In the move to a customer-centric, distributed energy system, data is playing an increasingly central role. Utilities are facing a torrent of energy data that must be managed and processed in as close to real time as possible. And this torrent is likely to become a tsunami as grids become smarter and grid edge innovation increases.
This is why today’s utilities need an IT architecture that is flexible, scalable, and that enables real-time analytics. Event-driven architecture (EDA) can achieve this and can help utilities adapt to, or even lead the changes that are affecting their industry, instead of being left trailing in their wake.
Event-driven architecture is reactive and responsive. It enables utilities to react to data as it is being generated. This gives them a clearer view of operations and allows a rapid response to changing conditions.
At the heart of Event-driven architecture is the ‘event’. Firstly, let’s take a look at what an ‘event’ is and then how this relates to Event-driven architecture. We’ll then explore the reasons this approach to IT architecture is ideally suited in preparing utilities for whatever the future energy landscape brings.
What is an Event in Event-Driven Architecture?
An ‘event’ is data produced by a change in software (such as a mobile app), hardware (even something as small as a particular keystroke), a system or an external source (such as an edge device or smart meter). It is something that happens. As such it is ‘immutable’. A fact that cannot be changed.
Events are identified and pre-set, according to the business and operational needs of the organization.
Using a smart meter deployment as an example, the following could be included as events:
- Field service Completed / Meter Installed Event
- Meter Detected / Meter Connected Event
- Meter Configured Event
- Meter Readings Events
- Meter Readings Validated Events
- Missing Data Event
These events are both mission critical and time sensitive. The ability to analyse and act on these events in real time would improve efficiencies, cut costs and enhance customer service.
So, What is an Event-Driven Architecture?
Event-driven architecture is structured around events and the sequence of pre-set actions triggered by these events. The first stage is to define the events that are critical to the business. The next is to determine how systems or services should react to each event. Data from events trigger an action or series of actions.
The events are processed through a decoupled architecture. Because components are independent and autonomous, they are flexible, agile and scalable.
Event-Driven Architecture and Microservices
Microservices are configured as ‘event consumers.’ Any number of additional ‘event consumers’ can be added. This makes Event-driven architecture extensible, i.e. it allows the addition of new capabilities as needed and as circumstances change. This is ideal for utilities operating in a landscape where new data sources need to be continuously added in the near and long-term future.
Event-Driven Architecture is Asynchronous
Event-driven architecture is asynchronous. Actions are automatic having been triggered by the event. ‘Event consumers’ listen for the event. The ‘Event’ doesn’t need to know any information from the ‘Event consumer’. It just produces data. There is no need to check back to see whether something has happened or changed and wait for a response. This makes Event-driven architecture highly reactive and responsive.
In summary, “Event-driven integration architecture is made up of highly decoupled, single-purpose event processing components that asynchronously receive and process events.”
When to Choose Event-Driven Architecture?
Event-driven architecture is ideal for improving agility and flexibility. It enables the real-time analysis of Big Data, so that organizations can understand and act on trends as they happen (or shortly after they’ve occurred).
New microservices can be added quickly and easily to consume existing event data. This, combined with the ability to use real-time analytics, delivers flexibility and the ability to rapidly innovate.
The same data can be used multiple times by different applications or ‘event consumers’.
Additional microservices can be plugged in as needed and without impacting existing events or applications. What’s more, existing data and stream history from any newly added service can be consumed.
For Big Data Analytics
Event-driven architecture is ideally suited for processing thousands of messages which are being continuously produced. For example, in monitoring a smart meter deployment.
What are the Advantages of using Event-Driven Architecture for Utilities?
1. EDA Enables Utilities to Manage Ever-Growing Volumes of Energy Data
Energy data is proliferating. As the grid becomes smarter, as behind-the-meter innovation explodes, as consumers become prosumers, utilities are facing a future where they must process enormous quantities of data. Event-driven architecture can handle the millions of messages produced by smart meters and IoT devices. Traditional architectures built around a request/respond format struggle to cope with the energy system’s new distributed reality and takes too long to respond to requests.
