Intel IT white paper explaining industrial manufacturing transformation through software-defined networking (SDN).
Until recently, we used a classic design for our factory floor networks. While the classic design is reliable and functional, it poses several technical challenges, especially because the process tools are provided by a variety of third-party suppliers and require stringent security controls. The challenges of the classic design include the following:
- Limited automation capabilities, which in turn hinder scalability. Manual configuration processes make it difficult to maintain our Copy Exactly! methodology.
- Increased cost and effort for maintaining security due to:
– Rigid virtual local area network (VLAN) and private VLAN (PVLAN) capabilities, and limited on-switch memory, both of which impede micro-segmentation – Inflexible and difficult-to-interpret access control lists (ACLs).
– Inability to select and redirect specific network traffic for increased inspection.
- No support for higher network speeds, such as 100 GbE.
- Some components are reaching end-of-life.
Over the last few years, Intel IT has transformed Intel’s factory data centers using software-defined networking (SDN), leaf/spine topologies and other modernizations. This success has inspired us to apply the same constructs to the factory floor network, which connects and runs the semiconductor tools that produce Intel’s silicon products.
In the network industry, ACI is not typically considered for use outside the data center, but we saw an opportunity to take advantage of its capabilities to resolve the technical challenges described above. Deploying Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) switches powered by the Intel® Xeon® D-1500 and D-1600 processor families has helped enable us to solve some of the technical challenges associated with the classic factory floor network. ACI and SDN bring a wide range of quantifiable benefits, including the following:
- Completed new factory network builds with 85% less headcount and weeks faster through the use of automated scripts.
- Increased efficiency through the use of open-source and vendor-created automation playbooks.
- Implemented a resilient zero-downtime architecture.
- 100x times more efficient on-switch memory utilization for security implementation, compared to the classic network.
- Factory reliability, security, long life and high performance enhanced by Intel Xeon systems on a chip (SoCs).
We have proven that ACI can meet factory floor requirements and is now used as the plan of record (PoR) for all new Intel factories. We are gradually migrating existing factories to the new network design and anticipate broadening our use of automation through ACI, further enhancing Intel factory efficiency and reliability.
Our overarching goal is to automate every aspect of our factory floor network. This won’t happen overnight, but as we make progress, we will generate increasing efficiency benefits. Some next steps include:
- Continue to uplevel our network engineers’ coding skills.
- Extend L2 networks across multiple campus shells.
- Broaden use of ACI to the factories’ Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) system and the Industrial Control System (ICS).
We hope that by sharing our journey of bringing ACI to the factory floor, we can encourage other industrial manufacturers to pursue this same transformation.