The Benefits & Challenges for Substation Communications

Posted by Manny Duvelson on May 7, 2018 2:06:00 PM

As a power utility company, it is critical to understand the benefits and challenges when it comes to substation communications IP migration. There can be major benefits when migrating from TDM to packet networks.

Packet networks can provide standardization, scalability, extensibility, network efficiency and long term support. The two key challenges that come with the system are dependability and security. Utilities want to ensure equipment hardening, reliability and availability with their migration. They also want to meet the regulatory standard (NERC-CIP), comply with their own security policy and adhere to industry best practices. TDM-Packet-Requirements.jpg

Although that is a lot to consider, it’s not all. There is legacy conversion with current equipment, technology options, network characteristics and leased packet services. How power utility can achieve the best of both worlds by migrating to packet with minimal disturbance to the current system? 

Comparing Technology Options:

  • Carrier Ethernet (CE)
    • Transport native Ethernet services
    • Traffic Engineering
    • Sub 50ms convergence time
    • Simpler in function
    • Mature Technology
    • SONET/SDH like architecture
    • Faster layer 2 forwarding capabilities
    • No dynamic path routing-requires path configuration 
  • Multi-Protocol Label Switching (IP/MPLS)Legacy TDM Migration.jpg
    • Transport multiple traffic types
    • Traffic Engineering
    • Automatic network routing
    • Non-dependent on network management system
    • Flexible architecture with mesh topology
    • Sub 100ms convergence time
    • Security gap
    • More complex 
  • Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS-TP)Requires the use of network management
    • Traffic Engineering
    • Uses same architectural principles like SONET/SDH
    • Simpler in function
    • Static route provisioning like CE
    • Added OAM
    • Enhanced Security
    • Not as mature as CE or IP/MPLSSub Comm.png

At the end of the day, utilities want a migration that helps them achieve the best of both worlds. They need a successful migration of all legacy mission-critical applications to a packet network with 99.999% reliability. They have to have the ability to modernize their substation communications with newer applications designed to operate efficiently over packet, and they want future proofing of their substation communications network. 

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Topics: Substation