In substations, it’s increasingly difficult to meet today’s needs with yesterday’s networks.

Maintaining the critical balance between electricity generation and consumption is more challenging than ever as renewable energy sources and electrification continue to evolve. Among the many challenges substation network operators are facing in the operational landscape is the increasing complexity of balancing the wide array of new power generation assets (such as solar and wind), with an equally complex consumption model (such as increase in electric vehicle transportation). This real-time balancing act drives operators into connecting more systems requiring higher speeds with lower latency in a confined operational footprint.

As the utility grid becomes more automated and subsequently digitized, the reliance on the supporting digital network infrastructure becomes even more critical to the reliability and efficiency of the grid itself. This increase in grid digitization also increases the cyber security threat surface. Regulators and utilities strive for an ever-increasing security posture as traditional substation security approaches come up short due to lack of visibility and centralized security policy enforcement.

Finally, with this expansion of connected devices in the substation and the constant drive for operational efficiency, utilities are challenged on how to most efficiently manage and operate these new networks while insuring the highest reliability.

To solve these challenges, utilities are working toward full-scale grid modernization — including substation automation. So it’s no longer a matter of if but when and how they will upgrade.

Based on more than a decade of collaboration with the utility industry, we have developed solutions to digitize and automate substations. On January 20 we announced the Cisco Catalyst IE9300 Rugged Series Switch, a high-density fiber port switch, specifically designed for the performance challenges of a substation LAN architecture with a small footprint and ruggedized form factor. It’s part of a new way to approach substation automation and management, and together with the recently released Catalyst IR8300 Rugged Series Router, the Catalyst IE9300 provides a validated architecture that unifies the substation LAN and WAN – adding the performance, security, scale and management required for the modernization of the grid.


5 essentials for the next-generation substation

Designed for grid modernization and substation automation, the Catalyst IE9300 Rugged Series Switch addresses five critical capabilities:

  1. Performance at scale. Utilities are being asked to connect more systems at higher capacity with more devices that are streaming more data. This 28-port GE switch has 26 SFP and 2 Combo ports that can be used with either fiber or copper (with appropriate connectors). It meets both the high fiber density requirements of modern substations, and copper where needed. The Catalyst IE9300 supports unrivaled performance at scale – you can stack up to 8 of these switches, which reduces management burden, allowing you to consolidate substation LAN functionality into a switch, saving space, and reducing power needs. 
  1. Asset visibility and cyber threat detection. Using the built-in capabilities of the IE9300 as a security sensor, Cisco Cyber Vision enables utilities to gain an accurate, real-time view of their operational technology (OT) assets. It also monitors network activity and flags anomalous behaviors that could indicate a cyberattack. 
  1. Enterprise-grade management and automation. Substation operators are increasingly managing their substations as scaled IT assets, utilizing the deep knowledge and capabilities of Cisco’s industry-leading network security and management tools. The Catalyst IE9300 runs Cisco IOS-XE and builds upon this – extending Cisco DNA Center, as well as Cisco TrustSec, MACsec, 802.1x and Flexible NetFlow to the substation LAN.
  1. Support for industry protocols. The Catalyst IE9300 supports industry protocols, including PRP & HSR for redundancy PTP timing and automation protocols such as IEC61850 (GOOSE,MMS,SV), IEC104, DNP3 and Modbus, that are essential to substation operations. 
  1. Application hosting and edge compute. Connectivity needs — both within a substation and across a utility’s operations — continue to grow. Substation operators are looking for ways to run applications locally in their substation LAN environments. The Catalyst IE9300 is designed with this need in mind, and with support for Cisco IOx to power Cisco Cyber Vision and the utility’s own applications within the substation LAN. Examples include virtual RTUs, security applications, and more.

As utilities advance toward grid modernization, the Catalyst IE9300 Rugged Series offers an elegant solution – consolidating OT and IT networks and automating substations.

Utilities can improve operations, deliver higher reliability and greater efficiencies at scale  – all while reducing risk. 

Learn more about the Catalyst IE9300 Rugged Series Switch and how it and the Catalyst IR8300 Rugged Series Router take Substation Automation to the next level in our webinar on January 27.


Cisco Catalyst IE9300 Series Rugged Switch

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Marcus Smith

Utilities Solution Manager

IoT Product Management