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What's really behind the new Cisco / Elster strategic partnership?

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By Jesse Berst

 

It was two full years ago that Cisco and Itron announced their strategic partnership to collaborate on a standards-based architecture. Now Elster and Cisco have announced a similar partnership to "integrate the Cisco Connected Grid Endpoint reference design with Elster's EnergyAxis System."

 

The companies announced Monday that Elster will offer smart grid solutions for field area networks using Cisco's technology. The upshot, they say, is utility customers will have an even more flexible, secure and economical Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) communications infrastructure.

 

"As a smart grid solutions industry leader,Elster is committed to true interoperability and innovation," said Ed Myszka, President of Elster Solutions. "This announcement builds on Elster's track record of collaboration and integration to deliver the next generation of interoperability." (You can read the press release on page 2.)

 

Two years ago we told you that Cisco would recruit any and everybody to support its platform. And that Itron's advantages to its partnership were a) to be first to market and b) to have more influence over the final design.

 

"Our Itron-Cisco IPv6 reference architecture was the first to market and we always intended for partners and competitors to adopt it as we move toward a true plug and play model,” confirms Itron's Russ Vanos, vice president Global Smart Grid Solutions. “Standards and interoperability simplify the deployment of smart grid technologies while reducing the total cost of ownership of these systems. The utility industry and the smart grid will only get stronger by adopting standards as the next logical step.”

 

Notice how both executives emphasize interoperability. It is important for utilities to distinguish between standards and interoperability. There are many ways to implement a standard (and many ways to layer proprietary enhancements on top of open standards). As a result, two companies that both support the same standard on paper may not interoperate in real life.

 

How do you guarantee interoperability? One way is to integrate with a reference platform. That's the approach Itron took two years ago, choosing to align with Cisco's expertise and brand name in open IP networking. Now Elster is along for the ride. Can others be far behind?

 

More about Cisco and Elster…

Reports of my demise department: Cisco doubles down on smart grid

Elster buyer plans on spending increases, not cuts

Industry heavyweights drive adoption of wireless networking standard

The smart grid according to Cisco: 9 things you need to know now

 

Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.

PRESS RELEASE

Elster to Offer Advanced Smart Grid Solutions Using Cisco Technology

Cisco's Connected Grid Endpoint reference design SDK to be used with Elster's EnergyAxis® System

SAN JOSE, CA and RALEIGH, NC – Sep. 18, 2012 – Cisco and Elster announced today that Elster will offer smart grid solutions for field area networks using Cisco's technology. The solutions will integrate the Cisco Connected Grid Endpoint reference design with Elster's EnergyAxis System, and will showcase the power and flexibility of Elster's Universal technology while demonstrating support for Cisco's expertise in standards-based and interoperable communication solutions.

 

Through this integration of communication functions into advanced meters, utility customers will be provided with an even more flexible, secure, and economical Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) communications infrastructure. The combined solution will integrate the Elster EnergyAxis architecture within the Cisco IPv6 RF Mesh reference design.

 

Cisco has developed a complete suite of communications solutions for the smart grid. These include the Connected Grid Endpoint reference design as well as a full suite of switching, routing, network management and security products for the Field Area Network, Transmission & Substations, and Grid Operations. Plus Connected Grid Services to architect and optimize Smart Grid communications systems.

In addition to providing a comprehensive suite of AMI capabilities, Elster's EnergyAxis architecture enables smart meters to act as sensors for Distribution Automation and Asset Management applications such as Outage Notification, Voltage Monitoring, Asset Monitoring, and Loss Detection. These advanced solutions enable utilities to extract even more value from their AMI investments. Elster is licensing the Cisco Connected Grid Endpoint reference design and software development kit (SDK).The addition of the Connected Grid Endpoint reference design further expands the EnergyAxis System interoperability and standards-based optimization.

 

With its innovative Software-Defined Radio and advanced software based metrology, Elster's REXUniversal meter platform offers utilities the flexibility to deploy this device with the Cisco GridBlocksTM Solution Architecture, the Landis+Gyr GridStreamTM architecture (previously announced), as well as the Elster EnergyAxis Architecture.

 

Elster intends to develop EnergyAxis communications firmware that will operate within Cisco's 1000 Series Connected Grid Routers, and leverage application programming interfaces from the Cisco Connected Grid Network Management System.

 

"Cisco is committed to supporting our customers' need for interoperable vendor solutions," said Lionel Chocron, Vice President, Connected Energy Networks at Cisco. "By licensing the reference design to industry leaders such as Elster, we are enabling utilities to combine AMI communications over a common, reliable and secure communications infrastructure."

 

"As a Smart Grid solutions industry leader, Elster is committed to true interoperability and innovation," said Ed Myszka, President of Elster Solutions. "This announcement builds on Elster's track record of collaboration and integration to deliver the next generation of interoperability needed by utilities as they deploy Smart Grid solutions."

 

About Cisco

Cisco, the worldwide leader in networking, is helping the energy industry modernize the electrical grid from generation to distribution to consumption - with highly secure, reliable and scalable communications solutions. The Cisco Connected Grid solutions include: Transmission and Substation, Field Area Network, Grid Security, Data Center and Grid Operations. To learn more, please visit www.cisco.com/go/utilities.

 

About Elster

Elster is one of the world's largest electricity, gas and water measurement and control providers. Its offerings include distribution monitoring and control, advanced smart metering, demand response, networking and software solutions, and numerous related communications and services – key components for enabling consumer choice, operational efficiency and conservation. Its products and solutions are widely used by utilities in the traditional and emerging Smart Grid markets.

 

Elster has one of the most extensive installed revenue measurement bases in the world, with more than 200 million metering devices deployed over the course of the last 10 years. It sells its products and services in more than 130 countries across electricity, gas, water and multi-utility applications for residential, commercial and industrial, and transmission and distribution applications.

 

For more information about Elster, please visit www.elster.com.

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