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Cloud Computing for Electric Utilities

By Phill Feltham

Need-to-know info for electric utilities

BY LEN WHITTEN, SunGard Availability Services

The electric power industry has often been a first-mover in adopting new technologies before other industries move forward with implementation. For example, electric utilities were among the first companies to employ mainframe computers in the 1960s. However, one tech advance— cloud computing for electric utilities —has been slow to catch on within the industry.

This revelation is somewhat surprising since the cloud can enhance Big Data analysis, and utilities, in particular, gather and assess a mountain of information. The Smart Grid also benefits from cloud-based computing, and the ability to segregate data can be a compelling benefit.

Still, electric utility executives voice concerns about the cloud’s security and reliability. They are anxious about applications in the cloud being used for managing real-time, critical information technology (IT) assets. This list of assets includes customer billing, grid operations, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), and demand response systems. Moreover, integration between applications remains a challenge.

Another factor applies mainly to investor-owned utilities who prefer making capital investments, such as buying their own servers and other IT hardware, because they earn a fixed rate of return. On the other hand, operational costs such as retaining a cloud-hosted service face constant budget pressure.

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