Water is life. In Norway, it also gives light. As one of the world’s largest producers of hydroelectricity, the country is charting a course for renewable, reliable and affordable clean energy for generation after generation. When Skagerak needed to renew its aging infrastructure, the company chose an all-flash IBM solution to turn data into insights that power efficient energy delivery and production.
Skagerak Energi needed to update its aging IT infrastructure to meet business demands and power the critical processing required for efficient energy production and delivery.
The company chose several IBM all-flash solutions to effectively manage its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and deliver processing power that could handle massive amounts of data quickly and efficiently.
In Norway, 98 percent of electricity comes from renewable energy sources—primarily hydropower. And with strict government regulations driving efficient and sustainable use, the country is well on its way to reaching 100 percent renewability. Per household, Norway has one of the highest rates of electricity consumption in the world. And for decades, the country has been a leader in the use of alternative energy and clean technology to supply the country’s ever-increasing demand.
Skagerak is one of Norway's largest energy groups, producing and distributing electricity for more than 200,000 residential and business customers. The company operates as part of the Norwegian power grid and, by law, must efficiently deliver power to its customers or face heavy fines. Skagerak is required to collect data from 200,000 consumption points every hour and report these findings to the government to ensure electricity resources can keep up with demand. Incorrect data or unreported spikes can cause the power grid to become unstable, which could have devasting consequences for the communities it serves. “We are a company that’s hard based on technology,” says Stein Ove Røv, Head of Platform Services at Skagerak. “The technology we use has to work.”
But with an aging infrastructure that lacked the power to keep pace with business need, Skagerak relied on time-consuming manual processes for critical reporting. Stein Ove Røv was brought on board to help the company modernize its entire platform to deliver performance, availability and flexibility to meet future demands.
“A lot of the systems were quite old and had actually no power in either the disc solutions or in the server CPU or RAM,” says Stein Ove Røv. “We had to take a look at the entire design. We started with the network and then we tackled our storage solutions because we have a lot of data and needed a lot of I/O power.”
In Norway, every energy company has to accurately report power production numbers to a centralized regulatory authority. To precisely control the distribution of electricity and ensure it produces the right amount of energy, Skagerak relies on data it collects from peripherals in its VDI. Using an IBM® FlashSystem® solution with IBM HyperSwap® technology, Skagerak has the power and fault tolerance it requires to secure the transfer of critical data from laptops and handheld devices to the internal staff that manages power supply. HyperSwap technology is now a function of all of Skagerak’s storage systems because it provides dual-site access to a volume. Data that is written to the volume is automatically sent to both copies. So, if one goes down, the other volume can still deliver the same data without any disruption to the applications.
With 200,000 consumption points and more than 30 series of measurements read several times each day, Skagerak generates huge amounts of data. To deliver the processing power the company required for its data-intensive critical applications, IBM tailored a solution designed for exceptional performance and high availability to replace Skagerak’s existing database appliances. Using the IBM Power® System E950 and IBM FlashSystem solutions integrated with IBM POWER9® processors, the company saw performance increases that were 5–11 times faster than the company’s database appliance solution in several benchmarks.
“If you want to process the information, you need to have good source solutions with high I/O performance,” says Stein Ove Røv. “If we don’t get all the numbers from the consumption points, we have to predict based on some facts and data—maybe from last week or last year—and to do that you need crunching power, which is done by the IBM Power Systems platform with the IBM FlashSystem storage.”
Previously, several of the company’s processes were manual. But today, every household has automated metering that reports electricity use throughout the day, giving Skagerak the ability to quickly track consumption and get accurate predictions about how much hydroelectric power it needs to produce. The company also gathers weather data, rainfall measurements and several other data points that help it more efficiently produce and distribute energy.
Skagerak has miles and miles of powerlines to maintain, and Stein Ove Røv says its ability to better use data for predictive maintenance is important. The company currently uses helicopters and manpower to inspect powerlines but is looking to drones and virtual reality for remote monitoring of components and factories.
“Energy is changing quite fast,” he says. “Our goal is to build a solution that is stable, flexible, and can meet our future needs. That future is automation, and that’s a lot of data.”
Prior to the implementation of the Power Systems E950 and FlashSystem solutions, government fines for late reporting were about to cost Skagerak a considerable amount of money. Now, the company is able to process data 11 times faster and can more easily meet its reporting timeframe.
With FlashSystem solutions using HyperSwap technology, designed for security, performance and availability, Skagerak has the fault-tolerance it requires for its critical data. Ove Røv says the systems are more user-friendly, so the company can deliver services much faster.
Open-source technology was an important choice for Skagerak, says Stein Ove Røv, as it allows the company to be flexible and not locked into proprietary technologies that could hinder its ability to innovate. Norway is leading the charge when it comes to renewable energy, with innovative solar programs and more electric cars per capita than most of the world.
“We need to be able to move quickly,” says Stein Ove Røv, “The change in our industry is driven by an effort to be more efficient and deliver better service to our customers,” he says. “We need to deliver power to all the households so they can charge their Tesla cars. And in Norway, that’s a lot of power.”
Skagerak (link resides outside of ibm.com) is Norway’s fifth-largest energy group. The company produces electricity and heat from renewable sources and actively contributes to Norway’s vision for a sustainable energy future. It has more than 630 employees and more than 200,000 customers. Skagerak Energi is one of three wholly owned subsidiaries: Skagerak Nett, Skagerak Kraft and Skagerak Varme.
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