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Cisco expands smart grid portfolio

Cisco this week expanded its smart grid portfolio for utilities with a reference architecture, products and services intended to modernize the electric grid.

Cisco unveiled the GridBlocks Architecture, a blueprint for integrating digital communications and the electric grid, including support for legacy utility communications networks. Cisco also rolled out field area network (FAN) equipment and transmission and substation switches and routers. The company is offering services to help utilities plan, design and optimize their new grid infrastructures.

Cisco’s GridBlocks Architecture is designed to give utility operators a holistic view of their grid communications infrastructure while also enabling them to focus on particular elements of the network that may have unique requirements. It’s intended to be adaptable to these requirements, such as support for legacy infrastructure or regional compliance regulations. 

The FAN combines smart grid metering, distribution, data collection and utility software from Itron with Cisco’s IPv6-based routers and switches. Cisco and Itron announced an alliance around IPv6-based smart grid infrastructure back in 2010. 

The FAN includes a new ruggedized IPv6 router line from Cisco: the 1000 series Connected Grid Router. The router comes in models for outdoor pole-top mount – the CGR 1240 -- and indoor DIN-rail mount with the CGR 1120.  Each supports 2G/3G, WiMAX and RF wireless mesh connectivity.

The FAN also includes new endpoints, device management and network management systems such as the Cisco Connected Grid Network Management System, which is designed to provide end-to-end monitoring and control for up to 10 million endpoints.

For transmission and substations, Cisco unveiled modules for its 2000 Series Connected Grid Routers that support wireless 4G/LTE, ISDN WAN and DSL networks.  Cisco also enhanced security on the 2000 series with intrusion prevention / intrusion detection, and support for SCADA signatures. In addition, the Cisco 2000 supports source-specific multicast for transfer and sharing of data across utility boundaries.   

For implementation, Cisco developed the Connected Grid Visualization and Design tool to allow engineers to visualize in a single interface the energy delivery network CIM diagrams, the IEC 61850 protection schema for intelligent electronic devices, and the communications network.  This helps engineers to design, model, and simulate all three networks, and standardize designs across hundreds or thousands of substations, Cisco says.

Cisco entered the smart grid market three years ago, citing at that time a $20 billion opportunity.

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

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