Possibilities of the Smart Grid

smart grid layoutNowadays the whole electric grid is rapidly changing worldwide. Generation quickly becomes distributed through the use of new renewable energy sources (primarily wind and solar based). Consumption also takes new forms, as users develop new needs through the use of electric vehicles and smart appliances able to select the optimal time to operate. The distribution network has to quickly evolve and adapt to the new generation and consumption scenarios in order to continue to provide the level of service that consumers have come to expect and demand.

The increased complexity of the electric grid cannot be managed with traditional setups. In order to face these new challenges the electric network must be better intercommunicated and it needs to be able to provide its operators with precise and current information. This enables informed decisions and guarantees the continued operation of the grid, while preventing failures which could quickly cascade.

By incorporating telecommunication technologies into the electric grid, many new services for clients can also be realized and management of the whole system becomes easier and cheaper. A comparatively small investment to upgrade the network will quickly pay for itself in the form of more streamlined management and new services for customers.

New possibilities for grid operators

  • Constant control and monitoring of the electrical substations. Black-outs and overloads can be prevented by monitoring the whole distribution network and watching for signs of problems. Additionally decisions such as when to connect alternative power sources can be taken quickly. Areas with problems are quickly isolated so that they do not affect the rest of the network.
  • Reduced operation costs. By remotely monitoring the whole system, electrical companies no longer need to send out personnel in order to carry out certain maintenance tasks or to check the status.
  • Offloading part of the generation costs, as consumers self-generate (but are charged for the management of the system and back-up availability).
  • Possibility of including new renewable generation sources, with lower OPEX costs and reduced dependencies on varying fuel prices.
  • Reduced investment in generation due to more stable consumption pattern along the day. Supply can be more constant and the generation no longer needs to cover extreme demand peaks. This leads to less backup generators.
  • Reduced liability to consumers’ compensation for electrical outages.
  • A secured communications channel that is immune to security threats and can be used for additional services.

New services for consumers

By upgrading its network, the electric operator can offer (and monetize) new services to its consumers, including:

  • High availability contracts for industrial clients, given the increased reliability of the whole network.
  • Ability to constantly monitor electrical usage and receive detailed reports. The consumer can invest in more efficient appliances due to a better understanding of their electrical consumption.
  • Possibility of using new high consumption devices (ex. electric cars) without putting the electrical installation at risk
  • Possibility to self-generate part of the electrical consumption. Thereby being more resilient to electrical grid failures.
  • Programming intelligent devices (i.e. washing machine, electrical car, water heater …) to activate in valley consumption periods in order to pay lower electrical prices.
  • Under certain circumstances, ability to instantaneously change the capacity of their own network. The electrical company can remotely adjust the client’s meter (network permitting) to allow higher or lower power consumption.

Teldat provides the communications network for electric operators. It empowers the grid owner with new opportunities while safeguarding its data and infrastructure. Teldat employs the same protocols for which it has gained recognition in critical sectors such as banking, thereby guaranteeing a secure network, protected from intrusions.

Daniel Alvarez Wise:

Can 4G/LTE become a main line connection?

4g networksPerhaps this question  has to be clarified somewhat.

Indeed, slower and more mature cellular lines 2G and 3G lines are already main line connections in certain scenarios, especially in those segments which are not so dependent on large bandwidth, but at the same time are extremely dependent on mobility. A typical example is that of remote cash point machines deployed across the world in all sorts locations (shopping malls, airports, sports centers, etc.). Many banks came to conclusion some time ago that the difficulty of connecting these machines to a wired connection, made cellular connectivity much more viable.

In which cases can 4g and LTE be a good alternative to fixed line connection?

However, the real question that needs an answering today is; can 4G/LTE become an alternative to WAN (Wide Area Network) fixed line connection? Starting from the bottom upwards, we could say, yes it can be that alternative, because there are many vertical markets that require broadband on the one hand and cellular connectivity on the other.

Retail is a market which is definitely changing and could benefit from 4G/LTE. Haven’t we walked into department stores which frequently seem to be changing their sales items’ layout on the shop floor? Such mobility makes the use of wired connection difficult and if they use applications such as digital signage among others, which are becoming increasing popular, a large wireless broadband is necessary for correct functionality.

Also within the retail sector, pop up shops and kiosk are prime candidates to have 4G/LTE as their main line connectivity. They always need fast and temporary deployment accompanied with the increasing requirement to connect to the central sites for reasonably large amount of data flows.

Public transport can hugely benefit from 4G/LTE main line connection. Many cities are installing security cameras onboard buses, trains and similar forms of transport. These images cannot only be stored on the vehicles, but with 4G/LTE live connections can be established with the city control rooms, increasing employee and traveller security. Moreover, once 4G/LTE is installed on public transport, many authorities use the opportunity of having cellular broadband onboard to offers its clients Internet connection and hence increase customer satisfaction and loyalty to public transport. Hence, staying away from private transport which most cities want to reduce.

