Navigant Research Blog

SAP to Resell Siemens’ MDM on Its HANA Platform

— April 14, 2017

The Announcement Is a Change in Direction for SAP

SAP has historically maintained an arm’s length distance from meter data management (MDM), which is responsible for the collection, storage, and processing of smart meter data. I have always been puzzled by SAP’s approach. The company’s IS-U product set is the undisputed leader in the utility billing software market, so its lack of enthusiasm for a complementary MDM system was surprising. A SAP MDM would allow for seamless integration from the communications headend system to the bill.

SAP has historically preferred a partnership strategy with various MDM vendors, working to ensure integration between its MDM systems and IS-U via its SAP AMI Integration for Utilities module. However, at its 2017 International Conference for Utilities, SAP announced SAP Meter Data Management by Siemens. Launching in 2Q 2017, the deal effectively makes SAP a reseller of Siemens’ EnergyIP MDM system. SAP and Siemens said they will align roadmaps to ensure the product evolves with utilities’ changing requirements.

SAP’s Drive to Sell HANA Is Behind This Change in Strategy

There are numerous drivers for this strategy. First, there is a convincing commercial argument. SAP’s reticence came at a time where it had no database product in its portfolio. Fast forward 7 years and SAP is now heavily promoting its in-memory database, HANA. MDM running on HANA is a compelling proposition for SAP.

SAP and Siemens also share similar visions for their go-to-market strategies. Both companies see a future with greater IT/OT convergence, where cloud-based integration of data from multiple sources allows for access across an organization.

A Match Made in Heaven?

SAP’s dominance in IT makes it an attractive partner for Siemens. Conversely, Siemens’ strategy to expand the functional scope of its EnergyIP MDM aligns with SAP’s HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) vision. Siemens intends to develop a highly scalable platform that collects and stores time series data from multiple types of connected devices, including wind turbines, EVs, solar PV, submeters, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices. SAP wants HCP to be the platform of choice for this type of data.

At launch, SAP Meter Data Management by Siemens will be an on-premise solution. Yet, the roadmap includes integration with SAP’s Cloud for Energy to make EnergyIP fully compatible with HANA and a cloud-based MDM solution.

The choice of Siemens as SAP’s MDM partner is a no brainer. There is enormous potential to add value by creating non-conflicting use cases for its products—and the potential to reduce costs and complexity for clients.

Jemena Plots MDM’s Inexorable Path to the Cloud

Midsize Australian utility Jemena has been working with SAP as a development partner for MDM in HCP, and it has been running a project since 2016. With limited funds and no internal data scientists, Jemena historically struggled to open up its smart meter data across its business. As a result, users exported data from its MDM system into Excel for analysis.

The company wants to become more customer-focused and needed a way to use existing company data to create new business cases. For example, Jemena lacked the tools for marketing to create customer segmentations from consumption profiles or for engineers to profile transformer loads.

Now Jemena’s advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) data is uploaded to HCP from its MDM, allowing access across its business. As a cloud-based model, it offered what Jemena called a very low cost of entry into the world of meter analytics. Eventually, Jemena wants to intake AMI data directly into HCP, where it will perform data validation.

Jemena’s use of HCP for MDM is separate from the SAP/Siemens announcement. However, it provides insight into MDM’s seemingly inexorable move to the cloud.

 

Real World Lessons for Utility Data Management

— April 9, 2013

Utilities want to know if vendors are overselling their wares.  Are vendors making commitments that that they really should not?  Sometimes it’s hard to know what a product will actually do – or not do – until it’s installed and running.  So most buyers will try to assure themselves that the product – hardware or software – will do what it says on the label.

But there’s another side that gets less attention: do vendors underplay the difficulty of living with a product?   As Calvin once explained to Hobbes, there’s a big difference between getting something and having something.  After the discussion session at a recent smart grid conference, I understand that having meter data management (MDM) can be more complicated than buyers may grasp during the acquisition cycle.

