When Free Is Not Free!

Recently, I’ve had some interesting conversations with a developer in Texas about EtherNet/IP. They have customers that are requiring their I/O device to speak EtherNet/IP. This company doesn’t have much of a presence in the industrial market so EtherNet/IP is something completely foreign to them. Having EtherNet/IP means they can meet this customer’s requirement but might not add a lot of other product sales.


Naturally they want it to pay for itself through additional product sales. And their not sure they are going to get those sales. That presents quite a quandary for them as our software isn’t exactly cheap. In fact, I am very honest with everyone that our stuff is usually one of the most expensive solutions that they can find.


Why is that? To provide the very best product we can and the very best service is expensive. We travel to all the ODVA meetings, all the SIG meetings and we often provide assistance for customers throughout the lifecycle of their product at no extra charge. We also provide tools, extra software modules that extend EtherNet/IP capabilities, test lab support and object model design assistance. Customers sometimes come here and camp out to learn what they need to know to make their product successful.


It is really true that you get what you pay for.  My friend John Mendocha was just telling me yesterday how his wife bought him new flashlights (Chinese made – very low price) and how within 24 hours both flashlights had broken.


So, what happened? Well, I encouraged this guy in Texas to get the free EtherNet/IP software. I couldn’t possibly discount our software enough and still provide him with the service he will need in the future. I told him that the free stuff presents a lot of risks, but short term, nothing is cheaper than free.


Some of the risks with the free stack are:

·       Designing an Object Model that makes sense when you don’t really understand what an EtherNet/IP Object Model is

·       Implementing your application objects without breaking the EtherNet/IP stack

·       Finding a device to test your EtherNet/IP device. If you use a ControlLogix you’ll be looking at $5K for the programming software plus RsNetworx.

·       Getting a listing of the last 100 hex messages sent to your device at the ODVA test lab and not knowing what the hell to do now

·       Having a problem at your first customer site where you device intermittently connects and disconnects and now knowing what to do


Essentially these are mid term and long term costs that pale in the face of the short term cost for a proven, reliable Royalty Free EtherNet/IP Source code stack, the tools you need to test it, the support you need to get it implemented correctly and having someone to call who’ll work with you when your customer is waiting for a response.


In the end, Mr. Texas decided that the short term cost for an “expensive” EtherNet/IP source code stack wasn’t really that expensive after all. It was really just a prudent business expense. And I think that was the right decision.


And now a blatantly commercial message: we have a royalty free Client and Server solutions for lots of platforms and operating systems including: Netburner EtherNet/IP, VxWorks EtherNet/IP and Freescale EtherNet/IP.