Substations are becoming more complex with greater demands placed on the network and connectivity. To address these challenges, our customers asked us to deliver a next-generation routing solution that builds upon our 10+ years of utility routing expertise – and we’ve fulfilled that request with the new Cisco Catalyst IR8340 Rugged Router.

The Catalyst IR8340 is much more than a new version of its predecessor, the Cisco 2010 Connected Grid Router. The Catalyst IR8340 is an all-new industrial routing platform that delivers powerful and versatile capabilities. It meets the substation needs of today and its modular upgradability will meet future needs with ease.

Before we dive deeper into how it can help you meet the increasing demands on your substation, let’s discuss the background that led to this highly capable and unique platform.

Substation network operators are facing many challenges in the operational landscape. One of these is the increasing complexity of balancing the wide array of new power generation assets (such as solar and wind) with an equally complex consumption model (such as increase in electric vehicle charging). This real-time balancing act requires operators to connect more assets for increased visibility and control. Quite often it demands higher bandwidth with lower latency in a confined operational footprint.

In fact, many utilities require more capabilities in the same footprint of their networking infrastructure so they can reduce costs (rack space, power, cooling) and simplify the substation network complexity to aid troubleshooting.

As the utility grid becomes more automated, the reliance on the supporting communications network infrastructure becomes even more critical to the reliability and efficiency of the grid itself. This increase in grid digitization also enlarges the cyber security threat surface. Regulators and utilities strive for an ever-increasing security posture as many traditional substation security approaches come up short due to lack of asset visibility and centralized security policy enforcement.

Finally, with this expansion of connected assets in the substation and the constant drive for operational efficiency, utilities are challenged on how to:

  • Deploy networking equipment easily at scale and with centralized configuration control to reduce field visits.
  • Manage and operate these new networks through their lifecycle and ensure highest reliability.
  • Secure the substation and provide asset reporting where required.

To solve these challenges, utilities are working toward full-scale grid modernization — including substation automation. So, it’s no longer a matter of if but when and how they will upgrade.

Based on more than a decade of global collaboration with the utility industry, we have developed solutions to digitize and automate substations including the new Cisco Catalyst IR8340 Rugged Router.

It provides high performance routing (WAN, SDWAN), switching (substation LAN), security, timing, and edge compute, all from a single platform. It is specifically designed for the performance challenges of any substation automation architecture with a small footprint and ruggedized form factor (certified to IEC61850-3 and IEEE1613).

The Catalyst IR8340 is part of a new Cisco validated approach to substation automation and management. Together with the recently released Cisco Catalyst IE9300 Rugged Series Switches, the routers provide a validated architecture that unifies the substation LAN and WAN – adding the performance, security, scale, and management required for the modernization of the substation.

5 essentials for the next-generation substation

Continuing on from our previous blog, let’s review the key points that address five critical capabilities for a modern substation with regards to the Catalyst IR8340:

  1. Performance at scale. Utilities are asked to connect more assets at higher speed with more assets streaming more data (e.g., synchro phasors). The Cisco Catalyst IR8340 Rugged Router provides 2 WAN ports and 12 LAN ports all within the same chassis with further modules supported to expand the WAN options. The Catalyst IR8340 has dramatically greater throughput at the WAN and LAN ports (tests have shown approx. 950Mbps for both LAN and WAN ports carrying mixed traffic) than its predecessor, the CGR2010. The router also provides routing and switching capabilities since it’s a single integrated platform. In addition, the Catalyst IR8340 also delivers IP/MPLS support to the substation edge and supports Cisco’s SDWAN solution as a ruggedized router.
  2. Asset visibility and cyber threat detection. Using the integrated edge compute capabilities of the Catalyst IR8340 as a security sensor, Cisco Cyber Vision enables utilities to gain an accurate, real-time view of their substation assets (visibility and vulnerabilities applicable) directly within the substation networks, especially when paired with Cisco Catalyst IE switches. This provides operations staff with East-West traffic visibility across the substation LAN, as well as North-South traffic visibility via the WAN to the control center. It also monitors network activity and flags anomalous behaviors that could indicate malicious activity—all without any external sensors requiring dedicated SPAN port traffic connections.
  3. Enterprise-grade management and automation. Substation operators are increasingly managing their substations as scaled IT assets, utilizing the deep knowledge and capabilities of Cisco’s industry-leading network security and management tools. The Catalyst IR8340 runs Cisco IOS-XE and builds upon this using Cisco DNA Center for automation, assurance, and compliance, as well as leveraging Cisco security features such as TrustSec, MACsec, 802.1x, VRF, VLAN, and Flexible NetFlow to the substation LAN via the built-in switching ports. As a Catalyst router it also delivers Cisco SD-WAN to the substation, so you can securely simplify deployment and management, as well as save costs by configuring SD-WAN to select the most relevant data transport path for different types of traffic.
  4. Support for industry standard protocols. The Catalyst IR8340 supports many protocols relevant to the substation, including IEC62439-3 PRP & HSR for redundancy (the Catalyst IR8340 is acting as a PRP RedBox or HSR DANH), Cisco REP for ring topologies and multiple spanning tree variants. The timing module provides a direct GNSS connection and provides IEEE1588 PTP timing as a Grandmaster for the substation LAN, supporting C37.238 power profile and IEC61850-9-3 PUP. It supports widely used substation protocols such as IEC61850 (Layer 2 GOOSE, SV and layer 3 MMS), IEC104, DNP3, and Modbus, that are essential to substation operations. The Catalyst IR8340 natively supports serial connections via the serial interface module to provide either protocol translation (IEC101 to 104 and Serial DNP3 to DNP3 over IP) or tunneling of serial data across the network (using TCP/UDP Raw Sockets feature) allowing customers to support legacy serial assets while migrating to ethernet enabled devices. The Catalyst IR8340 also provides support for T1/E1 WAN connections via a network module for integration into existing SONET/SDH transport environments to ease the move to IP based technologies.
  5. Application hosting and edge compute. Substation operators are looking for ways to run applications locally in their space-constrained substation rugged environments. The Catalyst IR8340 is designed with this need in mind and with support for Cisco IOx to power Cisco Cyber Vision and the utility’s own applications within the substation. Examples include virtual RTUs, security applications, and many more.

Advantages of using the Catalyst IR8340 for next generation substation automation

  • The Catalyst IR8340 has something to offer for both IT and OT teams, with powerful automation tools available to suit either.
  • The Catalyst IR8340 is a key component being validated as an integral part of the new Cisco Substation Automation validated Designs.
  • The Catalyst IR8340 provides connectivity and flexibility for now and the future with 4 expansion slots, so you can add 5G, P-LTE, FirstNet, 450Mhz, and future connectivity technologies, or additional storage or compute whenever it is needed. You will also have 4 copper, 4 combo, 4 SFP LAN ports, and 2 combo WAN ports at the ready.
  • The Catalyst IR8340 condenses multiple traditionally separate components into a single platform: WAN router, LAN switching with PRP/HSR/REP support, PTP Timing, and Security (Zone Based firewall, Cisco Cyber Vision Sensor).
  • And it fits into the same rack space as the CGR2010!

So, for your next substation automation project, consider the Cisco Catalyst IR8340 Rugged Router and its flexible feature rich capabilities. You can start with simple use cases for secure connectivity and enable additional capabilities as your operational requirements evolve (e.g., enabling the Cisco Cyber Vision sensor, adding substation timing by adding the Timing Module or adding private or public cellular support via the range of 4G/5G Modules).

Learn more

Cisco Catalyst IR8340 Rugged Router Datasheet


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Marcus Smith

Utilities Solution Manager

IoT Product Management