Ottawa utility embraces cloud, aligning IT with business

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Hydro Ottawa utilityWhen I joined Hydro Ottawa just over two years ago, it was my first foray into the energy and utility industry. My background was software and high tech, and coming from that industry, I was very familiar with cloud platforms.

Business challenges in the public the energy and utility industry are similar to what the private sector faces in the sense that the technology model needs to be more agile. I saw there were opportunities at Hydro Ottawa to help IT better respond to business needs. That was one reason Hydro Ottawa began looking at cloud.

Leaning toward the cloud

Many businesses use a variable-cost model with cloud computing, but the utility industry has a different mode. It is capital intensive and can recoup costs as part of the utility rate. Typically, utility companies make huge investments in everything from the poles and transformers to general plant technology systems that allow the business to function efficiently.

Because of our CapEx-oriented business model, it is a challenge for utilities to move to an OpEx-focused cloud model. In other words Hydro Ottawa gets a return within its rates on the capital it spends.

Running an IT group with a conventional model of data centers in-house and procuring infrastructure was not efficient. We wanted to ensure that our group was focused on what was important for the business. Moving parts of the company’s infrastructure to the cloud was about focusing resources on initiatives that were higher value than racking and stacking servers.

Capitalizing cloud workloads in the utility industry

Hydro Ottawa looked at several cloud providers, but found that IBM cloud was unique in its flexibility to meet the utility’s business objectives. With IBM dedicated bare metal servers, the utility can capitalize hardware and maintenance costs in line with the CapEx model.

When Hydro Ottawa moved its customer care and billing application from its previous environment to two IBM Cloud data centers in Canada, it used its substantial savings to pay for migration services for its enterprise resource planning (ERP) workload.

Hydro Ottawa plans to adopt a hybrid cloud IT model because its critical supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, which runs its electricity grid, can remain in house. Plus, there are legacy systems, which just don’t lend themselves well to cloud.

Transforming IT and collaboration

Now that Hydro Ottawa’s IT team is focused on strategic projects and business cases, it is taking a technology leadership role. The infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solution from IBM frees up the team to take on more of an analyst and consultant role to business users.

The team provides advice to the business and implements applications that are important to the organization. Because the team is spending less time on operational tasks, Hydro Ottawa can tackle strategic projects around voice, telecommunications, and infrastructure projects which needed resources.

At the same time, the company leans less heavily on outside resources. The team is motivated and enthusiastic and has embraced the IBM Cloud Platform. They now get to work on a variety of projects where before they were working on rather standard and operational tasks. They were keeping the lights on, so to speak.

As Hydro Ottawa adopts more cloud platforms, our teams will be transformed from system administrators to cloud service specialists.

This is a paradigm shift in how the company thinks of IT versus the more conventional model.

Find out more about IBM Cloud bare metal servers. Read the case study.

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