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Cisco helps Norway Utility Modernize Power Grid

August 22, 2014 at 5:41 pm PST

BKKYou may not have heard about BKK AS. They are actually the second largest power grid owner in Norway with over 180,000 customers. Like many power and energy companies, some of their equipment has been around a long time. It works, but it’s getting old and it’s time to move on to something more cost effective. That’s where Cisco comes in.

I remember starting out my career in IT years ago, when IBM was selling the ‘System370 range’ as it was called. You’ll remember that in those days “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”. As a young sales person, I found the whole IT thing fascinating. I remember that in those days the customer communications were more measured. We had typing pools, we had face-to-face meetings, and the whole selling process took time. The business customers were upgrading their systems, and the newer kit had a great business case. Maintenance on the old installation was more, over several years, than the cost of new equipment. If you were to do nothing, your competitors would steal a march on you and you’d lose customers as your costs would begin to erode your business.

Well the same is true these days. In the Utility business there is a lot of older (though still reliable, in some cases) equipment. However, some of the older time-division multiplexing (TDM) networks are reaching the end of their useful lives. So it was with BKK AS. Maintenance was becoming onerous. But it’s not just about IT costs anymore. It’s about the missed opportunity of not doing anything. New grid applications are requiring any-to-any communications flows and also pushing for IT and operations technology (OT) convergence.

BKK Fiber AS CEOBKK, therefore, decided to build one reliable IP/Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network to ultimately securely connect all systems and grid devices. Like many commercial business customers, BKK operates a separate IP network that supports its commercial broadband services. Having had a positive experience using Cisco® technology for the commercial IP network, BKK chose Cisco for the new utility network as well. That’s IT/OT Convergence! Rick Geiger talks about it in his series of blogs stating with: Energy Networking Convergence Part 1 – The Journey From Serial to IP.

The new network needed to support a variety of grid applications, including very critical protection systems for the high-voltage grid. In addition, BKK is using teleprotection systems (both distance protection as well as current differential protection), which require the communications network to support extremely low latency (< 10 ms), deterministic behavior as well as very high availability. So the network needed to be deterministic -- a common need for process control networks.

“Cisco offered the hardware and software features, as well as the reliability, that we needed to put our packet-based utility network into production,” says Svein Kåre Grønås, managing director/CEO, BKK Fiber AS. “It’s also reassuring that Cisco understands where the utility industry is heading, and is committed to connected grid services.”

So what are the results? Well here’s something taken straight out of the newly published case study:

Moving to a next-generation, packet-based utility network will save BKK significant operational costs for the utility network due to the ability to use cost-effective, standardized IP networking gear and avoid maintaining two separate networks at substations.

“Building and operating a high–bandwidth, packet-based network has given us a lot more flexibility. In addition, we can leverage the same processes and skill sets that we use to operate our Cisco commercial broadband network,” says Grønås.

With the new IP-based utility network, BKK no longer needs to reserve bandwidth for TDM communications, and now has more bandwidth available because it can be dynamically allocated. As a result, BKK can now offer the same network resources at substations that are available at corporate office locations. Workers can securely access needed documentation and other network resources at substations and power plants, instead of printing documents beforehand or calling colleagues at the office to gather information as they did in the past.

“This represents a major improvement in workforce enablement, productivity, and maintenance efficiency,” says Grønås.

In addition, this sets up BKK for success for the future. The new IP backbone will alllow BKK to provide new IP-based services and new capabilities in managing the power grid, such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and distribution automation. In the future, BKK can assign IP addresses to sensors and relays to develop smart grid technologies and provide greater visibility into its electrical
grid network.

“The utility industry is changing fast as smart grids become reality and more devices become part of the Internet of Things,” says Grønås. “With our Cisco-based IP utility network, we’re ready to reap the benefits of this new paradigm.”

You can read the whole case study which outlines the Cisco products and services here: Norway Utility Modernizes Power Grid.

Whilst I’m now proud to work at Cisco, some things never change -- the emphasis on solving business issues of enabling business opportunities are key -- it’s not just about cost savings. With Cisco heading towards being the leading IT company in the world, I’m sure we’ll see even more of this kind of customer success in the future.

