IBM Empowers the Utility Grid: New Intelligence
Yields Better Service Management

Transforming the way utility organizations manage and operate the grid.

SERVICE MANAGEMENT IN ACTION One of the most overarching ideas coming out of IBM lately is the concept of the Smarter Planet: a world in which, through innovative, cross-domain management of information and infrastructure, it becomes possible to create more value through smarter services.

If that idea seems a little abstract at first, consider it in the specific context of electric utility grids. Electricity is clearly a central, critical service required by virtually all individuals and organizations every day. It stands to reason that by optimizing the way that service is monitored, managed, and optimized—making it, in a word, smarter—we all stand to benefit in many ways.

What's more, new benefits will extend to energy providers as well because they face many significant complexities going forward that require a new approach. Among others, these complexities include:

The question, then, is not whether utilities should move to deploy smarter services, but how.

And toward answering that question, one logical approach would be to pursue improvement not on a case-by-case basis, in terms of operational or asset silos, but to improve service management in a more holistic sense. By keeping the focus on the complete service being rendered, and implementing change designed to enhance that service, utilities can better meet their customers' needs, mitigate many forms of risk, reduce costs and management complexity, and ultimately experience an improved business outcome.

IBM’s Intelligent Utility Network Solution: Superior service offerings for utilities

“The Intelligent Metering Network Management solution accomplishes for utilities what Tivoli has for many years accomplished in enterprise IT operations. It delivers enhanced visibility (insight into business operations and infrastructure), control (the power to create change needed to solve problems or implement new strategies), and automation (intelligent industrialization of everyday tasks and processes for reduced costs, accelerated services, and completely consistent performance).”

The IBM Intelligent Utility Network Solution (IUN) guides a utility through every phase of their transformation from strategy development, planning, and selection through design, implementation, and ongoing operations. The IBM Intelligent Utility Network Solution encompasses a broad set of service offerings that addresses the energy value chain, from generation to the consumer premise. Key components are Smart Metering and Beyond, Grid Operations, IUN Security,
IUN Communications Networks, and Work and Asset Management.

It was with this holistic approach in mind that IBM unveiled the IBM Intelligent Metering Network Management solution: a package of leading IBM Tivoli service management solutions that can make electric grids smarter, more transparent, more optimized, more resilient, and more secure.

The Intelligent Metering Network Management solution accomplishes for utilities what Tivoli has for many years accomplished in enterprise IT operations. It delivers enhanced visibility (insight into business operations and infrastructure), control (the power to create change needed to solve problems or implement new strategies), and automation (intelligent industrialization of everyday tasks and processes for reduced costs, accelerated services, and completely consistent performance).

For utilities looking to make not just the grid itself smarter, but also the services the grid renders to customers, the Intelligent Metering Network Management solution is a great place to start. It creates not just many types of value, but value in a more holistic sense—for instance, via centralized asset management across domains, including real-time performance and configuration tracking. Since grids are comprised of a complex chain of different assets, typically managed and monitored independently of each other, this alone represents a major step forward.

Similar improvements apply in a procedural, not just technological, sense. The Intelligent Metering Network Management solution empowers utilities to define processes and workflows at multiple levels of abstraction, so that they can create change as customer interests and business requirements demand—even if that change involves many different teams or groups. In this way, optimized end-to-end service management is transformed from an abstract idea to an up-and-running reality.

To fulfill these goals, the Intelligent Metering Network Management solution includes leading IBM Tivoli solutions that combine to form a single, seamless management platform. These solutions directly address some of the most pressing service management challenges faced by utilities today: advanced meter management (AMM), network automation and analytics, and enterprise asset management. They also help to make the smart grid more operationally secure—a key mandate given both the increasing sophistication and number of security threats today, and the dramatic impact if the grid management systems should be compromised.

Advanced meter management

One of the most powerful tactics to use in transforming grids into smart grids is information—and today's meters represent a great conduit of that information. Smart meters, deployed en masse by utility organizations around the world, promise to deliver information in a two-way fashion—both to the utility from consumers, and to consumers from the utility.

In both cases, that information can be leveraged to drive positive change. Consumers, for instance, can discover when and under what circumstances their energy utilization increases, compare that to dynamic cost data, then take action to reduce their monthly bills. And for utilities, the new possibilities are even brighter and more impressive. Utilities can, for instance, link advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) systems with other information pools and management solutions, and in this way meet customer needs while also reducing the total electricity consumed. That, in turn, helps them achieve green design goals and increase grid resiliency—as well as the resiliency of all the services used by all the organizations that depend on the grid for electricity.

