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Architect approach

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AS UTILITIES PLAN A SMART GRID VISION, A KEY STRATEGY IS HOW TO manage the information flow between devices and enterprise business systems. It's about advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). It's about real-time. It's about the spatial context of data.

Enter today's enterprise architect. Enterprise architects bridge business and technology in organizations. The role and importance of an enterprise architect in the IT organization is becoming increasingly valuable and integral to the overall success of building smarter grids and more intelligent utilities. IT architects are key resources for today's smarter grids that focus on end-to-end processes in many cases - from generation to customers. They architect the interactions, the reliability, the data and the security of this new 21st-century infrastructure - all while the business is running.

In 2000, EDS launched a television commercial-showing folks building an airplane while it was flying-to promote its capacity to work with companies
right from start up. ''In a sense this is what we do,'' the commercial said. ''We build your digital business even while you're up and running.'' This is what utility enterprise architects do, too. It is extremely important for today's utilities where the enterprise architect must design and deploy smart technologies and systems, while ensuring that the utility keeps running and meets customer needs.


A smarter grid means that enterprise architects have to move beyond dealing with just enterprise resource planning systems, corporate mail systems and servers.
They are now entering the world of operational systems with massive amounts
of real-time data. And, as noted, they enter this new world while their business
continues to run.

There has never been a better time for utility enterprise architects to add value to businesses. New and enhanced focus areas include:

  • Spatial information management: Most data and business processes have a locational context in a smart grid.
  • IT and OT: The lines are blurring in terms of responsibility for it and operational technology (ot).
  • Integration: There is an increased focus on integration around end-to-end processes across the utility value chain from generation to consumers.
  • Data: As i heard from Phil slack, group manager, enterprise architecture, florida Power and light, ''ami and smart grid will generate volumes of data
    beyond anything we experience today.''

''A smart grid will rely not only on a new generation of technology, but also a convergence and an interaction between traditional IT and OT. The companies that manage this as a convergence of IT and OT will succeed where those treating it as another IT versus engineer [project] will fail,'' according to Kristian Steenstrup, vice president and research fellow, Gartner.

It seems everything now has embedded intelligence and sensors collecting real-time data. IT-enabled business assets are a fact of life in business today - especially with smarter grids.

IT includes software applications that manage information to optimize corporate performance or to meet regulatory requirements. These systems are
usually transactional in nature and are frequently based on relational database management systems. Traditionally, these are systems like finance, human
resources and materials management. In most cases, however, IT entering the plant maintenance or enterprise asset management was like IT dipping its toes in the operational world. Now is the time for the enterprise architect to jump in with both feet.

Fifteen years ago, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and distributed control system users realized that they needed a better way to store and use the volumes of data that their systems were bringing in. Utilities are now facing these same issues as a result of advanced metering and smart
grid initiatives.

Over the last five years, more automated meter reading has prompted the need for meter data management systems to manage the meter data frommultiple meter reading systems for billing and customer care processes. More recently, AMI has further elevated data management requirements by expanding the amount of data and data uses, including grid management.

As technology moves toward creating a smarter grid, it is important that the timely reconciliation of all critical operational data sources, such as SCADA and distribution automation data, be combined to enable useable, actionable and accessible data across and outside the utility. Utilities are recognizing the vast volume of sensor data that they will have to deal with in this new world.

Operational data managers are required that can serve as the one tool that adds value by combining all operational data sources together, along with meter
data, even when the meter data is daily or monthly. Providing all data in a single operational data manager and seamlessly accessing other systems of record provides users with a complete operational view enabling short-term goals such as effective asset management and long-term goals such as a smart grid vision. Robust tools are required that:

  • Offer extensive and flexible data collection capabilities
  • Provide important data management requirements, such as data archiving, fast data retrieval and event management
  • enable intelligent initiatives, such as the smart grid and smart substations

Data management is a critical ingredient in creating a path to the smart grid. The operational data manager is an important component for maximizing the benefit of AMI systems by providing timely reconciliation of AMI data with all critical operational data sources and making it actionable to multiple audiences that are internal and external to the utility, including enterprise systems.


In addition to data, data integration strategies are key to ensure that the smart grid architecture is a lasting one. The architecture must bend and twist accordingly - leaving little or nothing to be thrown away. An integration strategy should include:

  • T he utilization of industry standards when appropriate
  • Distributed intelligence and analytic capabilities from corporate down to the
  • Data collection and reconciliation of disparate
  • Continuous/complex event processing Incorporation of advanced technologies, such as remedial action schemes
  • A push for all automation technologies to comply in realtime or near real-time
  • Health monitoring of the it infrastructure


It has been said that, to be successful, enterprise architects must have a collaborative forum in order to exchange ideas, discuss challenges and solve problems. They must also continually explore new ideas, stretch their concept of what is possible and be able to step out of day-to-day activities occasionally to look at things from different perspectives. Both the AMI Enterprise and the ASUG Enterprise Architecture Community are collaborative forums to help enterprise architects successfully stay on top of their game, especially in this new world.

Enterprise architects today recognize that they need to work together as they never have before given all the changes utilities face and in these tough economic times. They realize that they have to think end-to-end processes, understand IT and OT and think more about the integration of the smart grid into the enterprise - particularly in terms of data.


This article was written by Paul Kurchina

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