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Western Power Distribution creating the Blueprint for Grid Modernization with Cisco

July 27, 2014 at 6:04 pm PST

I’ve been to the UK twice this year. The traffic is terrible! Worse than I ever remember! Commentators that’s a good sign -- a sign of economic prosperity. That certainly seems to be the case in the UK. My last European-related blog -- Ferguson Group Ltd keeps an Eye on Operations with Cisco Physical Security -- talked about the Oil industry and how the UK’s fortunes were turned around by the North Sea Oil discovery at about the same time the US astronauts were landing on the moon.

This time it’s the Utility Industry -- electric power to be exact -- that’s causing a stir.

Creating the Telecommunication Blueprint for Grid Modernization, Weston Power Distribution had already chosen Cisco for a Low Carbon Study, building a pilot communications infrastructure to support 11kV grid reinforcement monitoring. The Flexible Approaches to Low Carbon Networks (FALCON) initiative, a government funded study project in the UK has the goal of improving the  industry’s understanding of infrastructure needs in a low carbon future.

U.K. utility regulator Ofgem has estimated that £32 billion of new grid investment will be required within the next 10 years, twice the rate of investment over the previous two decades. Western Power Distribution (WPD) undertook a study to see how the cost of reinforcing its 11kV grid can be reduced based on smarter investment that draws on innovative intervention techniques that can replace or supplement conventional methods.
The UK wants to reduce carbon emissions by 80%, while still handling the peaks and troughs of increasing demand. “Reliable and secure near real-time communications is a key element to the FALCON initiative”, as Andrew Longyear, a Cisco thought leader on the subject commented. “The telecommunications and data management within our project such as FALCON is the SMART in Smart-grid, added Roger Hey, Future Networks Manager, Western Power Distribution.
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The key objectives of the Cisco communications network solution for WPD included:
  • Designing and deploying an IP-based communications infra structure using IEEE 802.16e WiGRID access and backhaul technologies
  • Helping ensure adherence to WPD’s security policy for design and implementation
  • Learning and disseminating all information and findings related to the technologies deployed so far.
  • Creating a blueprint for WPD and for other utilities in the United Kingdom as they test the same intervention techniques

And the intended benefits? Here’s what Sanna Atherton, Innovation and Low-Carbon Networks Engineer, Western Power, said in the video: “The benefits of Project FALCON are to increase the capacity of the network within the Milton Keynes area, and to enable customers to connect to low-carbon technologies”

Watch the video above to see how the initiative is progressing and to hear about the business outcomes achieved and expected. Read the write-up (Western Power Distribution Chooses Cisco for Low Carbon Study) that gives some more background to the project and some technical insight as to how you might benefit from this approach. As always, I’m indebted to the folks in Cisco and the customer for the source material. A big ‘Thank you’!

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Unveiling Cisco Collaborative Operations and Secure Ops Solutions

July 24, 2014 at 10:32 am PST

Cyber security risk management and compliance for industrial control environments -- especially in the Oil and Gas Industry, and the ability to connect experts for mission critical communications and collaboration are key areas that Cisco is addressing with two new services-lead solutions.

We’re living in changing times. Cyber attacks are on the increase and critical infrastructures are under threat. Just finding oil and  extracting it economically is becoming increasingly difficult. These two factors are top-of-mind for the oil and gas executives I talk to. Whether it’s an Integrated Oil Company (IOC) like Royal Dutch Shell, or an Oil Services company like Halliburton, many companies are under pressure to secure their infrastructure to protect against cyber, geo-political or operational threats and reduce risks associated operational challenges.

You’ll remember from my recent post: High Energy at Cisco Live in San Francisco, where Alan Matula, EVP and CIO  of Shell talked to John Chambers at Cisco Live about how Shell and Cisco were partnering to secure critical infrastructure. Alan talked about how the changes in the oil and Gas industry -- in particular the new non-traditional methods (hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” and horizontal drilling) mean that hundreds, even thousands, of drill sites may be needed, rather than the more modest half dozen or so that were required in the past.

