning diagnostics. These components eliminate the need for expensive and complicated PLCs and will protect your control system against costly downtime and potentially catastrophic failures.

Ultra Electronic Energy’s products are built for demanding environments and are proven across industrial applications. Our expansive catalog and creative engineers ensure that every solution is tailored to your network’s current and future needs while avoiding unnecessary complication. Get and stay online with modular fiber optic networking components from Ultra Electronics Energy.

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