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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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The Dirty Secrets of Server Power

Power efficiency remains a top decision point for many customers looking to modernize their data center. Customers searching for an accurate way to compare server power among vendors are often directed to use power calculators without taking into account the many factors that drive power utilization. This notion preys on the simplistic nature of the power beast – lower number is better... but are we missing the (power) bus entirely?

The dirty little secret is that there is no industry standard for power calculators, and vendors can essentially publish a calculator around whatever workload they like (or no actual workload at all). Read More »

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Cisco UCS vs. HP BladeSystem Power Efficiency Comparison

May 4, 2013 at 12:40 pm PST

Cisco’s server power engineering team recently compared the Cisco UCS 5108 Blade Server Chassis with B200 M3 blade servers against HP’s BladeSystem c7000 Enclosure and HP ProLiant BL460c Gen8 blade servers.

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Here Comes the Sun

November 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm PST

When I was a kid, one of my neighbors had a solar radiometer.  It’s a glass bulb about the size of a baseball, with diamond-shaped panels connected to a spindle.   The panels, black on one side and silver on the other, would turn on the spindle when exposed to light.

I enjoyed experimenting with the gizmo, edging it in and out of the sunbeam that shone through a window and onto their kitchen table.  How close to the light did the radiometer need to be for the panels to move? What if I shaded it with a piece of cardboard?  How fast would the spindle turn if I put the radiometer fully in the light? Read More »

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Customer Insight: How one Cloud services provider reduced provisioning time by 50% with Cisco Unified Computing System ™ and FlexPod

October 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm PST

What comes to mind when you think about the color blue? Whenever I think about the color blue in nature, I’m transported to the clear blue skies and turquoise ocean waves of Hawaii. For many people, the color blue has a restorative quality: It’s invigorating and puts us back in control of priorities. My affinity for “all things blue,” is why I was attracted to this story about Cisco customer, BlueWave Computing, LLC., a cloud services provider based in Atlanta, Georgia. BlueWave’s existing server and storage infrastructure had reached its limits and was creating performance and reliability issues. That’s when BlueWave decided it was time for a change. They worked with Cisco to reinvigorate their data center, making it ready for next generation of cloud services, and clearing the way for "nothing but blue skies ahead."

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