Following on our recent blog about our hesitation years ago to introduce the “Utility in the Cloud” concept, we saw recently a report from Zpryme that forecasts a cloud-laden future.

What’s interesting about their research is that it independently substantiates the view we’ve had for years, namely that utilities are undergoing tremendous transformation due to the necessity of enabling a smart grid and adapting to the new smart energy ecosystem that’s imminent, with distributed generation, renewables, consumerization of IT, etc.

The Zpryme research findings mirror our conclusion: that cloud solutions are the most capable technology for securely and flexibly managing the data at scale from the AMI and sensor deployments of recent years. And Zpryme concludes as we do, that cloud-based systems are indeed necessary to increasing utilities ability to rapidly scale solutions for optimization and changing business models – no matter where the utility is located.

In their report, Zpryme says:

Our forecast indicates the market for cloud solutions for utilities will experience dynamic growth over the next 8-10 years, with an average annual growth rate of 25%. Growth will be moderate in the short-term, primarily led by North America and Europe, and accelerate later by Asia Pacific, which has been slower to adopt cloud services. However, by 2015 Asia Pacific will surpass Europe, and will do the same for North America in 2019, and by 2020 will account for the largest share of the global cloud services market. The major application areas for cloud solutions will be in distribution system software and applications, AMI, and data management and analytics.

So why is this important?

Well, to us it forewarns the utility industry that many new companies will come to them with fancy offerings and big promises. We encourage utilities to continue their diligence in selecting their vendors, as there are smart ecosystems of software solution providers that have already been vetted over years of success. That system I’m speaking about is the Microsoft ecosystem of partners, the one which we were also talking about in that same post mentioned earlier, the one which is increasingly trusted as preferred vendors of choice. A large component of that trust is based on our enabling flexibility and integration in all our solutions.

Consider for example, Microsoft’s ability to provide multiple approaches to cloud services:

We believe that cloud services will continue to drive the overall cost of information technology lower and enable completely new classes of applications and solutions, largely because of service delivery through multiple formats. Think of the cloud applications that would be appropriate to mobile users, or those for generation fleets. Often, an IT department will start with transition from on-premise to a private cloud environment and perhaps focus on deploying virtual servers. This is commonly referred to as “Infrastructure as a service” and represents one of the flavors of IT as a service that is available within the world of cloud computing. But this is but one example of the possible cloud models, and IT professionals should become familiar with a variety of cloud standards so that they can select appropriately based on the needs of the enterprise. For example, we prefer to divide cloud computing into three categories and four deployment systems:

Categories

· Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), which provides hardware for storage, servers and network and resource provisioning to support flexible ways to create, use and manage virtual machines (VMs).

· Platform as a service (PaaS), focused on providing the higher-level capabilities — more than just VMs — required to support applications.

· Software as a service (SaaS), the applications that provide business value for users.

Systems

•     On-Premise. Most conventional, especially for Energy Management Systems and other core Mission Critical Operations systems.

•     Private Clouds. Virtualization, resource pooling and resource consolidation create on-premise Private Clouds, or hosted Private Clouds at cloud service providers.

•     Hybrid Cloud. Combines elements of the other cloud models but keeps sensitive data or Mission Critical processing behind the Utilities’ on-premise firewall.

•     Public Cloud. Either dedicated, servicing only one customer, or multitenant.

For utilities that embrace their future in the cloud, they will want a partner that’s experienced with the technology challenges and benefits of each of the above. Microsoft is the only vendor that has a holistic offering providing the flexibility to move across all these options with deployment location being as simple as a configuration detail. May the cloud be with you!  Jon C. Arnold