SANTA CLARA, Calif. Cisco Systems has rolled out its first router and switch designed for the needs of electric utility substations. The products are the first of a broad set of offerings expected from a business group set up late last year to extend Internet Protocol networks to the emerging smart grid.
"In electric substations there are so many sensors, meters and other control elements," said Inbar Lasser-Raab, a senior director of network systems at Cisco. "Tens of millions of elements will be connected to the network through these routers and switches," she said.
Indeed, Cisco chief executive John Chambers has said the smart grid promises to be even larger than the Internet, driving the need for the larger address space of IPv6. However, the new router and switch still use IPv4.
"It's going to be critical for Cisco to forge partnerships with smart grid solution providers--the Accenture's and ABB's of the world--who specialize in the utility industry and can engage the utilities at a business and strategic level, not just the IT and operational level," said Doug Washburn, an analyst, infrastructure and operations, Forrester Research. "I did not hear much from Cisco on this topic, and it's an important one since these players help utilities determine their smart gird strategy which ultimately drives technology and vendor decisions," Washburn said.
Although the partnerships may not be in place yet, Cisco is certainly acquiring the expertise.
In April, the Cisco group hired as its chief technology officer, Paul De Martini, former vice president of advanced technology for SoCal Edison. The Cisco group also hired Jeff Taft, a smart grid specialist from Accenture, as a senior architect.
At least three utilities including Southern California Edison will use the new systems in substation automation trials. "We are already selling quite a lot of existing products to utilities, and some are using our existing routers and switches in substations because until now we didn’t have a targeted solution," said Lasser-Raab.
“Solutions like those found in Cisco's [smart grid] portfolio will be an important part of the ecosystem needed to bring the smart grid and all of its benefits from vision to reality," said Mahvash Yazdi, chief information officer at SoCal Edison, speaking in a press statement.
Cisco has plans for products in "pretty much all areas" of utility networks from operations control and data centers to transmission systems, field systems and homes, said Lasser-Raab. The company already has a set of products for building automation.
Both new products are slight variations on popular commercial products from Cisco's existing portfolio. Both replace commercial grade components with industrial-class chips tested for broader operating temperatures and lifetimes and placed in ruggedized chassis to meet IEC 61850-3 and IEEE1613 standards.
The Cisco Grid Router 2010 also includes upgraded protocols to identify and prioritize messages from so-called SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) and Goose control networks. The router is based on Cisco's ISR G2 model 2905 commercial router announced in March.
The Cisco Grid Switch 2520 is based on the company's Catalyst series switches. It adds RS-232 serial interfaces to link to utility substation control systems.
The new router starts at a list price of $78,000, the switch lists for prices starting at $53,000. The announcements were timed for the opening of the Connectivity Week conference on smart grids.