by David Locke and Marty Uczen
From digital oilfields to power substation automation to IT/OT convergence, the energy and utility industry is entering an unprecedented technological modernization cycle.
With the current maze of networking technologies, ranging from “Everything-as-a-Service” in the cloud and emerging security techniques, energy and utility companies today are being bombarded with solutions often without the help they need to understand how these solutions address their business challenges and how to subsequently implement best-of-breed technologies.
Energy and utility companies face a myriad of challenges in the planning and design of the communications networks that will monitor, control and manage millions of meters and communicating field devices. The number of communicating devices continues to grow dramatically as the power grid coupled with oil and gas infrastructure modernization drives implementation and usage of these devices into the hundreds of millions. At the same time, businesses across the industry are facing a combination of business, regulatory and technology changes.
The current U.S. energy modernization cycle has begun in earnest and will continue over the next 30 years (up to $2 trillion of capital deployment by 2030 according to some estimates). This drives unprecedented transformation and managing change introduces costs for new and additional business process requirements and labor allocation.
More needs to be done to better define the needs and requirements of oil and gas companies as well as utilities. Many times, pre-determined technologies are applied to solve problems that are not fully understood from both a business perspective and a technology management framework. Each vendor in a multi-technology solution may have a good management platform but then not play well from an end-to-end perspective. IT costs pile up to integrate on the back-end and provide a holistic view.
With advanced assets that include network infrastructure, security and cloud computing capabilities combined with professional services, firms like Verizon can help energy and utility companies with network technologies that are already integrated. WAN technologies such as MPLS can be an ideal integration and interoperability vehicle. Verizon’s Private IP service, a global MPLS-based virtual private network, features integrated Ethernet, global satellite access, and 3G and 4G LTE access on the front-end together with cloud connectivity on the backend. The key requirements needed to design, build, secure, maintain and manage these complex integrated networks are often overlooked.
Energy and utility companies will need solid network services support from providers and integrators to realize all of the technologies’ combined benefits.
In a recent report published on Smart Grid Networking and Communications, Navigant Research forecasts that the number of communications node shipments associated with the smart grid will rise to 124.6 million in 2020. The report also cites that all told, managing the build out, security and optimization of the communications network portion of the smart grid represents one of the great challenges and opportunities of today.
On its path to modernization, the more the energy and utility industry can collaborate with trusted advisors who are equipped with professionally planned and delivered technology – such as end-to-end managed, integrated networks that are in turn, combined with managed cloud and advanced security - the more the industry will be able to improve reliability, lower costs and serve its customers more efficiently.
For more information on Verizon’s solutions for energy and utility companies click here.