Healthcare is another important cliente of 4G/LTE main line connectivity for its emergency vehicles (ambulances, etc.). Not only to track the vehicles, as in the transport sector, but also to have its medical equipment onboard connected to the Hospital with the specialists. So in extreme cases lives can even be saved, when critical patients haven’t the time to arrive at the Hospitals. On a more routine scenario, rural areas can clearly have their doctors’ consultancies or even individual patients, connected to their specialists who are located in the more urban parts of their country.

Although these vertical markets are of interest, and very much so, there is a common business set up, across most of the world today that can use 4G/LTE as main line connectivity. That is, the branch office scenario in its different shapes, types and sizes.

The role of 4G/LTE on a global scenario

It is true that in highly wired cities there would be a good debate as to whether 4G/LTE would be a better option for branches located in these areas. However, as soon as we move away to smaller towns and especially the more rural areas, then the 4G/LTE alternative would be quite convincing, basically because if available, the bandwidth would be wider on 4G/LTE in these areas, than what a wired connection can probably offer.

Moreover, we must bear in mind that what can be classified today as a “branch office” spread across a nation’s geographical terrain, may be many more establishments than the traditional local bank branch or post office. Companies are developing mini-branch sales offices with perhaps only one or two employees, but they need them to be connected and able to work on all the type company applications. These applications require a broadband with significant width. For this scenario, 4G/LTE would fit perfectly.

From a different perspective, there are many traditional establishments which before would not be classified within the branch office / head office connected scenario, but now do fall into this category. For example, many public sector establishments, such as schools, doctors’ consultancies, etc. are now becoming more and more connected to their “head office”. All of these “new branch office scenarios” need to be connected to their central site or simply to the cloud, from where they require to establish data flows in both directions.

Routers, VPN and Security

However, independently of fixed line or 4G/LTE connection, we do have to remain cautious in all scenarios as always, else the standards that we are accustomed to will not be maintained. Hence, whether the connection is being made from a larger city branch office on wired connection or from a much smaller rural office on 4G/LTE, we need the VPN to be as secure as always. The same router types and operating systems should be used for fixed line or 4G/LTE connections, else the economies of scale achieved within the ICT department will be lost and the data being routed around the countries and the world would viable to hackers, etc..

Teldat not only has years of experience in manufacturing cellular routers from the beginning of 2G technology through the entire 3G development, but already has excellent devices with proved and successful deployments of cellular 4G/LTE scenarios in different parts of the world. Do not hesitate to contact us and we will help you solving all your doubts!

Javier García Berjano: Online & Corporate marketing manager at Teldat. Javier manages the web, blog and other social media, as well as corporate marketing areas in collaboration with the different Teldat business units.  

There’s no reason for the alphabet to be in its current order

Or, is there?  Had you ever thought about it?  Is it important? Maybe not, but I bet you that a vast majority of us have at least lived a moment in which we have strongly wished the alphabetical list by which we were being called was in a different order.  Or that our surname began with a different letter, which is more or less the same.

As in this example, there are a lot of things in our everyday life which we do for unknown reasons, or even worse for reasons which might not be the most adequate. In the first case, it is clear that humans are routine animals which tend to standardize a behaviour, with which they feel comfortable, and then they stick to it. After all, this seems to be the most efficient model and due to our lack of time and multiple occupations, it might make sense (or at least, we convince ourselves that it does).

The second case is more complicated, because sometimes thinking outside the box, or defending a different position, requires even extra effort, time and sometimes personal engagement. Thus, sometimes we forget the reasons behind the true objective in favor of others, equally valid but with less impact in what we should be achieving.

This happens every day and to every one of us. Why we all keep checking emails at off-hours, when nothing (besides spam) is expected? Because it is our normal routine behaviour.  Even though we have a strong commitment to “this time we definitely get in shape”, why do we remain sitting on our sofas instead of rushing to the Gym? Because we are able to find millions of “valid” reasons that prevent us from reaching our objective in the best ever possible way. Instead, we would rather end in a more comfortable and less effortless position.

The consequences of making thoughtless decisions in ICT environments

These, are examples taken from our real life, and have no greater impact on other people or organizations other than ourselves. But the real problem comes when we take the same behaviour model to our professional life. Here, and specially in the ICT area, which is the platform upon which company processes are built, every decision has a direct impact on people’s performance, on organization effectiveness and on the business bottom line.

Honestly, think for a minute: How many ICT purchase projects are influenced by some behaviours that might lead to a second-best solution for our project?  Of course, time and resources are a big issue here, so sometimes we (all) tend to go for the most recognized manufacturers, or to the sales guy which is constantly pressing to get a deal, or to the solution that makes us safer (because that is what everybody does and so, I will not be blamed if it fails), or simply to the one that we are most comfortable with.

