Increase reliability and efficiency with converged WAN infrastructure

Over the last several years we have worked closely with utilities across all areas of the Cisco IoT portfolio to accelerate grid modernization initiatives. Leaders in the industry have generated high impact business outcomes ranging from improved grid reliability to new customer engagement services informed by smart grid data. Today utilities such as BC Hydro and First Energy benefit from Cisco Validated Designs that specify implementation guidelines in solution areas such as field area networks, connected workforce, distribution automation and substation automation. The Cisco Connected Grid architecture ties all solution areas together into a unified, cost-effective and flexible system. Today we are announcing a new advancement for the utility WAN that delivers a highly reliable, converged IP/MPLS network for secure data delivery from the grid edge to the operations center.

Utilities have traditionally relied on private time-division multiplexing (TDM)-based solutions such as SONET/SDH for controlling critical infrastructure. However, today utilities demand increasing grid reliability and operational efficiency. By migrating to a converged IP/MPLS network, utilities are able to cost-effectively support SCADA, teleprotection, cyber security, and additional grid modernization programs.

What’s called for is a converged WAN infrastructure capable of supporting multiple categories of common use cases reliably delivering mission critical data from field area networks to control applications across a range of latency and bandwidth requirements. Table 1 outlines common utility use cases and their associated characteristics:

Table 1. Common use cases for converged WAN infrastructureEffective WAN

Effective WAN infrastructure capable of supporting these common uses cases must deliver consistently several key areas including:


  • 10GE and 1GE interfaces across multiple topologies for access and aggregation
  • Local and pass through capacity for both ring and linear nodes must be supported

High Availability

  • Disaster recovery across redundant control centers
  • Fast failover (<50ms) for node and link failures
  • Power supply, forwarding plane, and control plane redundancy

Intuitive, Easy to Use Network Management

  • Modern, graphical user interface
  • Point and click, rapid provisioning of new services
  • Performance / SLA monitoring for mission critical services including
    SCADA and Teleprotection

To meet these needs Cisco has introduced a new series of ASR 900 MPLS routers combined with the EPN-M management system to produce a cost-effective solution for converged utility WAN infrastructure.  The solution offers utilities cost-effective migration from legacy SONET/SDH/TDM to a converged IP/MPLS multi-service communications infrastructure and addresses immediate utility customers needs for improved reliability and efficiency. Common deployment scenarios include transitioning SCADA and Teleprotection applications from siloed legacy networks to a converged IP/MPLS WAN. A typical deployment scenario is highlighted in figure 1.

Figure 1. Deployment of Cisco MPLS WAN infrastructure

The combination of advanced MPLS routing with the ASR 900 series and cost-effective management with Evolved Programmable Network Manager (EPN-M) offers utilities industry leading capabilities across several critical parameters:


  • The ASR 900 series uses custom ASICs offering industry leading throughput,
    low latency and jitter, path symmetry, and deterministic traffic flows

Flexible Transport Options

  • MPLS-TE, MPLS-TP, and FlexLSP (RFC 7551)
  • Optimized transport based on utility use cases and deployment scenarios


  • Flexible VPNs – L2VPN, L3VPN, Pseudowire, and Raw Socket transport
  • Point-to-multipoint and point-to-point services such as SCADA
  • Wide set of network interfaces for existing and future end devices across multiple use cases
  • Interface modules (IMs) shared across all three platforms (ASR 903, ASR 902, ASR 920)
  • Hierarchical QoS, with hardware support for line rate performance
  • Scalable multicast for video end points and PMUs
  • Operations, Administration, and Maintenance (OAM) functions per service
  • IEEE 1588 and SyncE timing, and Stratum-3E on-board clock to ensure precise network synchronization

The capabilities outlined above for high-performance, flexible MPLS WAN infrastructure result from the combination of new ASR 900 series routers purpose built for utility needs and cost-effective network management at scale using the Evolved Programmable Network Manager (EPN-M).

Figure 2. ASR Series 900 MPLS routers and EPN-M network management system

The solution offers also offers support from Cisco ecosystem partners for integrated, tested solutions across mission critical use cases. Examples of ecosystem partner integration include Schneider and Siemens.

To learn more, visit www.cisco.com/go/utilities.


John Reno

Marketing Manager