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How To Design an IP Network for an IP Based BAS System

BAS OT Network Design:  ON-PREMISE First, OFF-PREMISE Second

Scott CochraneScott Cochrane
President, CEO
Cochrane Supply & Engineering

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The BAS network topology shall include an on-premise managed IP operational technology network (OTN) to include all the hardware and software required to ensure proper network operation without being connected to any other IP network or the internet.  

Let's start with the WHAT?  

WHAT happened is overnight all the major BAS manufacturers have released new control systems that have IP application controllers.  This means the BAS RS485 network is being replaced by an IP network—so now when we meet with the owner's IT department, we will be asking for 400 IP drops instead of two?  Since that won’t fly, we as an industry need to offer IP BAS systems on an IP operational technology network installed by a mechanical contractor and supported by a facilities team that does not rely on any other network in or outside the building to operate.  

So WHY do we need our own dedicated IP OT Network?    

First and foremost, it is the mechanical contractor and facilities team who supply comfort to the tenants in a building. In order to ensure comfort, the control system must be operational and when its operation depends on an IP network, the team that installs and maintains it should have the ability to FIX IT to keep the occupants comfortable.  Another reason why is because everyone else does it.  Security contractors putting in cameras rarely put them on an owner’s network, the contractors in those segments just know they need to provide the switches and servers for their system to operate every time.  We in the BAS industry screwed up when we started asking the owners for access to their networks. We thought we were saving money, but after 400+++ hours meeting with owners’ IT departments, I think we learned our mistake!!!!!  

HOW do you design an IP OTN for BAS???  Great Question...

It starts with an ON-PREM first mentality, which means the entire network needs to be supplied in the building being controlled and the system has to control regardless of an internet connection.  The OTN will require new BAS IP components to establish the network and serve the software applications within it.  An IP network requires two key elements: a server running OTN software and IP managed switches at the server that are distributed throughout the building that connect to all the IP controllers.  

The server is the brain of the system and runs the BAS software along with any other software required to operate it.  The server will need to either be in a rack or a cabinet and accompanied by required components to include a power distribution unit (PDU), uninterruptible power supply (UPS), a managed switch and, of course, a firewall.  

The IP managed switches are place throughout the building in ideal locations to connect the mechanical and electrical control systems.  The switches can be connected to each other with ethernet or fiber optics, depending on the distance.  The managed part of the switch means it has a brain and software that allows for basic network management, troubleshooting and managing access to the ethernet ports on the switches.  These managed switches become the highway of information back to the server and because we are using ethernet or fiber, the speeds and throughput are through the roof!  

Have questions?  Cochrane Supply is here to help!  We have an OT Network Specialist on staff, whom has supported countless IP projects for engineering firms on proper OT network design.  Greg Fitzpatrick will be hosting a special one-hour SMART BUILDING SEMINAR on OT Network Design and Specifications on March 26th, 2020 at 2:00pm EST JUST FOR AUTOMATED BUILDINGS READERS!!!!  Click here to register now!


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