As the processes required become more complex, and the Internet of Everything enables improves workflows that were not possible in the past, organizations need more visibility into their business and need to have tools that will positively impact the bottom line by protecting against risks, improving efficiency and lowering site downtime.

That’s were the Cisco Secure Ops and Cisco Collaborative Operations solutions come in.

First off, let’s look at Secure Ops:

Greg Carter COS QuoteIt actually provides “Critical infrastructure security as-a-service” and uses a convenient service wrapper and attaches a set of service level agreements. What it does is support cyber security risk management and compliance for industrial control environments. It addresses risks using a combination of people, process and technology before, during and after a risk or security event takes place. It’s made up of tightly integrated Cisco and third party products and services.

  • It is designed to be “dropped in” to brownfield or greenfield environments and delivers unparalleled capabilities and security control mechanisms.
  • The integration extends into commercial arrangements with automation suppliers for services like qualified patch lists and anti-virus updates.

The business benefits are:

  • Business leaders gain situational awareness for security maturity and compliance within various parts of the business.

  • Site leadership and management benefit from reduced management complexity and increased consistency across individual sites, leading to optimized operational costs.

  • Site technical leaders are provided with a technical solution to help manage security and compliance on a per-site basis as well as valuable tools to increase it through standardized interfaces and capabilities

  • Corporate risk and compliance leaders receive near real time information on operational risks associated with cyber-security threats and adherence to compliance policies.

Here’s more about the Cisco Collaborative Operations Solution:

Phil Papatz SOS QuoteIt’s actually a collaborative portal that combines voice, video and data collaboration in a single, secure view. It’s an ‘always-on’ style of collaboration that can bring in multiple technologies like Cisco Video Surveillance Manager; Cisco IPICS; landline; mobile; two-way radios and remote speaker integration; chat functionality; WebEx and multiple application sharing. All on a single pane of glass (well, in an ops room that could be a huge wall screen!).

What it’s designed for is operations personnel working in distributed networks and lets remote experts help guide operations in real-time, afford greater reach per expert resource and minimize miscommunication driving faster, better decision making. It can combine multiple feeds, and individuals and feeds can ‘come and go’ as required during a collaboration period. In the case of an Oil Services Company, that could be weeks or months!

The business benefits for this solution are:

  • Platform enables communication between stakeholders at all times.

  • Remote Experts can be instantly connected with on-site personnel using voice, video or data.

  • Solution creates opportunities for workforce development and training, safety improvements, and risk mitigation

Whilst related solutions, many customers may start implementing one before the other depending on their particular circumstances. Remember this is largely a services offering, so customers have the comfort of knowing that Cisco, along with our partners, are ‘bringing this together’ for them to address key business issues.

There’s a lot more information at the cisco.com site here if you care to take the time to peruse.Also, you can read the Press Release here: Cisco Delivers Two New Industry Solutions to Protect Against Security Threats and Enhance Collaborative Decision Making.

What do you think?

 

 

 

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Security and Collaboration – Top of mind for IT and OT (Operational Technologies) professionals

During the past ENTELEC event held in Houston, I had the opportunity to chat with Shawn Birch – Partner Development Consultant At Tait Communications to ask him about his impressions of the shows and what would be the key care-abouts of IT people during this Oil and Gas event.

Shawn Birch in the Cisco ENTELEC booth

Shawn Birch in the Cisco ENTELEC booth

Tait Communications is a multinational global radio communications company with headquarters based in Christchurch, New Zealand. The company has offices in 20 countries and employs approximately 1000 staff.  Tait develops voice and data radio technologies, exporting about 95% of products from its Christchurch manufacturing base.

Tait specializes in designing, deploying, supporting, and servicing complete mission-critical unified communication solutions in industries such as Oil and Gas and it is a Global Advance technology partner of Cisco around collaboration solutions and #IoT.

Here it is a short transcript of the things I found very relevant from our conversation:

ENTELEC ClaraA 2 compressed

Cisco booth during ENTELEC

From your experience and point of view what were the key concerns and topics of interest of the customers during ENTELEC?  “Convergence of voice, video and data and secure networks for digital oilfield.”

