Industrial or commercial network components?

Ethernet is more and more frequently used in industrial applications. What are the requirements on the Ethernet infrastructure for these applications?

Increase uptime and reduce total lifecycle cost

There are two important factors that needs to be addressed when choosing between commercial and industrial network components.  Are they meeting environmental challenges and ensuring maximal up time?

Industrial network components often need to operate in environments where fans, the traditional cooling method for commercial products, are not a sustainable alternative due to dust, moisture or corrosive conditions. Industrial-quality components are known to operate at higher temperature ranges, support rough conditions and can be expected to have a longer lifetime.

Reliability is the biggest advantage of industrial quality components. For mission-critical functions in industrial applications, high availability and fail-over capability are important. Industrial products are certified, not only from agencies but  also from life cycle experience.  


Important certificates and standards for industrial network equipment:
  • G3 coating/compliance – corrosive environments
  • MTBF figures (MIL-HDBK-217) - fanless equipment, vast temperature range
  • Marine certifications – vibrations

The most essential differences when using industrial or commercial equipment in industrial environments:

Commercial network Fully industrial network
High availability


Equipment cost +
Maintenance effort
Summary: Total cost of ownership
Learn more about each area:

High availability

Mean time between failure (MTBF) figures provide a way to compare indications for how long devices keep functioning as intended. There are two main standards MIL-HDBK-217K (a military grade standard assuming 24/7 usage) and Telcordia SR332 (a telecom standard). Non-industrial equipment typically uses Telcordia SR332 to calculate MTBF figures. This standard  which gives a 25-300% higher figure than MIL-HDBK-217K. 

Industrial switches and routers are fanless, i.e. no moving parts. As a result, a non-industrial switch typically operates 5-7 years, compared to an industrial switch which is created to be functioning 15-20 years.

Finally, electromagnetic interference (EMI) in industrial environments can cause communication challenges. Industrial equipment is designed to be able to withstand these disturbances to a much larger degree. 

Equipment cost

Since commercial network components do not fulfill the same requirements as industrial, commercial equipment is typically possible to source at a lower initial cost. 

Maintenance effort

In addition to effect availability, the need to replace commercial equipment more often drives maintenance cost. Of course, new equipment needs to be sourced once old fail, but in addition the new equipment needs to be physically installed and configured.

Summary: Total Cost of Ownership

Using industrial equipment in industrial applications may not result in the lowest initial up front cost. However, over the course of a system’s lifecycle there will be many factors contributing to a lower total cost of ownership. But most importantly, it will keep your system running!

Important documents

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