Monday, October 31, 2011

Next Generation Utility Networks -PoIP, CoIP, IoIP and others

Economies of scale along with the benefits of statistical multiplexing are moving the life cycle of Time Domain Multiplexed services to the winter of their years as Ethernet and its derivatives take the throne. 

Utilities for decades with staff trained and experienced in synchronous and asynchronous communications are now faced with change as ques, buffers and ports filled with frames, statistical multiplexing with prioritized packets, flags, shims, headers and all the glorious complexities of IPv4 and IPv6 overhead in the IP world. It means a great deal of learning to operational staff and owners who not only must find comprehension of the new technology but deploy it where failures can affect commerce and safety of industrialized nations.

Emotionally this creates uncertainty and fear of how this will impact daily operations of an electrical utility and resentment in a few and excitement in others about the changes. Change even advances are not always welcomed by all. New protocols like 61850 that open new possibilities for electrical operation have been emerging for nearly a decade as many leading edge thinkers and innovators saw the need and opportunity with IP to go beyond traditional SCADA networks. Protection and Control engineers have been working hard to learn how to implement these new protocols and methods with existing systems while also being confronted with the heady task of learning networking.

Secondly, the IP protocol is most often associated with an open network originally envisioned by DARPA to be reachable no matter the catastrophe through statistically a high number of paths where the probability of absolute failure (inability to connect) was near nil.  Utility engineers in protection and control view in general conversation this same "internet" approach as being dangerous to their
critical infrastructure since a router anywhere in the world can send a packet to any other discoverable router on the internet. The routers job is to find a route. However, the next generation utility operational network should have fundamentally different approaches than the internet first and most obvious is that it is a private network. (We will ignore the case where leased 3rd party services are used since this does expose a vulnerability do to a lack of privacy in channels and facilities.)

Private next generation intelligent utility networks should emerge than as closed private network domains where instrumentation, control and protection devices need only communicate within prescribed domains and across domains where the internal and external communication enhances situational awareness and control. Intelligent grids should have their IP networks aligned in architecture and domains with the electrical system with traffic very planned and controlled amongst domains where router penetration is limited to high tier facilities and core backbones. An intelligent grid then is not "open" like the internet and device communities are well established by design.  However, the survivability aspect of the internet aided by the overhead should be high even with a finite amount of redundant paths. The advantage being with Carrier Ethernet and MPLS that protective tunnels and FRR are soft connections only and while providing higher levels of network protection do not consume capacity under normal conditions.
(Security is fundamental to the architecture and design of a closed but functional system.)

Creating the intelligent grid network then as a private network with high survivability using the concepts of domain communities and the "soft-state" main and protection paths for instrumentation, control and protection requires defining those communities and their subsequent requirements for survivability, security and membership. New terms will emerge as Virtual LANS and VPLS are used to define device communities in alignment with "Networked Electrical Systems Topology" concepts and distributed switching is used to minimize routing at the electrical grids distribution edge. Terms like
Protection over IP (PoIP©), Control over IP, (CoIP©) and Instrumentation over IP, (IoIP©) will become common parlance over time as IETF and other standards forums focus networking schemes and protection toward utility application much as enterprise has focused IP efforts around specific voice and video service requirements. Historically, we have evidence of utility standards bodies influencing communication standards in the emergence of C37.94 and the DS0 requirements and coding for noisy utility environments which indicates as utilities learn the technology they are quick to "tweak it" to their particular needs. An intelligent grid network will emerge that is private, service focused and highly reliable suiting the specific needs of electrical utilities from generation to consumption because the utilities staff will understand IP and Protection and Control engineers will find a new friendship and close relationship with the network engineer.

Cooperatively, they can enable advanced substation automation services (SAS), grid automation services (GAS) and ensure a more stable consistent power delivery in the face of growing energy demand and high levels of intermittent green energy integrated in the network of power sources.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lost in the web jungle

Humankind has followed landmarks for millenniums cutting trails, laying roads and founding physical routes between sustenance and rest since the species emerged.  Now the trails are cerebral streaming bits and routing tables unseen to the eye with steps taken keystrokes at time.  You still can walk in circles and yes find yourself lost unable to get back to that buried treasured or secret food stash as the brain becomes more dependent on place memory and landmarks loosing its heightened use of smell.  Now the way back is the right linguistic combination of usernames, passwords and secret questions.  The internet traveler and user must be a priest or magician reciting the right incantation to be transported to the desired page and then to enter his or her temple of social nudity and public expression the doors listen for only the correct combination.
I have traveled the jungles and found my page of print while the morning sun makes me squint.  After several attempts at reciting the right access prayer to the wrong access god and then finally the right access god, I ask myself how did I duplicate, complicate and make accessing this blog so difficult?
Was I trying to hide something from myself?  Is it dangerous to me to express myself?  Is it away of avoiding committing my dialogue to peering eyes seen and unseen?  Or in truth is it a millennial old problem of not setting the cairns in the right spot or having others move them and what you think you know, you don't know and memory and meaning tease thee.  I was lost and now confounded for in this cerebral realm of hidden codes masquerading as text the weeds still grow over the path, nature still reclaims the roads but now they are in the folds of the mind.  

