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ISA recently published the fifth edition of Industrial Data Communications, co-authored by Lawrence (Larry) M. Thompson and William T. (Tim) Shaw. In this Q&A feature, the authors provide important insights on the book’s value and significance.


Q. Why did you feel it was important to introduce/write a new edition?

A. (Thompson) Data communications is not a static or necessarily “mature” technology. New concepts, applications, and data rates are continually changing. While at a somewhat slower rate, those that improve process communications filter into the industrial areas. A text must be updated, at the very minimum, every five years to stay current.

A. (Shaw) Communication technology keeps evolving and IP-based communications as well as wireless communications and cybersecurity are all issues that need to be considered today. The new edition was needed to adequately cover these and several other topics.

In addition, most of the topics included in prior editions needed to be updated and expanded. A lot of effort was put into addressing the emerging and competing Ethernet-IP-based industrial protocol standards. The result is an up-to-date and comprehensive overview of current industrial communication technologies, including a focus on Ethernet-IP and wireless technologies.

Q. How and why does this updated edition improve the value of the book…and make it more important for automation professionals to read?

A. (Thompson) The new edition includes far more material on every aspect, except for the older technologies. In the area of industrial data communications, automation professionals need to know when to employ switches, routers, and gateways. They need to understand the concepts of operating systems in the industrial area and know the different modalities of software applications involving networking. The objective of the new edition is to deliver a better overall understanding of the underlying principles, concepts, and technology employed when connecting equipment to a network.

In addition, Tim Shaw’s valuable perspectives as co-author were vital as the book needed to update and amplify many critical areas of industrial networking, such as routing, IPV6, cybersecurity, VPNs, etc.

A. (Shaw) Automation systems and applications today are making use of converged IP-based LANs and wireless networking. They must be kept secure from malicious cyberattacks. This revised edition helps inform automation professionals on the issues and requirements for utilizing modern communication technologies in a safe and secure manner.

Q. The revised edition updates Ethernet and router technologies, provides a more detailed description of VPNs, and gives greater attention to cybersecurity. Could you explain the importance of including new content in these areas?

A. (Thompson) Ethernet has become the defacto standard (for ISO Layers 1 and 2) in communications and is ever increasing in the industrial areas, replacing older proprietary protocols. VPNs have become the main secure method for remotely accessing a network.

Furthermore, due to the lack of security features in installed industrial equipment (from water/wastewater through refineries through electrical generating facilities), there is an increasing probability of attacks against critical infrastructure. Industrial users of data communications must be aware of the risks and take steps to mitigate these risks.

A. (Shaw) Because IACS may share a converged Ethernet LAN infrastructure with other voice, data, and security applications, it is vital for automation experts to understand the advanced features and capabilities in switches and routers so that they can communicate with IT departments and understand the impact of some decisions on how their systems could be impacted.

On the issue of VPNs, it is common to see a requirement for remote technical administration of systems and networks as well as for technical support from vendors. VPN technologies are a critical tool for enabling such remote access and connectivity in a cyber-secure manner.

Today, adequate cybersecurity is no longer a desirable feature but a management requirement and even, depending on the industry segment, a regulatory requirement. Automation professionals must be aware of cybersecurity vulnerabilities as well as the methodologies and technologies that can be applied to establish and maintain adequate cybersecurity.


Obtain your copy of Industrial Data Communications, Fifth Edition today.
To get your copy of this informative handbook, order it today on the ISA website.