At the conference session, I joined five utility executives discussing their experiences implementing MDM.  The group was given a preset list of questions to discuss.  The first, “What have you learned from going beyond billing?” resulted in a bunch of blank stares.  The reason: that’s all these utilities have done with MDM – generate bills.  There is little “beyond billing” yet.

Perhaps the most common theme of the discussion was the difficulty of installing MDM and then integrating it with other applications.  All of the participants felt that this aspect had been underplayed by their vendors during the MDM purchase cycle.  Integration of MDM to other applications such as energy management, outage management, or customer information systems, has proven far more difficult than expected.

Response Times Slowed

All five utility officials were also dissatisfied with their MDM’s reporting capabilities.  Several utilities had reinstalled legacy reporting systems, piping the data from the new MDM back to the reinstalled legacy systems.  The group also wanted a separate replicated MDM database for reporting because running complex analyses against the online database significantly slows the response to real-time queries – usually driven by customer portals on the Internet or help desk agents on a call.

Everyone present agreed that MDM should be done before a smart meter rollout, or at least simultaneously.  No one thought it a good idea to deploy smart meters before the MDM was in place.  Some of the group felt that the holy grail of smart metering – interval readings every 15 minutes – is useless for residential applications, although useful in commercial and industrial applications.  One panelist said his utility had activated remote disconnect for only 1% of its smart meters, although that was due to local regulations governing disconnect processes.

Navigant Research’s report, Meter Data Management, published 3Q 2012,  stressed the need for detailed planning before installing an MDM system.  These discussions reminded me how true that is!

 

Landis+Gyr Adds MDM With Ecologic Analytics Buy

— January 12, 2012

Landis+Gyrannounced this week that it has acquired the remaining stake of meter data management (MDM) vendor Ecologic Analytics, with whom it already has a close working relationship.  Ecologic’s MDMS is already tightly integrated with L+G’s Gridstream advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution as the default MDM.  However, both vendors support other products as well – Gridstream has ready-built interfaces with most popular MDM solutions while Ecologic MDMS has ready-built interfaces with most popular AMI solutions.  Landis+Gyr is itself 100% owned by Toshiba.

Pike Research has verified that both L+G and Ecologic intend to continue with a focus on interoperability and partnering – in other words, they’ll still see other people.  Both companies have in the past stated their belief that utilities will continue to require integration with and support for different software systems and solutions.  I believe that such flexibility maximizes the options to be involved in new AMI and MDM ventures.  In such competitive markets, the last thing any vendor wants to write in an RFP response is, “Sorry, we don’t work with those people.”

In our 2011 report, Pike Pulse:  Meter Data Management, we rated Ecologic Analytics as a Contender, just short of the Leaders category.  The report characterized Ecologic as “…a well-run company that addresses all aspects of its business.  The company has also done a good job of phrasing its marketing messages in terms of utilities’ business problems.”  I continue to hold that view of Ecologic as a unit of L+G.

That report also explained that to move into the Leaders category, “Ecologic could expand its business with other AMI vendors, especially those that do not already have their own MDM.  There is also quite a bit of room for the company to improve its geographic reach, which may be accomplished via L+G’s 11 offices in China.”  Ecologic addressed that first point soon after our report was published, by announcing a partnership with IBM to integrate its MDM technology with IBM solutions.  At roughly the same time Ecologic also announced a development deal with L+G to support the SAP MDUS specification and therefore make Ecologics’ technology available to SAP for Utilities customers.   Competitors such as eMeter, Itron, and OSIsoft had already completed MDUS integrations.

Our second recommendation for Ecologic Analytics – wider geographic reach for Ecologic’s products – is furthered with this acquisition.  I continue to be skeptical that China will be an addressable market for external MDM vendors unless some special relationship exists.  L+G’s existing business in China, plus Toshiba’s ownership, could become highly valuable in helping Ecologic penetrate that market.  Still, trying to predict any technology market in China is fraught with assumptions, so I’ll simply state that this transaction should give Ecologic a stronger presence in China.

 

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