It’s 9 p.m. — Do you know what your network is doing?

For good reason, more and more utilities are implementing comprehensive network management systems to streamline the deployment, optimization, maintenance, and control of their communication networks.

At this point in power grid evolution, the older model of multiple disparate networks under various management systems is not only unsustainable, but potentially devastating to business goals and customer relations.

Today, utilities need to continuously obtain, analyze and leverage vast amounts of (near) real-time data, thus making network health, and therefore network visibility, crucial to operations. 

The value of consolidating network management under one system can not be overstated. The combination of rich data collection at the edge of the network and powerful analytics at the core deliver unprecedented visibility into network operation, simplifying management, improving operational efficiency, and accelerating problem/resolution time. This holistic view enables utility operators to quickly pinpoint and address key health and life cycle challenges that are major sources of inefficiency and risk.

At the network core, management data is received and analyzed by the management server. From the management console, IT personnel can view the network as a system and perform critical analytics, including performance monitoring, statistical capture, trend analysis, and drill-down monitoring of client connectivity. The end result is a single pane of glass that provides intelligence, automation, and visualization that facilitates standard, more efficient, and continuous field operations and network administration processes via:

“-                Advanced auto-discovery — Routers are able to automatically find one another to create the network, reducing the need for extensive pre-planning, and streamlining network deployment.

“-                Network analytics — Continuous data collection provides minute-by-minute historical data on endpoint activity. Essential to network optimization and troubleshooting, trend analysis enables managers to assess changes in network performance and reliability over time. As a result, problems can be addressed before they adversely affect performance, and additional capacity or network configuration changes can be implemented proactively.

“-                Simple, powerful search allows for the retrieval of information on any device, anywhere in the network.

“-                Seamless integration with Google Maps — offers real-time views of router locations and visibility into operational data. This full integration supports the creation of network maps with multiple zoom levels and terrain views. Status updates, and performance data can all be accessed directly from the map.

Furthermore, the network management system used to monitor and control utility applications also plays a key role in ensuring security. With end-to-end visibility, operations managers can quickly identify, view, and diagnose problems with comprehensive alarm and event monitoring tools and root cause diagnostics. Automated notifications are sent and acted upon before network performance is compromised.

All of these features can be delivered by SuprOS, ABB‘s carrier-class management system capable of managing a utility’s entire field area network from a single console. By consulting current and historical data on key thresholds, managers can ensure high levels of performance through proactive responses during network expansions, reconfigurations, or remedial actions.

Using a network management system provides the ability to enable (near) real-time performance management—the capability to push key analytics at the right time so that critical decisions can be made in an automated and intelligent manner. Without a platform that connects the information and processes in a seamless manner, real-time performance management is not possible.

Author: Bert Williams is director, global marketing for ABB wireless product group, and brings 30 years of experience in successfully leading the marketing organizations of networking companies.



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