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IBM Jolts SOA to Save Energy

Electric utilities companies are being driven to upgrade their aging transmission networks in the face of increased competition in a formerly regulated industry, pleas for cleaner and more efficient energy distribution and increased demand from both developing economies and the digital economy at home.

To help utilities providers address these issues, IBM  today introduced the Intelligent Utility Network (IUN) roadmap.

The roadmap is an approach to utility grid infrastructure based on service-oriented architecture (SOA)  that is intended to help utilities monitor their assets and operations and help consumers manage and use energy in a more cost-effective and energy-efficient way.

Utilities will be able to capture information about power usage and utility equipment installed in the field over the network and use analytics in central offices to generate "on-demand" business data.

This will help them create a system that transmits information from the utility to the consumer and back, thus enabling the utility to monitor and regulate power usage over the grid. Analytics will provide grid data, information to improve outage detection and outage restoration times, grid planning and ongoing operations.

The utilities providers hope this approach will help them anticipate problems, leading to fewer and shorter outages, and also provide customers a platform for new products and services.

IUN combines WebSphere Modeler for designing and testing changes to network architecture, WebSphere Portal for displaying key performance indicators such as potential and current outage areas and call center status, Tivoli software to manage the grid, and DB2 databases to support a distributed computing environment.

Moreover, IBM said in a statement consultants from its Global Services division will be available to customize IUN projects. For instance, Global Services is working with CenterPoint Energy  on the implementation and deployment of a new communications network using broadband over power lines (BPL) technology.

CenterPoint will start a limited deployment of an Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI), which allows remote connection and disconnection of service and automated meter reads, allowing competing electricity providers to offer customers enhanced products and services, and to facilitate the movement by customers between electricity providers.

AMI will also help customers manage their energy usage using real time price signals and remotely control appliances to reduce consumption as they see fit.

The IUN architecture, developed in consideration of recommendations from energy think tanks and U.S. federal agencies, is part of a strategic global coalition that will grow to include other utility companies and partners, said Guido Bartels, general manager of IBM's global energy and utilities industry group, in a statement.

IBM's IUN effort comes amid a groundswell of work by major IT vendors to create products that will help companies maximize energy efficiencies to curb skyrocketing power costs.

IBM rivals Sun Microsystems and HP are also conducting similar energy-conscious efforts. Sun has created a Blackbox transportable datacenter with special liquid cooling technology while HP has crafted the Dynamic Smart Cooling (DSC) system to reduce heat in datacenters.