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Ethernet was not originally developed to meet the requirements of real-time industrial automation systems and it was commonly considered unsuited for applications at the field level. Hence, several techniques were developed to make this protocol exhibit real-time behavior, some of them requiring specialized hardware, others providing soft-real-time guarantees only, or others achieving hard real-time guarantees with different levels of bandwidth efficiency. More recently, there has been an effort to support quality-of-service (QoS) negotiation and enforcement but there is not yet an Ethernet-based data link protocol capable of providing dynamic QoS management to further exploit the variable requirements of dynamic applications. This paper presents the FTT-Ethernet protocol, which efficiently supports hard-real-time operation in a flexible way, seamlessly over shared or switched Ethernet. The FTT-Ethernet protocol employs an efficient master/multislave transmission control technique and combines online scheduling with online admission control, to guarantee continued real-time operation under dynamic communication requirements, together with data structures and mechanisms that are tailored to support dynamic QoS management. The paper includes a sample application, aiming at the management of video streams, which highlights the protocol's ability to support dynamic QoS management with real-time guarantees.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2005