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Ethernet Extender - Leveraging Legacy Technologies in Next-Generation Communication Networks
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November 12, 2010

Leveraging Legacy Technologies in Next-Generation Communication Networks

By Mae Kowalke
TMCnet Contributor


In with the new, out with the old? Not necessarily. Sometimes new and old can work very well together.

Industrial organizations such as manufacturing firms, oil and gas production companies and mining operations stand to benefit significantly by upgrading to converged voice and data communications technologies like VoIP routers. The bottom line: these new systems provide long-term cost savings achieved by consolidating hardware and streamlining operations.

But, what about the often significant investment organizations made in legacy equipment? Fortunately, a well-though-out upgrade strategy can definitely leverage legacy systems to shorten return-on-investment timeframe and enhance the benefits of moving toward converged communications. 

In a recent white paper on this topic, VoIP routers and network equipment provider Patton Electronics highlights two types of legacy investments that should definitely be considered part of the transition to next-generation networks.

Asynchronous devices like meters and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are the reliable work-horses of legacy data streams. In most cases, converting these to work with next-generation systems is the most cost-effective strategy.

Sync-serial transport technologies like Ethernet switches, IP routers and CAT5 cables are ubiquitous in the realm of twisted-pair infrastructures. Ripping out these items is often not an option. 

The key to leveraging legacy technology when upgrading to next-generation systems is identifying opportunities for tying both together.

Three specific categories types of solutions can play a key role in bridging the gap between legacy communications equipment and next-generation industrial automation networks.

First, using interface converters are a very cost-effective way to realize the benefits of IP convergence while preserving investment in reliable, asynchronous devices.

Second, IP-enabled multiplexers leverage sync-serial transmission technologies that operate over existing twisted pair infrastructure. This is a best-of-both-worlds advantage.

Third, Ethernet extenders are a great tool for solving the environmental, cabling and distance shortcomings associated with standard Ethernet.

Read the full white paper for more information on these topics, along with a discussion about the shortcomings of Ethernet in industrial environments.

More information about this and related topics is available on the’s VoIP Routers community.

Mae Kowalke is a TMCnet contributor. She is Manager of Stories at Neundorfer, Inc., a cleantech company in Northeast Ohio. She has more than 10 years experience in journalism, marketing and communications, and has a passion for new tech gadgets. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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