EDA’s scalability and extensibility means that data streams from new distributed energy resources, EV charging clusters or smart meter deployments can be added as required.
2. EDA Enables Utilities to Play a Central Role in the Energy Transition
The ability to act on real-time data is a game-changer for utilities. With the earlier smart metering example, it’s easy to see how it can speed up a smart meter rollout and make existing deployments more efficient.
But real-time insights also enable utilities to be innovators and leaders. Real-time insights into power generation and consumption are essential for flexibility markets. Accurate, real-time visibility of end users’ power consumption opens up myriad possibilities for new consumer facing apps and services.
3. EDA Helps to Deliver Energy Data Sharing for Flexibility and Innovation
As renewables take a greater share of the energy mix and more players enter the energy landscape, data sharing is becoming increasingly important. There have even been calls in several regions for open energy data. Data sharing is essential for flexibility markets. It can also help deliver efficiencies and innovation.
Event-driven architecture can help bring about data sharing between all participants in an energy ecosystem or even between competitors. Multiple numbers of microservices can use the same ‘event’ data. New microservices, including from third parties, can be plugged in to consume the same data.
4. EDA Helps to Build Resilient Utilities
By decoupling services, there is no one point of failure. If one service fails or needs to be updated, other services can continue running without being affected.
EDA’s scalability means that both increases and decreases of data volumes can be accommodated. This would include massive power outages in the case of an extreme weather event such as a hurricane.
5. EDA Enables Utilities to Prepare for the Future, Whatever that may Bring
EDA helps organizations, ‘Design for Uncertainty.’ It enables flexibility and helps them to tackle increasing process complexity and manage changing data volumes.
As the US politician, Donald Rumsfeld, famously said,
“There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
In a rapidly changing energy sector, Event-driven architecture can help utilities prepare for the known unknowns (for example, the exact quantity of data they will be processing in the future), but also the unknown, unknowns..
Today’s energy system is generating more and more data. As electrification increases, as more IoT sensors, grid technologies and behind the meter innovations come on board, this flood of energy data will only grow. With traditional approaches to IT architecture, this enormous volume of energy data will be hard to manage. It will hinder the responsiveness of utilities at the very time that more responsiveness is needed for managing the gird. An Event-driven architecture can enable utilities to become the agile, innovative organizations these changing conditions demand.
Utilihive iPaaS is designed as an Event-driven Integration Architecture and built as a network of reactive microservices. Utilizing an Event-driven Enterprise iPaaS and Event-driven integration architecture, creates an integration solution that:
- handles big data integrations (i.e. smart metering solutions)
- is built for real-time application integration (i.e. intelligent grid operations, redispatch, trading scenarios)
- is dynamically and elastically scalable accommodating fluctuating (increases or decrease) in data volumes (i.e. massive power outages in case of a Typhoons or Hurricanes)
- can easily be extended or adapted by adding either additional types of events or adding additional event-consumers (e.g. ongoing application landscape modernization, introduction of centralized data hubs or new market communication platforms)
- is easy to operate from an IT point of view
Greenbird is an international solution and technology company with roots in Norway. We simplify the complexity of Big Data Integration to help organizations unlock the value of their data and mission critical applications. Our flagship innovation, Utilihive, is a cloud-native platform combining enterprise integration capabilities with a data lake optimized for energy use cases. We founded Greenbird in 2010 with a mission to revolutionize how the energy industry thinks about enterprise system integration.
Today, Utilihive is used by utilities across Europe, Middle East and Asia serving more than 50 million consumers. Greenbird is headquartered in Oslo and has around 50 employees, comprising primarily of senior developers and consultants and specializing in technology development and customer onboarding of the Utilihive platform. To learn how you can unleash the value of data while removing silos, get the executive brief on Utilihive here.