IP(IPv6): The Protocol of Choice for Smart Grid(?)

At the GridCom Forum, a panel discussed the roles of IP and IPv6. In the ICT area, IP is becoming (or has become) the protocol of choice. A consensus is forming for smart grid as well. NIST’s "Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0” lists IP as one of the standards that people can agree on.

The panel consisted of:
Moderator:

Panelists:

  • Fred Baker, Cisco Fellow
  • Gary Stuebing, strategic planning manager, Duke Energy
  • Latif Ladid, president, IPv6 Forum


Geoff Mulligan


From left: Latif Ladid, Gary Stuebing, and Fred Baker

Mulligan first discussed the imminent depletion of IPv4 addresses, which are expected to run out in two years. The solution is IPv6, which provides plenty of address space and security. (IPSec is part of IPv6 and will no longer be independently implemented like for IPv4.) With IPv6 in place, DHCP or NAT will no longer be necessary to save IP address space, simplifying many things.

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Sun Reference Architecture for Oracle 11g Grid
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Baker’s talk was very convincing. In short, the original Internet stack consists of physical layers (OSI is layer 1, data link is layer 2, the Internet is layer 3, and transport is layer 4) and application layers (5, 6, and 7). But many smart grid protocols, such as ZigBee, are implemented directly on top of the link layer. Baker called this "1-2-7 architecture.” Each protocol with a different link layer must go through a gateway in order to connect to other protocols, which are also directly implemented on separate link layers. Using an abstraction of the IP layer ensures interoperability. IP is the common denominator, and it should be used in smart grid as well.

Stuebing discussed Duke Energy, a utility in the Midwest and the Carolinas with 4 million retail electric and half a million gas customers. He showed the following diagram from the NIST report (page 45) mentioned earlier in this blog, and he argued that IP must be in place to ensure smooth communication among the many elements in a complex system like smart grid.

According to Stuebing, there is no other protocol as well understood and as widely used as IP, or that meets the following qualifications:

  • Proven technology
  • Secure transport layer
  • Non-proprietary

Although I was an IP bigot to start with, I was convinced that IP will be the protocol of choice.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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