What did we showcase together in the show floor and the key benefits for the customers? “Tait showcased Unified Critical Communication two- way radio solutions integrated together as one through the power of Cisco IPICS (Interoperability and Collaboration System). This is a robust solution that enables and allows improvements in operational efficiency without compromising security. The approach of this solution is to protect the investment in legacy systems and migrate to the next generation of critical communications”

What was the overall reaction of the customers to our demo/presentation?  “Excited about the opportunity to blend state of the art Tait two-way radio solutions into the secure umbrella of the Cisco network in support of Unified Critical Communications with multi-modal integration of PTT, (Push to Talk) technology from anywhere, anytime and with any device.”

What will be a key takeaway/final thought you would like to share with our blog-readers? “Be prepared for the future, the IoT solutions will transform the way the people do business in digital oilfields as we continue to merge technologies trough unified critical communications.”

Cisco Focused on the same care-abouts: Security and Collaboration. You can read more about ENTELEC from Peter Granger (Heads up on What You’ll See) here, and Roberto De La Mora here (What Does it Mean to You?) . During the event Cisco showcased two new use case solutions as well,  but those topics deserve a whole blog. We will keep you posted!!!….

 

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BC Hydro, Cisco and Itron – a Powerhouse in Canada

June 24, 2014 at 9:23 am PST

With just under two million customers, BC Hydro is deploying the first standards based multi-services in production FAN network with IPv6 802.15.4/RPL mesh to manage the Automated Metering Infrastructure(AMI), Distribution Automation(DA) and other advanced gird applications.

The design is based on Cisco’s Connected Grid Solution utilizing Cisco’s Field Area Router (CGR) and standards based Smart Meter Field Area Network (FAN) technologies and Itron OpenWay® CENTRON® smart meter as well as Itron’s meter data management, collection engine and reporting software.

BC Hydro is fast moving to build an IPv6 network able of supporting 2 Million routable IPV6 addresses in a secure, resilient, and manageable way.

British Columbia for BC Hydro BlogBC Hydro has 41 Dam sites, 30 Hydro facilities and 9 Thermal units and, from a transmission perspective,  has 18,000 km of Transmission lines 260 substations, and 22,000 steel towers!

On top of that, BC Hydro has 56,000 km of Distribution lines  Approx. 900K poles, over 300K of transformers that serve 17 Non-integrated areas.

The area covered by BC Hydro is equal to the area of California, Oregon and Washington state combined. Impressed/? You will be…

OK, enough of the numbers. So what about the business? Well, the idea is to do three things, according to Fiona Taylor, director of BC Hydro’s smart metering program, said in prepared remarks to a reporter at Smart Grid Today:

“Benefits of the IPv6 network include streamlined operations, improved system visibility and revenue recovery,”

By way of history, under a mandate from the British Columbia government to implement AMI, BC Hydro awarded Itron and Cisco a $270 million contract for smart meters and networking, Gary Murphy, chief project officer for smart metering at BC Hydro, told Smart Grid Today in 2011 (SGT, 2011-Aug-10).

HAK22620 - for web

That brings us  to a key part of the customer solution. Itron. Itron is a partner of Cisco, and together we have developed some of the most innovative metering solutions for energy customers.

Also, Itron and Cisco are helping to break down silos in the Energy industry infrastructure. There is real added-value in adopting a standards-based approach to smart metering and smart grid. You can read about it in the white paper here.
Itron’s partnership with Cisco goes back a way, and you can see how it manifests itself in the whitepaper, and the background is well covered in the historic  press announcement (click on the link to view).

A couple of the objectives of the partnership deliver direct value to our customers:

  • Deliver true multi-service, multi-application (applications from metering to grid to workforce) capabilities over a common network infrastructure with standardized and robust security that any utility can implement.
  • Optimize the total cost of ownership of these networks by spreading the cost over a greater number of grid applications and devices.

The way forward is clear. And foggy. That’s because Cisco is delivering its vision of Fog Computing to accelerate value from billions of connected devices -- meters included! More about that next time when I talk about how Cisco IOx enables applications to run directly at the network edge to overcome rising operational costs and spark new innovations in the Internet of Things.

Until next time -- keep the power on!

 

 

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