meter data management
Image credit: Siemens

Siemens AG has modernised its EnergyIP meter data management application, which enables more than 200 electricity, gas, and water utility companies to manage more than 90 million meters.

For the past 20 years, Siemens has offered on-premises EnergyIP meter data management, but recently the company recognised it could improve computing efficiency and customer service by offering a cloud-hosted service as well.

Migrating its complex enterprise application to the cloud was a daunting project, but Amazon Web Services (AWS) assisted at every stage of the transition.

Though EnergyIP meter data management (MDM) is a robust product suitable for on-premises deployments for large customers, its scaling and underlying costs made it difficult for smaller companies to afford.

James Travers, a business analyst for Siemens, said: “By having a multitenant cloud solution, we hoped to attack some of those cost drivers and open up new areas of the market.”

Migrating to Amazon EC2 and Serving More Customers

Siemens is well aware of the general trend toward the cloud.

Thomas Cook, a leader in Siemens’s EnergyIP product marketing team, adds: “Many industries, including our customer base, look toward cloud-based scenarios.

“We want our products to evolve and be where the customers are going.”

Deployment to the cloud would help Siemens adapt to another industry trend: offering ongoing services rather than one-off products. In the cloud, EnergyIP MDM evolved to become EnergyIP Meter Data Management as a Service (MDMaaS), a platform that enables Siemens to provide users with backend operations such as database setup and maintenance. It ultimately increases speed to market, scalability, ease of use, and time to revenue for its customers.

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Yet Siemens worried that the transition could be costly and that EnergyIP’s existing architecture and stack weren’t ideal for cloud hosting, especially regarding installation and maintenance.

“We wanted to avoid the need for either manual intervention or very specific application knowledge,” adds Travers.

Despite the concerns, the shift was essential to creating the scalability and ease of use that Siemens wanted to offer its customers. And the company’s confidence in AWS made the leap seem less daunting.

Cutting Installation Times from 4 Months to 2 Hours

To reduce costs and deployment time, Siemens worked to develop a highly customisable EnergyIP MDM configuration that met up to 100% of its target markets’ requirements—including such functionalities as head-end adaptors, data adaptors, and measurement profiles, as well as validation, estimation, and editing rules.

Then Siemens selected the AWS services that would make the configuration come to life: Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud, and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), which enables customers to easily set up, operate, and scale a relational cloud database.

“Using Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling and Amazon RDS for the backend enabled us to run and install EnergyIP in a self-healing way,” Travers notes. “We are running these services all the time, as opposed to having specific services turned on or off once a month as is often manually done in a data center.”

To address cloud deployment barriers, Siemens used AWS CloudFormation, which helps companies model and provision AWS and third-party application resources in a cloud environment.

“We could automate using AWS CloudFormation not only to build the required infrastructure but also to handle the installation and configuration of the application,” Travers says. This automation makes EnergyIP MDM rapidly available for customers to begin integrating the application into their business processes.

“What used to take 3–4 months now takes merely a couple hours. Pretty much, you just click the button to initiate it,” Travers explains. “That’s a massive win for the customer.”

Siemens also increases the security of its file transfer protocol by using AWS Lambda, which enables companies to run code without provisioning or managing servers, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an object storage service offering industry-leading scalability, security, and performance.

“Getting files delivered to the right servers at the right time and then tracking them as they get processed and moved back into Amazon S3 to reflect the state of processing—that was another big win,” says Travers.

Siemens also takes advantage of fully managed Amazon Managed Streaming for Apache Kafka (Amazon MSK), a fully managed service that makes it easy to build and run applications that use Apache Kafka to process streaming data. Without it, Siemens would have to self-manage a key part of the EnergyIP stack: Apache Kafka, an open-source platform for building real-time streaming data pipelines and applications. “When we started this journey, Apache Kafka administration knowledge was a gap that we were going to have to fill. But shortly after, AWS released Amazon MSK, which takes away a lot of the worry and hassle and the need for Apache Kafka operational expertise,” Travers notes.

Enhancing Scalability, Performance, and Security on AWS

Siemens’s ability to maintain different environments on AWS enables EnergyIP MDMaaS to run 24/7 and enables the company to test new rules, infrastructure, and application patches. A data center must continually invest in and maintain the infrastructure needed to run those environments. However, on AWS, Siemens can turn on the compute resources that meet the customer’s compute needs on demand, thereby making EnergyIP MDMaaS available at an improved price point. “It would be a significant expense to have to maintain that level of compute resources all the time,” says Travers. In addition, testing and repairing new applications takes little effort. Siemens now has the latest security standards, Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), and operating system patching, all without needing to hire for each specific skill set. Outsourcing management of the EnergyIP MDMaaS system has helped Siemens deliver a cost-effective, secure platform without needing a bigger team. The on-demand scalability also leads to enhanced performance flexibility: for example, EnergyIP MDMaaS can process 96 million interval meter reads in less than 3 hours.

Alexandra Kirk, head of digitalization at Siemens’s Digital Grid business unit, notes that AWS has a high level of security passed directly to customers, facilitating ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO 22031 certifications for business continuity, as well as Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program certifications and SOC 1 and SOC 2 certifications: “The minute we combined EnergyIP with the infrastructure set at AWS standards, we started to build our own capability. We removed a large part of the responsibility from the customer.” Another security benefit is the ability to mitigate large-scale disasters and data loss. Now that it uses multiple Availability Zones on AWS, Siemens no longer needs the disaster recovery solutions required for traditional data centers, which are vulnerable to outages, floods, and fires. Using the growing number of AWS global Availability Zones means Siemens’s customers can count on their data remaining in their home countries and staying regionally secure.

Making the Leap to the Cloud Pays Off

Its experience moving EnergyIP to the cloud to create EnergyIP MDMaaS has Siemens optimistic about future products for its customers. The company’s Digital Grid business unit, which tests digital energy solutions, is actively developing four new products using AWS, with another eight in the pipeline.

By deploying its on-premises application to AWS, Siemens is able to offer an industry-leading MDM service to its full range of large-scale and small-scale customers. “Taking a complex product like this and putting it into the cloud was not trivial,” Cook states, “but it was doable—and the results are fantastic.”