Utility Week Blog Series: In Energy, Advanced Networks Mean Time Is Running Out For Legacy IT

by Keith Brody Nov 03, 2016

Technology innovation is changing the landscape across industry borders. In the energy utilities sectors, for instance, transformation is happening in the form of distributed assets and evolved technologies (think smart grids, for example.) These are changing traditional ways of doing business.

To some extent, tt’s a familiar refrain; new networks drive new business models drive (at least if you can make it all work) new customers. And those, of course, drive new revenues, not to mention more efficient use of resources in the process.

But – and it’s the same old “but” – legacy IT can’t keep up. So there’s a real risk of none of these things happen. Until it does, new opportunities will remain just out of reach beyond the utilities outstretched fingertips. What do utilities need to do?


I think re-inventing IT – a word I choose carefully – is critical for the utility that wants to develop its business successfully for the modern network world. And I use the word “re-invent” advisedly, because I don’t mean “replace” (an expensive, difficult and time-consuming process for which few have any appetite unless its completely unavoidable.) In fact, re-invented IT far from replacing an existing one actually extends the shelf-life and therefore ROI of legacy investments which would otherwise have a detrimental effect on the business.

There are three pretty simple reasons why things have to change. They are:

  1. In modern energy networks, assets (such as meters) are both more numerous and more widely distributed than in legacy networks. This means they need to be operated in a different way and the data they generate used in that optimisation process. But traditional utility IT infrastructures aren’t designed to do what’s now required.
  1. In modern utilities (energy or most others) new billing models are king. They provide a competitive edge. The “Age of One” -- one price, one service, one network mechanism – is over. Today, bundled offerings are common, customers expect to have input into services designed to meet their specific needs, Meter2Cash is trending and as a result of all three, high frequency load balancing in the grid will be vital to further increasing profits. Delivering on these expectations is easier than you might imagine, but it’s almost impossible to do – at least in a cost-effective way – using legacy IT technology.
  1. Increasingly, the real key to profitable future business lies in actions such as improving Trading scenarios. Here, better forecasting and insights into optimal or less optimal regulating conditions can enable the utility to fine-tune its operational control of its network to improve the bottom line. The key currency to making this happen is using the data that’s already being generated within the network but, for a variety of reasons we’ll see in the next blog of this series, legacy IT technology isn’t designed to collect and enrich in the way that now needs to happen.

For utilities, these problems are a real barrier to achieving success in a rapidly evolving commercial world in which business processes are evolving almost overnight. IT has to keep up. In the next blog, we’ll further into both why and how.

More blogs in this series:

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Topics: Cloud, IoT, Network Function Virtualization, Internet of things, Network Grids, Legacy IT, Utility IT

Keith Brody

Head of Communications

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