groov Manage: Network

Posted by Ben Orchard on Jul 5, 2023 9:11:30 AM

Learn Network configuration in the next of our new 12-part groov Manage video series.

If you've used a groov EPIC controller before, you're familiar with its 12 front-page menu buttons. But what power does each unlock? 

This 12-part groov Manage video series takes a deep dive into each home screen menu button, and our blog posts expand on the video. The simple blue menu contains a surprising amount of flexibility and granular control over the many programs and functions that each groov EPIC can run.

Last week we covered the Accounts button. Now let's move on to groov Manage: Network.


There can be no denying it: Automation devices are becoming more connected so their data can be used across many software and network applications, and further, so external data can easily be pulled in for use by the control strategy to make better control decisions.

groov devices are no different in this regard, but where they ARE different is in just how secure and flexible their network options are out of the box.

For starters, how many convoluted menus have you had to dig through in the past to find the current network status? Even Windows 11 has made it harder to find than ever before!

Not so with groov Manage. A simple click on the disarming blue button marked Status shows you the link state of all four network configurations—the hostname, IP address, subnet, and gateway settings—at a glance. Whether right on the EPIC's built-in touchscreen, on a phone, tablet, laptop, or PC (or in fact from any device with a web browser), you can smoothly navigate through groov Manage's network settings. 

One of the unique network features of EPIC is its ability to use popular and well-understood IT network services like DHCP and DNS. Never heard of these services? With the help of Google, here's a brief description of each:

  • DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) is a network management protocol used to dynamically assign an IP address to any device, or node, on a network so it can communicate using IP. DHCP automates and centrally manages these configurations rather than requiring network administrators to manually assign IP addresses to all network devices. DHCP can be implemented on small local networks, as well as large enterprise networks. (courtesy of TechTarget Networking)
  • DNS (Domain Name System) is one of the industry-standard suite of protocols that comprise TCP/IP, and together the DNS Client and DNS Server provide computer name-to-IP address mapping name resolution services to computers and users. (courtesy of Microsoft)

These are the same services your standard computer laptop or PC uses on your home or corporate network to join the network and share its services. Do you have to continually ask your IT department for static IPs for your control devices? Well, if you take advantage of DHCP, you may not have to any longer. And what's more? IT loves this capability because they can better manage their networks, and the devices on them. And that helps improves relations between you and your IT department.

DNS makes it much easier to access your EPIC on your network. Rather than having to remember cryptic IP addresses for each EPIC, you can access your systems by their hostname. For example, what would you rather remember? or MyEpic?

Changing your hostname is easy. Just click Configure, and then click in the Hostname field. Create any unique hostname you like (e.g., MyEpic), save, and you're done. If your network supports DNS, you'll now be able to navigate to your EPIC with your new hostname at the URL https://MyEpic. Cool, right?

We know that not every factory floor network has these services available, so groov Manage gives administrators the ability to set static IP, subnet, and gateway addresses the old-fashioned way.

The point is, regardless of your network configuration, you can get the EPIC up and talking in short order, on either of its two Ethernet ports, Wifi, or even VPN.

Speaking of VPN, what exactly is that? Again, a quick Google search, and here's a description:

  • A VPN can extend a private network (one that disallows or restricts public access), in such a way that it enables users of that network to send and receive data across public networks as if the public networks' devices were directly connected to the private network. The benefits of a VPN include security, reduced costs for dedicated communication lines, and greater flexibility for remote workers. (courtesy of Wikipedia)

While it'd be fun to dive deep into all the benefits of what VPN connectivity in groov Manage can do for you, we'll save that for another blog post. But what's worth mentioning is just how simple it is to connect your EPIC to a VPN server. All you need is an OpenVPN configuration file from your VPN server administrator, click to upload it, and boom...you're connected. 

Another astonishing feature is behind the Port Redirect menu option.

Customers often put groov EPIC in front of their legacy and insecure but fully functional PLCs. In doing this, they use the dual, segmented Ethernet feature of EPIC, connecting one Ethernet port to the PLC and the other to another network. This not only protects the PLC from unauthorized users, but also often helps democratize the PLC data by making it available where it's needed.

But what if you need to make some changes to the PLC code? How can you access it through the EPIC? That's where this menu option comes into play.

Set up an inbound port to the EPIC and an outbound port for the PLC using the Port Redirect rules, and you can use your PLC software to make any necessary code changes. Then disable the rule, and the PLC is once again fully segmented and protected. Think of it as a conduit through the groov EPIC from one network to the other, only as and when needed.

Need to test your network connectivity? groov Manage lets you not just ping other IP addresses from the EPIC itself, but also test if a given port is open or not. This simple port check is incredibly powerful to diagnose whether a specific service is listening on a host.

What about understanding how your traffic is being routed through your network? The Traceroute menu option allows you to check how many hops and the time it takes to traverse your network. Very few industrial PCs (much less PLCs) expose this functionality so cleanly and clearly as groov Manage running on groov EPIC or RIO. Lastly, looking up a hostname is also possible right from the groov Manage Network menu.

We live in a connected world. groov Manage allows you to connect quickly and most importantly, securely. 

If you missed last week's Accounts video and blog, you can find it here

And if you'd like a sneak peek at the entire 12-video series, we can help with that, too. We've combined all 12 groov Manage videos into one 18-minute version if you want to watch the complete overview in one viewing. But remember, over the next several weeks we'll take a deeper dive into each segment.

Cheers Mate.



Topics: Videos, groov EPIC, groov Manage, groov Manage series

Written by Ben Orchard

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