Design, Implementation and Validation of a System to Automatically Configure the Scheduling of Real-Time Traffic in Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) Switches

Author Toni Jorda
Supervisor/s Ines Alvarez Vadillo | Manuel Alejandro Barranco González
In Universitat de les Illes Balears, 2019.

During the last years there is a growing interest in interconnecting and integrating systems that rely on InformationTechnologies (IT) with systems that rely on Operational Technologies (OT), i.e. on technologies used in industrial systems to monitor/control a plant. This is mainly because of the potential benefits of sharing information at multiple levels, from the physical world to decision-making systems. Some examples of these benefits are an increased manufacturing flexibility, increased maintainability, lower cots, etc. 

In the context of the OT this interconnection/integration has been coined as the Industry 4.0. Since the interoperability is the core of the Industry 4.0, the different levels of a system architecture have to be interconnected by means of several communication protocols that can be easily integrated, or by means of a single protocol that satisfies the requirements of all levels. 

An appealing protocol to be used in this sense is Ethernet; not only because of its low cost and huge bandwidth, but also because it is the de-facto link layer protocol in IT systems. In the last decades, Ethernet has been adapted to meet the communication requirements imposed by industrial control systems; specially to support real-time communications. Unfortunately, a myriad of industrial-Ethernet protocols exist, which often cannot be easily integrated among them. 

In order to cope with this problem and to make Ethernet an actual enabler for the integration of IT and OT systems, the IEEE is developing a set of standards known as TimeSensitiveNetworking (TSN). The main contributions of TSN standards consist in providing mechanisms for time synchronization, reliability, network management, and deterministic and bounded communication latency. 

Deterministic and bounded communication latency is fundamental to provide real-time communication. The main mechanism TSN standards propose in this regard is the TimeAwareShaper (TAS). The TAS is a set of traffic shapers, each located in a different switch and end node of a TSN network, that adequately forward/transmit the frames to guarantee the Quality of Service (QoS) and the real-time requirements of different classes of traffic. 

To correctly operate, the TAS needs to be configured with the appropriate traffic scheduling information. Unfortunately, so far, the TAS is manually configured in each switch and node, which means that the value of each scheduling parameter has to be set one by one. This does not only constitute a tedious and error-prone process, but it also makes it impossible to automatically reconfigure the scheduling; which is a feature that TSN (and the companies that are pushing this technology forward) wants to support in the near future as a means to provide flexibility. 

The objective of this project is to design, implement and validate a system that allows automatically configuring the TAS’s scheduling parameters of the switches of a TSN network.


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