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Large-scale network programs keep the lights on, upgrading and maintaining robust and secure communications for utilities and other critical infrastructure. We have designed and built the systems that run that critical infrastructure — the electric grid, power generation plants, refineries and more. We bring key knowledge and experience to help update or retire legacy services as vendors set end-of life dates for equipment. We also have the resources you need to design, install and commission new networks for critical communications with the reliability and resilience you expect.
Our team understands the unique applications and control systems you rely on. We have the resources to test networks, evaluate application performance on new and legacy systems, and design networks to carry mission-critical analog circuits using modern protocols and technologies. We perform lab testing with multiple vendors as a neutral party, verifying features and equipment performance. You can leverage our testing capabilities for your real-world applications and the nuances of showing internal stakeholders what to expect as you move from legacy applications to a new system.
These capabilities are part of our broad implementation of services for lab testing, technology selection, application characterization, hosted labs, system design, construction and installation, commissioning and cutover, and operations and support.
Wide Area Networks
Our experience includes the full range of wide area network (WAN) technology. For packet networks, we can help with carrier Ethernet, internet protocol (IP), multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM), or software-defined networks (SDN). We have developed multi-technology, redundant, long-haul, high-capacity packet networks that are used for both business/IT needs as well as the day-to-day operational needs that keep our clients in business. We can help you determine where you want your WAN to go, analyze what is currently in place, make recommendations on technologies to get you there, and even design and build (turnkey) the network.
As costs for DWDM and data center interconnects (DCI) decrease and the need for higher capacity networks rises, building DWDM backbone rings is becoming common in utility and other mission-critical networks. We design systems with capacity measured in terabits, allowing great flexibility and migration off high-capacity carrier circuits. High-cost 10 Gbps leased services can be migrated to private DWDM systems and upgraded to multiple 100 Gbps and 400 Gbps connections. Capabilities like reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexers (ROADM), wavelength selectable switching (WSS), and path protection switching make resilient and flexible networks. Whether your goals are reduced fiber use, increased capacity or converged layer 1 transport, we can design systems that will suit your needs.
Mixed transport creates complexity, allowing transport systems to account for three things: varying capacity in a single network path, reliability using different transport, and combined transport solutions that serve a single site. Software-defined WAN (SDWAN) overlays were initially designed from the ground up for mixed transport environments by creating an overlay network that is simple to manage and application-aware to monitor performance of applications and not just links to adjust routing on the fly. We can characterize your environment and design a system that will help relieve congestion from your private infrastructure using a mix of high-capacity/low-cost leased services and high-reliability/low-capacity private microwave.
Time-division multiplexing (TDM) is a tried-and-true technology for data transport. Use of a synchronous optical network (SONET) enables planned, deterministic communications for your most critical applications. We have vast experience in designing and building these systems for stand-alone use or to augment your packet networks. We are also experienced with upgrading and migrating from these systems as well as their constituent DS0-level channels, such as analog voice/data (2-wire, 4-wire) and emulated Ethernet and serial (RS-232, RS-485) circuits.
Substation Local Area Networks
Utilities increasingly rely on complete data connectivity to all capable intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) in the substation to support reliable local and remote automation applications. Serial connectivity, Ethernet local area networks (LANs) and other legacy communications often must be integrated to achieve acquisition, control and timing requirements to connect SCADA devices, relays, meters, digital fault recorders (DFRs), corporate data and head-end systems, voice communications, and other IEDs. IEC 61850 substations use local Ethernet for critical communications so resiliency and redundancy must be key design principles. Using parallel ring protocol (PRP), we have designed substation LAN networks that can lose a node, link or an entire network ring without losing communications.
Security Design & Implementation
North American Electric Reliability Corp. Critical Infrastructure Protection (NERC-CIP) requirements and increasing cyberthreats from multiple sources mean utilities need to approach communications with a security-first mindset. Bolting security into a network after the fact leads to complicated deployments, outages for changes and additional expense. You can benefit from our knowledge of industry practices, knowledge of the vendor landscape, and many years of deployment experience. High-availability security appliances, networkwide encryption and defense in depth are all technologies and strategies we have deployed to secure large-scale networks designed for mission-critical applications.
Legacy Network Migration
Packet-based relay protection channels are among the most critical applications on a utility network, and migrating them to modern transport technology raises many questions. We have performed hundreds of hours of lab testing based on industry standard SEL, ABB, GE, RFL and Siemens relays using many schemes, including a focus on the nuances of transporting current differential (87L) channels. We are experienced in using specific vendor implementation for the network design and operation to make it suitable for relay circuit transport. We have successfully migrated relay circuits from legacy TDM systems to various modern packet platforms, leveraging our understanding of both the relays and the network.
While not as sensitive to jitter and latency as relay channels, SCADA is mission-critical and carries its own challenges when migrating to a modern network. Your challenge is the quantity and variety of remote terminal units (RTUs) or data concentrators across your system. Whether you choose CDC Type I, Harris, ModBus, DNP3, to IEC 61850 MMS, a successful migration requires an understanding of the many protocols and interfaces, and how to efficiently plan a migration to reduce communication outage time and cost. We have migrated thousands of SCADA channels and have solutions for bridging, multidrop, bit-to-byte conversion, control center redundancy support for legacy channels, and security and encryption deployments. Even if your network has a homogeneous SCADA deployment or is built with multiple technologies stitched together over decades, we can help develop a strategy and successfully migrate to a new communications platform.