Microsoft partners LAB3, SoftwareONE and Wipro have all been brought on board to modernise the bulk of Victorian energy provider AusNet Services’ data collection on-premises systems and bring them into the cloud.
Part of a five-year deal between the energy provider and Microsoft, the key element of the project will see the group of partners move applications and the majority of its data collection equipment onto Azure.
Specifically, Melbourne start-up LAB3 is steering the transition to Azure, according to Microsoft, while consulting and software firm SoftwareONE is undertaking the modernisation of SAP software and transitioning it to Azure. Both of these elements are expected to be completed next month.
Meanwhile, Indian multinational IT services company Wipro is supporting the environment.
“AusNet Services connects communities with energy and recognises the importance of building technology capability and capacity to allow it to rapidly respond to changing market needs, support customer choices and the transition to renewable energy,” said Keith Hopkins, AusNet Services chief digital officer.
“We recognise that our success in the highly competitive sector demands intelligent use of data and that we need to invest in a scalable, resilient and secure digital foundation for the future. This will allow us to make use of our own data, overlay that with third party data such as weather forecasts, and increasingly integrate data from SCADA [supervisory control and data acquisition] networks and the internet of things.”
Some of AusNet Services’ systems need to remain on-premises, such as the SCADA networks and other operational technology control systems, and as such is looking to transition 60 per cent of its existing workloads into the cloud.
In addition to the majority move to Azure, the energy provider is also looking at setting up a data and analytics platform, utisiling Azure Databricks for data processing and storage, Azure Synapse analytics for presentation and Power BI to distribute end user insights.
AusNet Services is also planning to leverage data for a digital twin — a digital duplication of the physical assets of the business — to provide more insights into the business.
"We have both vehicle and helicopter-based capture going on across the network, bringing in a view of our network that can provide analytics that will help us make better decisions on how we manage our assets,” Hopkins said.
The overhaul to its own data capture can then be combined with external data sets, like weather forecasts, to help the provider deal with potentially disastrous circumstances.
Hopkins claimed that such data could help deal with storms, combining weather forecasts with its own historic data to assess what the impact could be of new storms.
“When something similar is forecast, we want to enhance our data to provide a better customer experience, like being able to roll trucks out early … proactively getting out there to restore service quicker when safe weather conditions allow,” he said.
After the cloud migration, Hopkins added the provider is considering the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into its systems to automate and speed up analysis for streamlining maintenance scheduling or replacement is a potential next step.
A hypothetical case study sees geospatial data overlaid over other data sets and tying it in to Azure cognitive services, AI and ML.
“We still require people to walk out to power poles, look up at them and understand whether they need an asset replaced,” Hopkins added.
“You can see in the future that we’ll be using geospatial data, digital imagery, potentially with a drone flying across our network, and bringing back that data that then sits in the Azure cloud.”