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Home > Other > How industrial Ethernet switching chips are evolving?

How industrial Ethernet switching chips are evolving?

Update Time: 2022-07-18 16:29:18

Reliable and stable communication interconnection is the lifeblood of industrial automation. Considering the huge number of sensors and actuators in industrial equipment and the variety of systems and protocols in the industrial reality scenario, a series of traditional gateways are too many to count to transfer and convert the data of the whole process. Industrial automation must consider the requirements of IT systems for open data access and real-time control.

Industrial Ethernet has played a big role in improving the efficiency and synchronization of large data transmission compared to field buses. Regarding hardware devices, Ethernet switching devices consist of an Ethernet switching chip, CPU, PHY, PCB, interface/port subsystem, etc. Among them, the Ethernet switching chip is a very important component. The Ethernet switching chip is a dedicated chip for switching and processing large amounts of data and message forwarding and is a special integrated circuit optimized for network applications. The chips from the major switching chip suppliers are usually more powerful and have complete protocol support for business users.

Switching chip integration

Network switching functions are usually implemented at the second MAC layer of Ethernet. Early Ethernet switching chips generally only had the MAC layer, and then the real Ethernet connection was achieved through the PHY physical layer chip located at the first Ethernet layer. With the development of technology and users' demand for simplification of system architecture, network switching chips that integrate the physical layer (PHY) and link layer (MAC) emerged and are widely used.

Many have achieved this integration for 10M/100M switch chips. In 10G switch chip and ordinary switch gigabit port usually still have to use a dedicated physical layer chip. Talking about Ethernet connectivity, Broadcom is a must. Broadcom has long been the leading echelon in Ethernet switching chips, and its Ethernet switching devices/switching chips are the most comprehensive in the industry.

For integration, Broadcom's Roboswitch architecture Ethernet switching solutions feature 5-24 port configurations and support Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet (GbE). The level of integration in these Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet switching solutions combines all the functions of a high-speed switching system, including packet buffers, physical layer transceivers, media access controllers (MACs), address management, port-based rate control, and a non-blocking switching fabric, into a single CMOS, is also quite high in industrial applications.


To ensure high data processing capability when working together, the internal logical path of the switch chip is extremely complex, and the industry-leading architecture of the major manufacturers will support multiple speeds of 100M/1GE/2.5GE and 10GE utilizing 2.5GbE/10GbE speeds to achieve high-speed uplink connectivity. The integrated switching chip CPU is also integrated directly into it to enable the design of cascade-mode enabled. Single CPU-managed switching platforms without adding external processors.

In data center scenarios and deep learning network applications, the switch chips will be more integrated, such as the StrataXGS series with the highest integration and largest bandwidth on the market, with a single integrated chip capable of scaling from gigabits to trillions of bits.

Multiprotocol support

Industrial communication protocols must be known; support for multiprotocol switch chips in industrial applications is undoubtedly more popular, which saves a lot of design trouble. ADI's FIDO5100 and FIDO5200, two multiprotocol support switch chips, are through personalized settings, the host processor downloads the firmware to support the required protocols, and the firmware is included in the real-time Ethernet multi-protocol switch driver, which is downloaded at power-up.


Scalable and flexible configurations allow the switch chip to interface with any host processor easily, then utilize the protocol-specific device drivers for flexible system partitioning, and enable freer utilization of any vendor's protocol stack by simply integrating that stack with the multiprotocol switch chip driver. Switching chip multiprotocol support greatly improves efficiency in industrial automation scenarios.

The never-ending need for efficient data transfer and real-time

Regardless of the development trend, the switch chip's need for efficient transmission and lower latency has never changed. Especially in industrial applications, transport control has a very demanding real-time requirement. The FIDO series mentioned above uses a Timer Control Unit TCU to implement synchronization mechanisms for various industrial Ethernet protocols, supporting EtherCAT cycle times as low as 12.5μs and PROFINET cycle times as low as 31.25μs.

Microchip's single-chip VSC75XTSN family, on the other hand, integrates full hardware support for IEEE1588v2 Precision Time Protocol (PTP), including hardware timestamps for all PHY-MAC interfaces and high-resolution hardware PTP clocks, providing sub-microsecond synchronization for a range of industrial Ethernet applications. The demand for efficient real-time connectivity has facilitated the continued evolution of switching chips toward more efficient transmission of lower latency synchronization.


As networks move from traditional fieldbuses and 4mA to 20mA connections to Industrial Ethernet, many challenges arise in the design and implementation phases of network connectivity, and this has contributed to the upgrade of Ethernet switching chips, with powerful and flexible switching chips bringing industrial applications one step closer to the ideal Industrial Ethernet connection.


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