To see how the Intelligent Metering Network Management solution can help in the pursuit of these compelling possibilities, consider two Tivoli solutions that can play a key role: IBM Tivoli Netcool/OMNIbus and IBM Tivoli Netcool/Impact. The first is a leading event management tool that provides an incredibly scalable architecture that aggregates information from assets across even the largest and most complex networks—such as a grid made up by millions of smart meters, as well as many other device groups and systems. Once this information has been collected, it can then be analyzed, and the results compared against business targets and thresholds to respond to emerging developments or problems.

This task is performed by the second solution (Netcool/Impact), which gives utilities clear insight into just how the infrastructure is performing in real time, and helps them render best overall service through automatic and prioritized problem resolution. The issues deemed of highest significance are resolved first; lower-priority issues, in turn, can be delayed until there is no more pressing need and resources are available. The solution's policy-based design also means actions taken are exceptionally efficient, minimizing the impact of developing issues.

Even more value can be created by linking these two solutions, and the intelligence they yield, with other domains. Powerful examples include billing, service desk, and forecasting—all of which play an important role in overall service management.

Network automation/analytics and security

The Intelligent Metering Network Management solution also offers compelling value in the area of SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems, commonly used to collect data from grid sensors and to send events to SCADA-capable applications. IBM Tivoli solutions included in the Intelligent Metering Network Management solution can help utilities achieve superior utilization of SCADA data, manage SCADA data stores in new ways, and secure the SCADA network in a more comprehensive, proactive manner.

For instance, the two previously mentioned Netcool solutions can be combined with IBM Tivoli Network Manager (TNM)—a leading visualization tool used for discovery and topology map creation. Information coming from the Netcool offerings can be rendered by TNM for easy, intuitive monitoring of what had previously been a complex, abstract architecture.

IBM Tivoli Business Service Manager (TBSM) can make excellent use of Netcool information as well—this time, to determine and quantify the business consequences of infrastructural changes. For example, if grid developments imply that service level agreements (SLAs) might not be met, TBSM can warn the utility of that possibility and thus help preclude it from occurring through fast, effective action.

SCADA data can also be protected and managed over its complete lifecycle by the IBM Tivoli Storage Manager family—IBM's flagship solution for backing up, archiving, and restoring data. By ensuring that SCADA data is not just preserved, but preserved on a cost-suitable storage tier that matches the data's business value, utilities can get more value from data while also reducing the associated costs.

And toward securing SCADA networks, data, and systems, IBM Tivoli Identity Manager and IBM Tivoli Access Manager are directly on point. These solutions deliver best-in-class protection for key services, user identities, and data pools—ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to resources, and then only with the right privileges, to significantly reduce the odds of a potentially devastating security breach.

Over time, as job duties and access rights change, these Tivoli offerings can automatically incorporate those changes based on predefined policies. If, for instance, employees leave the utility, their access rights to management tools will be eliminated automatically, rapidly, and completely. This substantially mitigates external threats of many kinds.

Asset Management, including Meter Asset Management

Energy providers rely on an incredibly rich array of assets to deliver services: transmission and distribution circuits, switches, relays, breakers, substations, transformers, street lights, and many others. Managing them all for best business value over their complete lifecycles, by keeping them properly maintained and configured, is far from straightforward.

Fortunately, IBM’s Maximo Asset Management solutions can simplify that challenge tremendously. Maximo software allows utilities to manage all types of assets for power generation, transmission, distribution, and related vehicle fleets operated by the utility. Consolidating all assets in one system provides the ability to create and enforce best practices across the entire enterprise. This empowers the utility with the insight it needs to detect new technical issues, schedule routine or emergency maintenance, increase asset lifespans, minimize the risk of future failure, achieve more accurate budgeting and forecasting, and obtain a wealth of other benefits. The IBM Maximo for Utilities solution includes specific features to manage the complete lifecycle of a smart meter as an “asset” from procurement, to receipt, to testing, to sampling, and to deployment.

Maximo solutions also integrate with IBM Tivoli offerings to create even more value. For example, IBM Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database is a powerful solution to track Maximo data over time for all assets—clarifying, for instance, which grid assets such as meters have been configured in which ways, at which times, using which firmware. If asset issues lead to a service problem reported by users, that problem can be ticketed and tracked by IBM Tivoli Service Request Manager to ensure the right team members have the information they need to resolve the problem. And if a grid asset such as a smart meter should require a new iteration of firmware, IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager can install it remotely over the network, as determined by policies—an incredibly fast and consistent way to keep all meters, however many there may be, up-to-date and performing optimally.

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At Pulse Comes to You (PCTY) 2011 events around the world, IBM Executives and Industry Leaders will share how Integrated Service Management can deliver the Visibility. Control. Automation.™ needed to deliver differentiated services and build competitive advantage on a Smarter Planet.