Data gravity: the mega trend impacting rapid cloud adoption in Energy

IIoT, digital substation, data, IOT asset management, field operations

By Jon Curry, VP Operations Digital Realty APAC

The unique challenges and demands of COVID-19 has seen rapid cloud adoption in the energy sector. Throughout the pandemic, cloud adoption has been driven by business continuity needs, as the industry looks to remain functional and operational. In search of agile and scalable infrastructure options to meet market demand, retailers like Origin Energy, have announced AWS as their preferred cloud provider. Data centre solutions, cloud infrastructure and infrastructure-as-a-service are now vital for remote employees to stay connected to each other and to the company’s data. 

However, the energy sector is now storing, sorting and interpreting increasing levels of data across the different business functions. As a result, data sets and applications are becoming clustered together making them difficult to move and manage–particularly during digital transformation initiatives.

This is known as ‘data gravity’.

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The data gravity challenge

Data gravity is the next big challenge for energy, and unfortunately, many organisations lack the adequate knowledge to address and manage this roadblock effectively. The data being created by remote business operations has only amplified the risks created by this mega trend.  

For example, consider an energy distributor looking to assess usage data during a heatwave. Large data sets stored in one location, pull more data towards that area of the network. This makes it difficult for the distributor to move data and get quick insights into usage patterns. On a provider level, data gravity makes the process of actioning data to meet new customer expectations more complex. 

The energy market is fiercely competitive across the industry, with organisations constantly going after new customers, channels and market segments. For this activity to be successful, businesses must consider where they place, host and connect data based on where they do business.

Therefore, business leaders must champion infrastructure that improves data connectivity and removes barriers to creating actionable data insights. In practice, this means taking a decentralised and hybrid approach to IT and cloud adoption.

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Optimising the cloud approach

To manage data gravity, businesses need a modernised infrastructure that can support the influx of data from several users, locations, clouds, and networks. Forward thinking energy organisations are now opting for a decentralised infrastructure, such as hybrid-cloud environments (a combination of private cloud with one or more public cloud services) which helps to remove data gravity barriers by bringing applications, compute and users closer to the relevant data.

A holistic approach to hybrid-cloud will help manage operational complexity and achieve greater business benefits. This involves carefully assessing business needs and creating a strategy with a clear roadmap to meet these unique demands.

By managing data gravity, the benefits of cloud are felt across the energy sector; energy providers can see improved insights into customer usage, distributers can improve field work productivity and the sector can achieve improved visibility on renewable operations.

With the right approach to cloud infrastructure, utilities can continue evolving how they serve customers with improved offerings, while also growing their business effectively.