The utility and strategic industry sector is slowly undergoing radical change. Multiple drivers are prompting utilities to rethink how they provide services to their customer base. Smart Grid, increased regulation, and security concerns, are perhaps the most talked about. However, there is another, quieter and more subtle driver – the fact that their legacy SONET/SDH infrastructure is no longer being developed or supported. This ‘extra’ stress factor does not help. Yet rather than looking at the glass half empty, utilities can take this opportunity to leapfrog into modern age, with advanced networking capabilities. Capabilities which enable them not only to overcome their current challenges, but to excel in a more consumer oriented world!
Smart Grid and increasing governmental regulation will ensure that utilities empower their customers to make more pragmatic decisions about consumption by providing more actionable data. New energy sources and renewables will force two-way communications between the utilities and end users as well as between the TSO and the DSO. All of these require a more robust, distributed, and open communications infrastructure. However, in turn, this opens utilities up to increasing cyber security threats.
Traditionally, utility ICT networks were managed as two separate sub-networks; 1) an operational technology (OT) network which ensures continuous and safe operation of the services that they provide, and 2) IT network carrying data traffic for communications, database backup, and other applications. The OT systems have strict requirements for latency, jitter, round-trip delay, symmetry, and always-on connectivity, and in the past, they relied on service-specific equipment with SONET/SDH high-speed interfaces. As mentioned, these systems are no longer being supported. Also, as network demands have increased, especially on the data traffic part of the network, it is increasingly necessary to upgrade all equipment in the data path. The good news is that technology advances offer utilities now good choices to make the quantum leap they need.
Realizing the need of the hour, ECI comes in with its robust, resilient solutions that offer utilities, and strategic industries the best of a converged IT/OT infrastructure. With a customer-centric approach, ECI caters to the service providers and utility industries with its elastic network solutions that are flexible to execute.
With a customer-centric approach, ECI caters to the service providers and utility industries with its elastic network solutions that are flexible to execute
“Utility companies do not have vast network operations departments and require systems that are simple to operate and manage,” says Darryl Edwards, CEO and president, ECI. “ECI’s solutions ensure a graceful migration of legacy services, natively, so the transition is even easier. In fact, ECI’s unique, all-in-one Packet-Optical-Cyber platform provides the ground for secure data exchange between FAN (Field Area Network), TSO and DSO substations, generation plants, and data centers, supporting and processing sub-T1 data rates up to several hundreds of Mbps. Just one less headache to worry about.”
Regardless of the driver, utilities’ end goal should remain the same – a quick, efficient, secure, and cost-effective upgrade. ElastiGRID™ is ECI’s tailored solution for utilities and strategic industries. Designed based on the company’s more than 50 years’ experience in servicing hundreds of utility customers worldwide, ElastiGRID is the perfect choice for a risk-free and future-proof network upgrade. Combining OT and IT networks on a single, converged infrastructure, offers utilities four major benefits:
1) Converged architecture with simpler network design and operating costs
2) Common equipment which results in lower capital expenses
3) The joint network lends itself more easily to being upgraded, expanded and enhanced as demands increase and new services are added.
4) Holistic cyber security coverage, from IT to OT – embedded into the converged infrastructure
ECI’s comprehensive portfolio lies at the heart of its offering. ECI’s state-of-the-art, packet-optical equipment combines carrier grade performance with speed and efficiency made available with the latest technology advances. ECI’s network management system makes daily operations simple and intuitive. ECI’s LightAPPS™ ensure the network is being optimized and capacity maximized to its full ability. And integrated cyber security solution, LightSEC™, ensures utilities a unique and tailored solution to protect them from increasing threats on this front as well.
“Customer wins are a great indication of the strength of our solutions and the success of our strategy,” believes Edwards who is one of the biggest supporters of the company’s focus and drive. With its customer-driven approach, ECI has won a wide variety of projects across the utilities industry around the world. These include major power utilities like Tennet TSO and utilities in the US; airports, water, rail, and transport providers like Trafikverket; and oil and gas utilities; as well as utilities which have become telcos (UTelcos) like New Telco.
According to Edwards, ECI’s partner network is a major part of its go-to-market strategy. “Much of our utility business is conducted via partners and integrators that can complement ECI solutions with their own,” he adds. Moreover, with over 100 partners globally, many of which are market leaders in their fields, ECI ensures that its customers receive the most comprehensive, yet tailored solution. The telecommunications industry does not stand still, nor does ECI.