Utility Week Blog Series: I.T. Is Running Out Of Energy In More Ways Than One

by Keith Brody Nov 07, 2016

In the previous blog, we established that as energy networks evolve to become smarter and more distributed, legacy IT infrastructures haven’t been able to keep up. In this blog, we’ll look in a little more detail about why that’s the case.

In the simplest possible terms, using inhertied IT as the foundation on which to build modern business strategies is a bit like driving a 25 year old car (which, as it happens, is about the age of many IT infrastructures) on modern roads. You can get by (with a 25 year old car or IT system) but you’ll struggle to keep up and you certainly won’t end up at the front of the pack.

Why is this so? There are a number of reasons (that don’t include improvements in tyre technology!) We’ll look at the three key ones:

  1. In today’s commercial world, there has to be a connection between business strategy and network assets that far exceeds anything required in the past. Each part of the commercial chain has to communicate with the others, at least if the utility wants to succeed.

Let’s give an example: How assets are managed. Historically, the purpose of asset management was mainly little more than to ensure continued functioning and performance. Assets were entirely divorced from monetization strategies. But this is no longer the case; strategies and assets today need to be flexible enough to accommodate rapid and regular adjustment and thus connected to key business processes.

  1. Traditional built IT infrastructure simply isn’t designed to manage ongoing change and isn’t built to deliver functional flexibility. The reality is that it’s mostly hard-coded to support long established legacy processes which were entrenched far before the sort of requirements IT needs to enable today were even thought of. Legacy IT and Service Creativity – the latter is increasingly critical to success in the modern market – are more or less incompatible with each other.
  1. Data has become a key currency for success but it is locked into asset silos and when extracted, rarely optimised to provide the insights required for commercial success. In siloed legacy IT infrastructures where each component is operated separately from another (in its own silo,) both management and output of data is viewed vertically—the data from any one silo on its own. This isn’t sustainable unless the entire fruits of Big Data are to be given up. Big Data needs to be merged, correlated and enriched across silos for its value to be unlocked. The view has to be horizontal. And the data that emerges has to be right.

It’s pretty clear from all this that something has to change. The question is what (and how?) One answer is “buy a new car” but in utilities IT where cars take a long time to build and are extremely expensive, the reality is that answer’s not going to wash. So a more viable approach is to overcome some of the problems described above while still working with legacy investments. How do you enable the creation of new services doing this? How do you connect and integrate distributed sources to enable intelligent decisions? How do you simplify and automate processes involving asset performance and optimisation across silos?

Those are questions we will turn to in detail in the next blog in this series.

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

Keith Brody

Head of Communications

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