Delivering on the vision of a modern grid network that’s secure, simple, and scalable

Electric utilities are undergoing a monumental shift towards grid modernization. With growing energy demands and the need to integrate sustainable energy sources, the industry is seeking enhanced reliability and efficiency. Key to this transformation is the modernization of the grid’s communication network to facilitate the flow of valuable data.

A strategic and comprehensive approach is essential for effective grid modernization.

At DISTRIBUTECH 2024 in Orlando, Florida, utilities voiced their concerns, highlighting the urgency to:

  • Accelerate cybersecurity measures to safeguard operational technologies and critical infrastructures.
  • Develop solutions fostering collaboration between IT and operational teams for grid modernization projects.
  • Utilize a variety of access technologies, including the potential of 5G and eSIMs.
  • Address resource and skills shortages with scalable network management and automation to enhance grid efficiencies and minimize downtime.

Cisco’s industrial IoT team has been collaborating with utilities for over two decades, recognizing that a modern grid necessitates a modern network. Our focus is to provide industrial networking products and solutions built for utility needs, ensuring security, simplicity, and scalability for the modern grid.

Figure 1. Cisco in the Utilities sector

Let’s discuss some of our recent key innovations in these areas.

Streamlined scale and enhanced simplicity

The utility grid’s distributed architecture calls for a network infrastructure that covers multiple locations. This infrastructure faces numerous challenges, including latency, bandwidth, redundancy, scalability, and cybersecurity. Updating and managing such a widespread network is resource intensive.

Cisco’s Catalyst SD-WAN solution with Cisco Catalyst Industrial Routers, meets these stringent grid requirements. It brings together enterprise-level security, scalability, simplicity, with industrial-strength reliability to maintain grid communication uptime for increased grid resilience.

Key enhancements

  • We’re making it easier to avoid truck rolls and simpler to accurately scale network deployments and reduce configuration errors with enhanced security and management automation capabilities.
  • For heightened cybersecurity in Substation Automation, Catalyst SD-WAN Security on the Cisco Catalyst IR8340 Rugged Router unlocks a suite of advanced protections, from next-generation firewall and intrusion prevention to malware defense that’s backed by Talos threat intelligence.

All of these capabilities come together in the latest version of our Cisco Validated Design for the substation, which provides a complete blueprint for successful Digital Substation deployments with Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN.

Additionally, for Distribution Automation in the Field Area Network, Cisco IoT Field Network Director now offers a new, secure, and simplified router management system capable of handling up to 25,000 routers, enhancing operational efficiency.

Scale with new purpose-built hardware for utilities

  • New Cisco Catalyst IE9300 Rugged Series Switches SKUs for Substations: Delivers greater substation scalability with all-fiber or all-copper ports and support hybrid stacks, featuring timing inputs and embedded Cyber Vision sensors for comprehensive visibility into grid assets and cyber threats. These industrial switches are also IEEE 1613 and IEC 61850 certified for substation use.
  • New Cisco Catalyst IE3100 Rugged Series Switches: Building on a decade of success, the IE3100 series is the next-generation Layer 2 switch that is IEEE 1613 and IEC-61850 certified, and perfect for the substation, renewables and more. It offers a compact design with Gigabit Ethernet speeds suitable for a variety of industrial applications in harsh environments.

Scale with easily deployable reliable wireless backhaul

Upcoming certifications and connectivity enhancements

  • Wi-SUN 1.1 Certification for the Catalyst IR8140 Heavy Duty Series Router: Improves Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) with low power consumption and higher throughput.
  • New 5G Connectivity PIM: Meets the latest 3GPP release 16 specifications, including eSIM support, and simplifies upgrades to 5G/LTE in public or private networks as a universal PIM offering global 5G connectivity.

Utility cybersecurity

As utilities digitize the grid, visibility and threat protection become crucial to ensure cybersecurity and compliance with upcoming NERC-CIP standards for Internal Network Security Monitoring (INSM). Cisco Cyber Vision provides OT network visibility, acting as a security sensor and delivering actionable insights to secure utility networks. With Cyber Vision’s latest advancements, substations can achieve improved visibility for NERC-CIP compliance.

Read more about boosting your NERC-CIP Compliance with Cisco.

As the utility industry moves forward with grid modernization, Cisco Industrial IoT remains committed to supplying the specialized hardware, software, and solutions necessary to ensure the safe, efficient, and reliable delivery of electricity. Learn more here.


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