As a designer of networks, I confirm once again it is not the technology that makes up the earth that is important if it supports life but is the interface "user" friendly? 

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Look for new weekly content starting August 14th.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rural Broadband Service--Extending Openness to Rural Access

Is expecting traditional telecommunication and network providers to provide internet access to rural areas the wrong approach?

It seems with billions of federal dollars in play with the ARRA and broadband initiatives to bring high speed internet access the solution is still elusive. Given the new company Open Range with their partner GlobalStar last week stand in jeopardy of loosing millions in loans being unable to provide sufficient network resources to penetrate and connect subscribers with the rest of the world, I tend to think it will or could be utility providers that could be the solution to rural broadband access over typical communication providers.

Why? Name a rural community in the United States that doesn't have electrical power? I possibly haven't researched enough and I know I haven't visited every nook and cranny in the US but I am certain from working with utilities and traveling the country that the electrical grid reaches place broadband has never penetrated.

Why haven't utilities stepped up and proposed to extended broadband access to their rural clients and increased their revenue streams? Truthfully some have attempted to add internet services and lost economically not having the technical expertise and management knowledge the traditional telecommunication carriers possess. I expect others in rural areas maybe succeeding at this time with providing telecommunication services but knowing the way government draws interest and publication of winners, I haven't easily learned who the successful utilities are.

The difficulty within utilities is the primary focus on electrical distribution of power and communications technology and management have commonly been less than a secondary focus. Utilities are grappling with their own network technology needs presently with the emergence of intelligent utility initiatives presently trying to figure out how to meet NIST priorities.

I would suggest that "Smart Grid" and "Rural Broadband" are actually a marriage made in heaven but not for merely carrying meter traffic or consumer traffic riding the same fibers as utility traffic but utilizing existing over build and new optical ground wire fibers to penetrate the rural areas using the same right of ways and structures the utilities have been using for decades to move power. The issue then becomes developing the network data center and equipment rooms at the utilities command center for connection to the traditional Service Providers to the public packet data network and working out the details of the subscriber area interface or distribution each of which is an area of unfamiliarity to the utility. Yet, through partnerships and collaborations the utility could learn what it needs to add a broadband network architecture overlay to its existing electrical distribution and plan when making upgrades to electrical transmission services to add OPGW to the list and access points at remote substations and switchyards that can serve as points of presence in the rural community.

Is it regulation, money or executive ease with such new ventures that keep these possibilities from being pursued?
to be continued...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Intelligent Utility--poetically speaking

By Reese 9/1/2010

It was a warm wiggling day for power surging waves

rippling down miles of transmission line sun glistening

in the remote rural sky where seldom a truck passed by.

Two hundred miles or more from generation to the substation floor

stepping down and then out again on feeder lines to your door.

Reactively capacitance and inductance wrangled with each other

as resistance changed a little in the heat eating up real power in feet.

It was a cosine of complication of a line’s impedance crossing the nation

a power factor less than unity and reactive lines took a polar phase

as voltage raised and line capacity dropped with transformer heat flaring

in raising degrees the system would soon be brought to its knees.

Quickly the bit stream flying in a fiber optic dream transmitted the disease

conveying the message from end to end, “more balancing reactance please!

ELI needs to be put on ICE or the grid will pay a handsome price.”

Capacitors banks switched in on command a Faraday array to save the day!

Reactive switching, high voltage hissing but the impedance was changing

As load and source found a more amicable conjugate match!

Slowly it rose from 70% to where it was meant to be more near unity

and the community never witnessed or noticed the heroic act

taken care of automatically that kept their power supply intact.

Another day of smart design simply working in normalcy’s harsh reality

aided through talkative nerves communicating reactive curves

sending analog status streams and controlling a power stream

through motive bits that control and protect the line automatically

from a dynamic MW power load of every house and commercial abode

where the magic serves the multitude from three lines of solitude.

Monday, October 26, 2009


An introduction

Working Wavelengths will be a blog about all forms of electrical and optical communications from application to theory.
The blog will examine at the various issues of engineering and specifying communication systems along with current techniques applications and vendors.

The intention is educational and informative along with being fun and a good way to engage discussions and make new friend and associates.

I will see how I keep with these goals as I progress and maybe you can steer me to your questions or curiosities that might seek an answer or exploration of understanding.

Trial 1 off and running.