Maybe in this way we are losing opportunities to change, to innovate, to improve and to find solutions that better solve the organizations. There are lots of not-so-big companies with excellent technology and superb customer support that due to their size and flexibility can provide specific solutions that address the explicit needs of different sectors. In most cases general purpose vendors with a one-size-fits-all business model, can´t afford to deliver too small functional details and so, the organization ends up lacking a solution that saves them worries, time and money, with the due impact on the business bottom line.

Specific solutions adjusted to specific routing needs

Of course all this effort, is not for free. This requires tests, time, dedication, and also assuming a bit of risk. But if it works, the results are excellent and a huge value is delivered to the companies. We know every step of it because we have seen it happen in almost every customer that we have around the world. From the disbelief, to the skepticism, to the surprise, to the utmost loyalty for years.

So we know how to help any organization to eventually get the (really) best solutions for their routing needs.

Coming back to our alphabet title. Has somebody figured out how to avoid the problem of those whose surname began with letter A B or C, always being the first in the line. The solution was so simple, as to draw out which would be the first letter to begin with. This proves that it is possible, and easier than one might think to change the established order.  We have been doing it for a long time, and we can help you decide if for your routing needs, maybe T would be the first to consider, rather than A. Or B. Or, as usually happens, C.

 

Lola Miravet: Telecommunications Engineer, is the Head of Teldat’s Corporate Marketing Department.

NFV and SDN. Dumb routers for smart networks?

http://www.teldat.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/177402640.jpgNFV (Network Functions Virtualization) is a new network architecture that proposes to extend the virtualization technology used in the traditional IT environment to the different network elements, to create more flexible networks and services, easier to deploy and operate, for a reduced cost. While RAID and virtualization meant a revolution on the storage technology and on the computing and operating systems technologies respectively, SDN and NFV propose an equivalent transformation on the communications networks. Cloud Computing would not have been possible without the former technologies and SDN and NFV, in turn, rely on Cloud Computing technologies to deliver their promise.

SDN (Software Defined Networking) is also an emerging network architecture that centralizes the view and control of the network, separating the forwarding decisions (control plane) from the network elements that in fact forward the packets of information (data plane), moving, in this way, the intelligence to the “center” of the network from the previously remotely distributed networks elements, like switches or routers.

SDN and NFV can exist independently of each other, but they are, in fact, complementary technologies that reinforce themselves when used simultaneously.

The interest of network operators in NFV technology

NFV is being pushed and promoted mainly by network operators, in the fight with the “Over-the-Top” service providers, which use network operators’ networks as “dumb pipes” to offer value added services and applications to the end users. With NFV, network operators seek to reduce the time to market of new services generation and provisioning, lower the required investment (CAPEX) and the operating and maintenance cost (OPEX) and expedite the innovation by favoring open-source initiatives.

NFV (and SDN) can theoretically be applied to any network element, network part, or function. For instance, it could be applied to the Mobile Core Network of a mobile operator or to the load balancer gear of a data center.

In more or less degree, part of the functionality of these network elements is subject to be virtualized and offered, for a lower cost, in a central location, using traditional low-cost COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) servers running open-source based software, instead of proprietary hardware and software from established vendors. Or at least this is what many network operators are chasing, promoting and starting to test or even trial in the real world.

But, how does all this apply to the enterprise branch office access router, that is the main network element or “function” that Teldat provides? Does this specific network element have any peculiarity or characteristic that could influence or condition the way it can benefit from the NFV and SDN technologies?

Does it make sense to virtualize the access router?

A rigorous analysis falls out of the scope of this post and one will find both advantages and disadvantages when virtualizing a network element such as the access router or CPE. But regardless of the amount of functionality that might be virtualized, let us first say that we see tough to create “smarter networks” by using “dumber routers”. This does not mean that NFV does not apply to the enterprise branch office access router, but that from all the potential benefits of the NFV and SDN technologies, the CAPEX reduction is probably the less interesting one, or in other words, the toughest to obtain.

Some market initiatives, like the HGI (Home Gateway Initiative), founded in 2004, promote a model that increases the functionality of the CPE by embedding on it a “Software Execution Environment”, able to locally execute several applications or functions. This is the opposite of the NFV model regarding where to put the “intelligence”. Both architectures will probably coexist in the foreseeable future, since both have advantages and drawbacks depending on the specific use case.

The “last mile”: A challenge for NFV  application

SDN benefits are rarely questioned on the datacenter and specifically on the datacenter switches. Nevertheless, the access network and in particular the “last mile” is a much more heterogeneous environment and the bandwidth, in roughly all the cases, cannot be considered “unlimited”, as you could “model” in a Terabit/s datacenter infrastructure. Clearly this has strong implications on the NFV possibilities for a CPE.

