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Utilities collect a staggering amount of data to maintain and optimize their respective grids. If and when that data gets disrupted, grid reliability and efficiency suffer. 

Utilities, therefore, use supervising control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems -- effectively sensors that measure anything from power generation and consumption to water flow and levels -- to help monitor their grids. 

These systems for decades have communicated through time division multiplexing (TDM) technologies, which are reliable and proven. But at the same time, TDM systems are quickly nearing end of life as new technologies that provide infrastructure convergence are rapidly accelerating. 

This has caused several industries to migrate toward solutions that provide TDM endpoint capability delivered through a modern IP core network. 

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TDM to IP challenges for utilities

The path towards TDM to IP migration can be an exhaustive venture for even the largest of network operators. For utilities, this task may be even more daunting as they typically don't have the time or personnel to oversee the labor-intensive process. 

Utilities are on the clock to make the migration for the following reasons: 

  • End of life: Manufacturers are finding that many of the chipsets needed to produce TDM based equipment are no longer available.
  • Loss of skilled TDM technicians: With increased migration away from TDM technologies, technicians are employment incentivized to learn the latest and greatest technologies and have no desire to learn the technologies that are being sunset by the carriers (i.e., TDM, Analog). This has caused a noticeable increase in restoration times for these types of services and decrease in employable market staffing.
  • Parallel operations: Although not a technical challenge, because of the parallel operations costs, it is important to transition services from the TDM circuit to the Ethernet circuit as quickly as possible to enable the disconnection of the TDM circuit. For most commercial and government enterprises, the ROI for IP based services supports the migration, as the technology provides greater efficiency, flexibility, and scalability.

Nevertheless, utilities are stuck between a rock and a hard place as SCADA systems communicating over TDM is working just fine for them today and migrating to IP represents a substantial investment on their behalf. 

Utilities, therefore, need to find a partner that can drive toward an efficient and effective migration plan and then execute rapidly in order to avoid disruption.  

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Don't wait until it's too late

Organizations that fail to modernize risk falling behind. It's better to plan now than to wait until TDM truly hits end of life and there is no alternative method to collect and utilize data needed to operate the grid.

Systems integrators like World Wide Technology (WWT) can help in this regard by accelerating the time it takes to validate, deploy and move from a legacy TDM system to a modernized IP one.

WWT can deliver a complete, end-to-end TDM-to-IP system for utilities looking for an easy button. Alternatively, we can help utilities with specific trouble areas during any part of a migration.

Tyler Tappy and Joseph Hubner, two colleagues of mine, recently wrote an article on four ways organizations can accelerate TDM to IP migration. The path toward successful TDM to IP migration can feel exhaustive for any utility to tackle alone. If you are facing what feels like an insurmountable mountain of resources, skill sets, and supply chain, integration and cutover expertise in your TDM to IP migration, you're not alone and we'd welcome the opportunity to speak with you.

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Don't forget about security

TDM technologies have independent cabling and serial interfaces, making them less susceptible to hackers. IP, on the other hand, is more decentralized and can be a target for cybercriminals. 

Many companies lack the resources with deep expertise in both IT and OT that can articulate a vision and develop a strategy that remains agile enough to meet the needs of the business, while also being secure enough to protect the interests of the business.

Our holistic approach helps you connect business goals and objectives to technical solutions, thereby enabling more effective outcomes and alignment with broader enterprise architecture efforts.

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Leverage a team of teams

As may be clear by now, migrating from TDM to IP does not just require expertise in one critical area, it demands a variety of experts spanning:

  • Technology
  • Business
  • Security
  • Solution testing and validation
  • Planning and logistics
  • Integration
  • Supply chain

The convergence of TDM and IP allows for easy migration from legacy network technologies, such as TDM, to more modern converged IT/OT packet-based solutions. ICON interoperates with Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) or Carrier Ethernet-based core networks to provide a hardened OT edge multiplexer for mission critical applications.

This allows utilities to continue squeezing ROI out of their existing TDM investments while providing a migration path to more modern architectures.

To demonstrate what the ICON solution can do, WWT developed a custom-built underlay network in our Advanced Technology Center, a unique lab environment where organizations can test, validate and deploy emerging technology solutions

WWT has expertise in each of these areas and can deliver and end-to-end approach that helps streamline the process of completing a successful TDM to IP migration.