By Tim Widdershoven, Ideal Networks
Founded six years ago in Vilanova I la Geltru, Spain, Forense-Industrial specializes in industrial Ethernet. The company provides consultation, troubleshooting services and the supply of hardware to some of Europe’s largest manufacturers including Bayer-Elix Polymers, TetraPak, Casa Tarradellas, Fiberpachs-Iveco, Tavil, Freixenet and Damm. The company also provides network design, supply and ongoing support services for large-scale infrastructure projects, such as the Gdansk tunnel in Poland.
Working with large international companies and on such sizable projects, fixing communications problems quickly is critical. Forense-Industrial is always under pressure to minimize downtime for customers, even during what is often complex testing, configuration and troubleshooting on industrial networks.
“The usual method of network troubleshooting, by isolating devices one-by-one using a PC and software, is simply far too time-consuming, especially for customers with a large number of devices on their network,” says Jorge Comas, founder of Forense-Industrial.
“In my experience, carrying a laptop to jobs can also be inconvenient and cumbersome,” he continues. “Plus, setting up and using a laptop to conduct testing and troubleshooting in a small or busy area, is often very difficult.”
To address these issues and transform the company’s troubleshooting capabilities, Comas opted to use LanXplorer Pro from Ideal Networks. Compact and handheld, LanXplorer Pro quickly finds and diagnoses problems in networks, cabling and Ethernet devices using copper, fiber and WiFi interfaces and has helped Forense-Industrial save hours on every troubleshooting job.
“With LanXplorer Pro we can take a snapshot of the entire network once commissioned using the NetMap feature; this has transformed our network troubleshooting processes,” explains Comas. “This original NetMap provides a reference point, so when troubleshooting is required at a later date, we can simply take a new snapshot, and then compare the two.”
The new process ensures that Forense-Industrial can easily identify faulty or missing devices. Compared to traditional troubleshooting methods using PCs and software, this simple process also saves time, and can be done in a few minutes, rather than taking one or two hours.
Testing of the physical layer can also be carried out quickly with LanXplorer Pro. Forense-Industrial uses features such as wiremap for miswires, split pairs, opens and shorts, and Power over Ethernet (PoE) detection and load testing. This makes it easy to understand what has caused devices to malfunction and exactly where those problems are within the network.
A further issue when working with industrial Ethernet is avoiding duplicate IP addresses, as industrial Ethernet requires any device on the network to have a static IP address. To overcome this, Forense-Industrial use the “Top 10 bandwidth talkers and listeners” feature of the LanXplorer Pro.
“This function provides us with a simply way to scan and review the range of IP addresses so that we can select a free IP address to connect to the network,” says Comas “This helps avoid lost production time and can be done quickly and easily using just one handheld device.”
Another challenge faced by Forense-Industrial is the sheer scale of some large infrastructure jobs. For example, the company was recently tasked with the planned installation of 72 IP cameras on a network in the Gdansk tunnel. With the tunnel stretching over 1 kilometer and incorporating 40 switches connected by more than 3 kilometers of singlemode fiber, network testing on-site would be both challenging and time-consuming.
To overcome this, Forense-Industrial used the SignalTEK NT network transmission tester from Ideal Networks. Prior to installation in the Gdansk Tunnel, the IP camera network was assembled and configured in their workshop. The SignalTEK NT tester was then used to simulate the traffic of the IP cameras. This ensured that all the hardware was functioning correctly and to the customer’s specification.
“Problem-solving over such a large area as the Gdansk tunnel would have been both difficult and time-consuming,” says Comas. “This way we were able to find and correct any issues prior to installation on site.”
SignalTEK NT also enabled Forense-Industrial to confirm that the level of network traffic was as intended and that the system was not overloaded by faulty devices or incorrect configuration. In addition, the company was able to provide a report to the customer, which proved that the system could support the required bandwidth.
After jobs, such as the Gdansk tunnel rollout, have been completed, Forense-Industrial also uses SignalTEK NT to ensure network performance is the same as when the network was assembled and tested in the workshop. The compact device is also used to test the installed fiber links.
“Optical testing is easy with the SignalTEK NT because it uses standard SFP modules and does not need calibration,” Comas adds.
A cost-effective option, SignalTEK NT costs up to 30 percent less than comparable equipment. As it tests both copper and fiber cable, only one compact device is needed. This has helped Forense-Industrial to keep costs under control and reduce the amount of equipment that technicians and installers need to transport to the work site.
With a range of testing and troubleshooting features that allow networks to be configured and tested quickly to client specifications, LanXplorer Pro and SignalTEK NT are an essential part of the operations at Forense-Industrial. In their workshop, the company is able to use the devices for a wide range of tests, whether as a traffic simulator, to verify copper or fiber bandwidth, or for testing QoS and VLAN in industrial switches.
Comas concludes, “We are using SignalTEK NT and LanXplorer Pro more every day as companies make the migration from serial protocols to using Ethernet as standard.”
Tim Widdershoven is global marketing manager for Ideal Networks (www.idealnetworks.net).