The more complex the network element or function, the more potential NFV has to introduce benefits for the network operator. But also, the more heterogeneous the network element environment, the more complicated is to provide an equivalent “homogeneous” virtualized scenario. The last mile is a quite complex element, with non-trivial requirements such as security, quality of service, redundancy and resilience, different media adaptation, etc. On the other side, the last mile is also a quite heterogeneous scenario, especially for integrated or converged network operators that offer a broad range of access technologies.

Interoperability issues

Before a widespread adoption of SDN and NFV can occur, a crucial issue must be solved: Interoperability must be guaranteed, so that network operators do not find themselves locked into a specific vendor solution. Carriers should be warned by their experience in the GPON world with the OMCI “proprietary” management, just one fraction of the complexity NFV can imply. The open-source oriented path the network operators are proposing can be very beneficial for them, but it will not solve this interoperability problem per-se and an “integrator” figure is needed. And “integrator” or “vendor” in this regard is pretty much the same thing.

Smart routers that suit any challenge

At Teldat we follow the SDN and NFV trends with interest and we think they will definitely change the networks for good. Being a vendor that focuses on the customer premises side of the communications, we have always needed to interoperate with the network and use and promote the use of standard-based communications. Our coming devices and many of the existing ones are future proof and SDN/NFV-ready. We do this by designing smarter devices that can create smarter networks. Although some network functions can be virtualized, the enterprise branch office network in the cloud-computing era is complex enough to benefit from a powerful future-proof access router.

Eduardo Tejedor:

Heartbleed attacks and Internet security: Prevention is better than cure

heartbleed noticeOur daily data traffic on the Internet has reached dimensions which can hardly be put into numbers. For example, in June 2014, an average of 1.7 Tbit/s of data has been transmitted at the German DE-CIX (the largest Internet exchange point worldwide, situated in Frankfurt). Indeed, numerous transactions related to critical applications such as financial or personal data are conducted. Whether stock market transactions, online shopping or home banking, anyone who carries out such transactions counts implicitly that security, integrity and authenticity are guaranteed at any time.

For years, such processes and methods have been well established on the basis of deploying according technologies which permit to appropriately encrypt and secure data transmissions. Here, the use of SSL has become a quasi-standard.

However, it has also turned out that web server, NAS, gateways and routers, due to an implementation error are vulnerable, as sensitive data can be retrieved without being able to detect the spying of data as an attack. Furthermore, particularly worrying is that a variety of services which protect their data, typically via SSL/TLS, are affected. This also includes e-mails (POPS, IMAPS, SMTP with STARTTLS).

Anatomy of a “heart defect

 By looking closely at the problem, one realizes that the actual error is comparatively simple. In order to maintain a communication, so-called heart beats will be sent out between the communicating partners. In this process the sender transmits data (payload) to the receiver who in return sends the data back.

The problem, however, results from the fact that the receiver does not verify how much data has actually been sent. This means, if the sender “lies” and actually only sends one single byte but claims to send 16 Kbyte, the receiver responds willingly by sending back data from its random access memory. This results in phishing the random access memory of the remote station by the attacker.

If someone uses this procedure systematically and with high computing power, large quantities of credit card information and passwords can be gathered and spied upon. Furthermore, it was possible to get to the innermost part of servers in order to spy out the private key. The consequence would be that perfect imitations of servers can be placed on the Internet and the users won’t notice because they won’t get a warning message of faked certificates.

Is it possible for your data security to recover from a “heart attack”?

Users and people affected are in a rather uncertain situation. Concerning the systems to which we have access, we have to explore as soon as possible whether a serious threat exists. This can be carried out in cooperation with the corresponding manufacturer.

If this is the case, appropriate measures have to be taken quickly in order to update the affected systems. In this context, it is also advisable to replace the digital certificates and to declare already existing certificates as invalid, although this may “only” be a precaution. For services to which we do not have access, we have to rely on the respective service provider to ensure security as soon as possible. It only makes sense to change passwords, after the provider has renewed certificates.

Take security preventive measures

The use of Open Source and especially in this case of OpenSSL, shows how a fundamental and critical infrastructure on the Internet can crumble overnight.

When you look behind the scenes and see how many software engineers actually work full-time on the maintenance and development, it is indeed thought-provoking.

As a manufacturer, we also ask ourselves the question, which is the correct way into the future?.

In none of Teldat´s products are the software components mentioned above deployed. Nevertheless, we see it as part of our responsibility, towards our partners and clients, to keep developing our products continually and even more intensively.

AUTHOR: Bernd Büttner

Bernd Buettner:
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