¿Que SERA—será?

Microsoft announces ‘smart grid’ reference architecture and joins Energistics, perhaps to repeat the exercise for the upstream. What would a Microsoft E&P Reference Architecture look like?

A lot is going on in the parallel universe of utilities with the advent of the ‘Smart Grid.’ The upgrade to the US electricity metering infrastructure promises, inter alia, fine grain control of consumer devices that will support real-time price information exchange. Smart Grid blends e-business with ‘green’ business and is fast becoming a major conduit for US ‘stimulus’ funding.

Last month Microsoft jumped on the Smart Grid bandwagon with the announcement of a ‘Smart Energy Reference Architecture’ (SERA) that claims to address technology integration across the ‘smart energy ecosystem.’ SERA ‘supporters’ include Accenture, ESRI and OSIsoft.

The Smart Grid envisions a world where thousands of devices ‘plug and play’ into the grid through ‘common standards and interoperability frameworks.’ The battle for a utilities ‘framework’ is hotting-up with announcements from Siemens and Silver Spring of a ‘Smart Energy Network’ and from IBM, of its ‘Solution Architecture for Energy and Utilities Framework’ (SAFE).

In a separate announcement, Microsoft has joined the upstream oil and gas Energistics standards body. The press release states that Microsoft is to leverage its ‘proven experience in bringing technologies and solutions to the oil and gas industry to deliver the reference implementation [our emphasis] of Energistics’ standards such as WITSML and PRODML.’

As ‘reference implementation’ sounds pretty much like a ‘reference architecture,’ we checked-out the position paper ‘Microsoft Smart Energy Reference Architecture’ to see what the future may hold for E&P.

This 130 page document includes a description of a ‘holistic life-user experience’ leveraging Microsoft SharePoint. The section on standards shows a smorgasbord of OASIS, ICE and NIST standards, ‘linked’ through an ‘ontology.’ The document offers illustrations of partner ‘implementations’ before enumerating just about every technology that Microsoft has to offer, from Complex Event Processing to the Azure data cloud. But there is scant evidence of an ‘architecture’ per se. While it is a given that most all vendors deploy Microsoft technology in some form or other, SERA is currently more PowerPoint than protocol.

Where does that leave the E&P ‘reference implementation?’ We asked Energistics CEO Randy Clark to clarify the situation. Here is his reply, ‘Thanks for your interest in the Microsoft/Energistics press release. As to the term ‘reference implementation,’ simply put, Energistics does not designate any implementation from any member company with special or unique status.’

This article originally appeared in Oil IT Journal 2009 Issue # 11.

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