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Open and secure Azure cloud platform allows EDMI to scale globally

EDMI is one of the world’s leading smart energy solutions providers. It manufactures, markets and manages smart meters all over the world.

Four times every day nearly 200,000 EDMI meter’s data are analysed, supplying the information required by energy company clients to manage their businesses and billings.

Founded in Queensland, and now a subsidiary of Japan’s Osaki Electric Co, EDMI has a global growth plan that will quickly take the meter count into the millions.

To handle this expansion, it needs to be able to scale rapidly – potentially adding as many as 10,000 additional meters each week. It requires a trusted and secure platform to match customer expectations. EDMI sought a solution that would be sustainable – but not lock it into any one technology long-term.

EDMI’s meter management software originally ran on premise, but the need to scale rapidly, reliably, securely and globally prompted a move to the cloud.

Moving to Azure and Platform as a Service (PaaS) has now delivered a flexible, hyper scale computing platform that supports the plan for rapid growth of the business.

Chris Hurt, vice president software for EDMI, explains that demand for active monitoring capabilities has grown over the last five to six years to the extent that the typical smart meter deployment has increased from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of devices – and he predicts EDMI’s expansion into new markets and services will further accelerate demand.

“These are mission critical applications – literally for our customers, if they can’t read meters it hinders their ability to bill or charge customers for electricity usage,” he says.

EDMI’s pedigree is built on its smart meters to measure electricity consumption. The meters can also measure power quality and perform remote connects and disconnects.

Originally developed for electricity, EDMI meters are now available to monitor gas consumption and may expand to water monitoring in the future. The company is also exploring broader application of Internet of Things (IoT) devices – for example for monitoring and maintenance of poles and wires in order to rein in client’s maintenance and servicing costs.

Migrating to Azure allows data from all these different meters or IoT devices to be collected and shared. The cloud architecture also ensures that any meter software updates are automated, augmenting the devices’ capability while enhancing security and reining in maintenance costs associated with managing a diverse fleet of devices or different software versions.

Transforms EDMI and client operations

Hurt said that the migration to Azure took just 12 months and has transformed operations for both EDMI and its international clients.

The solution integrates to the back office billing systems of some of the Australia’s and New Zealand’s largest energy wholesalers which are reliant on the data from the meters both for billing and planning purposes. Hurt says it was essential the performance of the system did not degrade as more meters were added.

“We have mitigated some of those challenges through performance tests and the comfort of knowing Azure is behind it with, to all intents and purposes, infinite compute and storage,” he says.

The solution deployed for EDMI combines cloud services, apps, Linux and Windows VMs with premium PaaS offerings such as Redis Cache and Service Bus.

“This has changed the way we manage development as well,” says Hurt. Instead of implementing a change and then waiting to assess its impact, the move to Azure means; “We have compute in the cloud to do performance checks to and see if what we are proposing has positive or negative impacts.”

One of the additional attractions of Azure is its more mature and fleshed out PaaS offerings compared to those of rivals according to Hurt. It’s this comprehensive tooling that has helped EDMI developers to rapidly deploy proof of concepts.

“There’s minimal effort on deployment – developers use Visual Studio and deploy to the cloud, and can move through iterations very quickly.

“We had been watching AWS and Microsoft Azure.  Microsoft is continuously adapting Azure and outstrips everyone else,” says Hurt.

An additional key benefit was the increasingly open nature of Azure. “The fact that we could invest in PaaS, but for some areas we could still deploy a VM and other technology meant that there was a lot of comfort that we were not tied 100 per cent if we felt that there was a better alternative. Over the last 18 months to two years Microsoft has really opened the door to alternatives – we can run Java up there – it made it easier for us to go down this path.”

Trusted cloud

Azure’s baked in security and resilience was also critical to EDMI and its clients.

“In any engagement it (security) comes up in the first three seconds,” says Hurt. Energy companies need assurances that the software is secure, as are the data centres hosting cloud services, the meters themselves, and the end-to-end data transport from the meters.

Microsoft Azure, its secure data centres and Express Route tick all the boxes in supporting EDMI as it develops new client services.

Security and privacy are at the heart of Microsoft Azure with secure practices and protocols baked in to the design of the cloud.

For data in transit, Azure uses industry-standard transport protocols between user devices and Microsoft data centres, and within the data centres themselves. For data at rest, Azure offers a wide range of encryption capabilities up to AES-256.

Demonstrating its commitment to privacy Microsoft Azure has adopted the world’s first code of practice for cloud privacy, ISO 27018. At the same time companies are assured that they always own all the data placed in Azure ensuring full control over that information.

Azure has been designed to comply with a series of global security and trust standards and is included on the Australian Government Certified Cloud Services list. To be included on the list Azure has undergone an Information Security Registered Assessors Program (IRAP) assessment by the Australian government, and been awarded certification by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).

The transparency about the security and privacy controls gave great comfort to EDMI and its energy company clients, that data in Azure would always be properly protected.

Future proofed

With data literally pouring from the meters each day, having scalable and secure storage is critical.

Hurt explains; “We have used the Azure Enterprise Service Bus to join discrete decoupled components. Within months of going live we implemented new technology into the solution stack with minimal fuss. We continue to refine our solution as Azure evolves, for example we are we are looking to remove our VM MongoDB cluster because Azure Document DB storage is now a more attractive alternative to us.”

Hurt adds that EDMI is now running its own proof of concept with Microsoft to establish a data lake that could be made accessible to clients for ongoing analysis, augmenting meter data with additional information, such as weather data, to understand the impact of solar on power quality for example.

Reading the meters is just the start of a data rich opportunity.