Friday, June 14, 2024

Cisco’s ‘Smart Grid’ Approach

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From the ‘it’s time to get smart about power‘ files:

The Smart Grid, the idea of transforming the century old electrical grid in the United States into a more efficient and optimized platform for electricity management and delivery is big business. It’s a business in which networking giant Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is very interested in playing a key role.

I spoke with Inbar Lasser-Raab, senior director of network solutions at Cisco about Cisco’s smart grid strategy which Cisco is today officially announcing, and it’s an interesting and (perhaps) lucrative play. The market is one that could be worth as much as $20 Billion a year within five years according to Lasser-Raab.

In a nutshell, the Cisco strategy is about helping to build an IP infrastructure that connects the communication of the grid from end to end. That means smart meters in the home, routing equipment for transport and software to help manage and monitor the grid itself.

In some ways, Cisco’s smart grid strategy is a logical expansion of its EnergyWise effort that seeks to provide better power management for networks.

From a hardware perspective, Cisco has lots of networking gear in its portfolio (I’ve spoken in the past with Lasser-Raab on ISR routers), and Lasser-Raab noted that the Cisco Smart Grid strategy will involve using existing routing equipment as well as repackaging gear into new form factors. She told me that the full product strategy is forthcoming.

One thing that Cisco isn’t doing is talking about the transport layer itself. That is,the electrical utilities have thousands of miles of wiring, for the delivery of electricity, already in place. It’s a ‘natural’ network in my view and one that should be utilized for the IP transport in an IP over powerline setup.

Lasser-Raab told me that Cisco isn’t talking about the transport layer
at this point and they are just looking at creating the communications
layer to provide intelligence through the electrical grid.

In my personal opinion, I would hope that as efforts from
Cisco and others continue to be announced that over time, powerline
networking will also become part of the equation. It makes sense (to me at least)
to utilize all the in the ground assets a utility might already have –
and it makes sense for the utility to ‘own’ the network as well. If
powerline networking is not used than utilities will be using other
transport layers (cable? / DSL? Other?) that will place the
communications transport layer outside of their direct control and
possibly add new costs (for the separate network) as well.

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