Cloud presents new opportunities for Enel

Enel is moving its data centre operations into the Amazon cloud to generate new business opportunities.
Published: Tue 14 Feb 2017

Italian utility Enel is moving its data centre operations into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud to support its global Open Power strategy, backing its goal to grow its current platform by “combining the strength of our global organisation with the opportunities of an open and connected world.”

Open Power supports the utility’s green power investments and it will make it easier for other renewable energy power suppliers’ generation to be added to its grid.

Innovation in the cloud

The move to cloud now adds a further dimension to Enel’s strategy. It will bring a new approach to serving both traditional and new customers in innovative ways.

In one of his talks last year, Fabio Veronese, Enel’s Head of infrastructure and technological services, says that the utility does not see the Internet of Things as being a large network made up of consumer devices.

The utility views it as a network of large conventional and small renewable power plants and the systems required to manage these. He explains that with microgrids, the utility has to manage a small network of local generation and local power storage as a separate grid.  

Enel is also conscious of the fact that electric vehicle (EV) numbers are growing and that their operations will need to accommodate for this and even take advantage of the opportunities these present such as using EV battery storage to alleviate grid pressure. If EV’s are charged overnight, peak demand can be levelled out. Enel is currently handling these grid calculations in its own data centres but with growth, comes complexity. Productivity will become a challenge as the utility’s need for computer resources grow exponentially.    

Enel is already in the process of shifting the computing equivalent of 10,000 physical servers into AWS, resulting in the imminent closure of its own data centres. The last data centre will close by 2018 and all applications will be in the cloud. Enel will also eventually go server-less and adopt the “from server to services” strategy.

Accenture is the main partner assisting Enel with this mammoth transition to the cloud.  

Cloud is an opportunity to accelerate change

Surprisingly, Enel’s move isn’t due to cost saving measures. In fact, the unit compute cost has dipped and most of the move is being financed by its cancellation of outsourced contracts.

According to Veronese, the move to cloud has saved the utility time and has lowered costs: computational power savings stand at approximately 21% and storage savings, up to 60%. Provisioning time has been reduced significantly from three to four weeks to only two days.

The move to cloud has provided Enel with “an environment where projects will flourish,” explains Veronese.

He describes digitisation as a necessity rather than an ambition. and that cloud should be viewed as an opportunity to foster innovation and accelerate change  at Enel.

While this might be looked upon as just another migration to cloud, Veronese says that the move was “massive and fast”. He says it was successful as Enel didn’t view the move as an IT one but rather as a company one.

He points out that a virtuous cycle drives success and involves strong C-level commitment, execution over strategy, tight monitoring, cloud pioneer pride, sense of purpose and  tolerance of failure but not immobility.

Cloud ‘super powers’

The cloud will help the utility create a platform where its current energy management systems can grow and interact easily, helping the utility to adapt in a fast changing and highly competitive environment.

In fact, according to AWS CEO Andy Jassy, companies that have moved to the cloud will have ‘super powers’. He discussed these in detail during his keynote address at the annual AWS conference last year.

In brief, he says that cloud can deliver ‘supersonic speed’ as well as more insight thanks to a range of new artificial intelligence tools. Cloud helps companies stay ahead, enabling them to be flexible in an ever changing and highly competitive environment. It gives them the freedom to build faster, use data better, and “unshackle from customer-hostile database providers.” He says that commercial-grade database providers are not only expensive, but locked customers in with punitive licensing terms. As a result, builders were moving their databases to open source engines as fast as they can.  

Veronese says that IoT to Enel means “enabling the rise of an ecosystem of energy management systems which will transform the current utility business model. This ecosystem needs a platform and Amazon provides this scalable, reliable integrated solution on which to build our new energy management system.” 

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