Mike Ballard of Oracle on how the company's software helps make sense of a complex grid
Mike Ballard, senior director for industry strategy at Oracle, explains how the company’s software helps make sense of increasingly complex grids.
How are Oracle’s solutions used in the field of utilities?
Oracle has been delivering solutions to utilities since 1979 through acquisitions and these solutions cover the entire range of utility operations. That includes real time management of the grid, managing outages or managing the mobile workforce repairing the grid. It also covers meter activity, home installation work, billing systems, running the revenue stream of the retail part of the business or deploying and monitoring traditional and smart meters.
Our solutions are being used by some of the biggest utilities around the world and we’re the only company that has that breadth of functional support. But the other key point to mention is that many of our customers only use one or two of our solutions so you don’t have to be all Oracle or not Oracle. These are very flexible solutions covering the whole operation lifecycle of all utilities.
How long has Oracle been active in the Middle East utilities sector?
We’ve had customers in the Middle East for around four years. Our key customers are in the UAE, where we have ADWEA and ADDC in Abu Dhabi who run our metering and billing solutions in their region and they’ve already started to use our Metre Data Management Solutions (MDMS) as part of their smart grid program.
What exactly is an MDMS?
The MDMS is the repository that collects and validates data from multiple sources whether it’s mechanical metres or new smart metres that have large volumes of data. It’s a key capability that utilities have now, and the challenge they’ve been facing over the past few years deploying smart metres is that the traditional metering systems have been unable to keep up with the pace and volume of data that’s been coming in. Our MDMS collects it all and then has a very efficient method of handing that data to different parties in the downstream systems.
What sets Oracle apart in this field?
Our products are agnostic . We’re one of the only MDMS providers that doesn’t care who the metre vendor is. Part of the reason for that is we predict that metering technologies are being adopted to very different specifications around the world and so utilities have to have flexibility in their choice of the metres they deploy.
It’s very important that the system they use is able to interact with a number of different metering technologies at the same time, so they don’t have to upgrade their MDMS just because they’ve decided to deploy a new bit of metering technology in a particular region. We have customers who have four, five, six different meter vendors all integrating to our MDMS simultaneously. And it’s not just built for metering, it’s also able to collect data from other systems that utilities might have out in the field.
There are three things that utilities in this region need to be prepared for to ensure a smart grid project is successful. They must have fully integrated, silo removed business processes that integrate their grid management, customer systems, mobile workforce systems and metering systems – not just at the IT level, but also the business level because smart grids will demand far more responsiveness than has been needed before.
The second thing they will need is a real time network management solution able to combine both SCADA data and the new smart metering data into a single network model. There’s very little value in having two different models.
The third thing is analytics, which are vital. Utilities are only going to make sense of the high volume of data coming through is using advanced analytics. Smart grids require a high level of predictive analysis to work efficiently.Scalability, combined network management and an integrated business are the three fundamental pillars of a smart grid and that is what Oracle provides
What are the opportunities here for Oracle?
We’ve spent a number of years building very strong relationships with the industry here. The development of smart grid initiatives in places like the UAE and Saudi Arabia is gathering pace and we see accelerated commitment to getting some of these smart grids set up and running. This is partly because there are some capacity issues in terms of the baseload power being able to keep up with demand. That is driving the need for a more intelligent use of energy, especially during peak periods. There are both environmental and economic reasons why this region is accelerating its smart grids and that for us is an interesting area.