Why Microsoft is Involved in the Utility Industry’s CIM Discussion

My last blog entry described what happened at our CIM Users’ Group Meeting last month but at a more fundamental level I feel we owe some background about what CIM is and why and how Microsoft is involved. Here then are a few questions and answers that might help explain a little more:

The CIM – What is it?

The CIM is an “Information Model” for electric utility equipment, facilities, assets, etc.  The CIM Model captures the definition of the Power System Equipment and entities which make up the Electric Utility Value Chain.  The model includes attributes for the assets, as well as the relationships between all the objects.  The CIM includes all of the Power System, from Generation to Transmission to Distribution to Meters and now there is an Open Smart Grid Users Group working with key Utilities like SCE as well as OpenHAN and ZigBee participants to define AMI standards.  A great tutorial for those interested can be found at:  http://cimphony.org/cimphony/cim-intro.pdf

The model was originally established and maintained in UML in Rational Rose.  The starting point was defining the equipment that made up the Transmission Network – or the GRID as it is often referred to today.  In parallel, a similar process involving the lower voltage Distribution assets emerged.  Next came the definition and incorporation of additional assets around other parts of the Utilities values chain – such as communications equipment, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) equipment, geospatial relationships, business relationships, etc.  Recently a migration to Enterprise Architect has been made and in addition to the UML notation, EA supports the primary working format XMI files.  The composite model file consists of both the Transmission Model associated with standard IEC 61968 and the Distribution Model associated with standard IEC 61970 – as well as various extensions to the 2 standards such as for Metering and Markets Systems. 

Why is Microsoft Involved in CIM?

Microsoft’s worldwide utilities group is actively engaged in a wide range of thought leadership activities through active participation in standards bodies in the Utilities Industry vertical.  Second, Microsoft wants to protect its clients’ technology investments by having a voice in development of technology usage for Model Management, integration message payload definition, and Data Warehouse/Data Store schema design. Third, we put in place the Model Driven foundation for our Fully Integrated Utility of the Future.

Below is a simplified view of what CIM integration will look like in the Fully Integrated Delivery Utility of the Future. Notice the integration across the top half of the oval in green that shows the application integration of front office and back office application leveraging a CIM (Common Information Model) based deployment of messaging technology.

The bottom half of the oval in orange shows the multitude of devices and assets (like meters, substation transformers, mobile devices, etc. that are integrated via a variety of communications technologies and infrastructure systems like microwave, cellular, and fiber optics. The merging of these in-the-office and out in the field components will become seamless and many new forms of interaction will become commonplace.


Is Microsoft Applying CIM at any Utilities?

Yes, I am leading several key Microsoft CIM initiatives. One example is an actual CIM integration effort by a major Canadian utility to create a Telemetry Operations Data Store (TODS).  The goal of the TODS is to capture all telemetry operations data, serve as the operations system of record for data supply to the rest of the utility enterprise, and do reporting for key regulatory requirements. Microsoft hosted an architectural design session for the TODS program.

The goal of the Canadian utility effort is to leverage the Utilities Industry Standard Common Information Model and BizTalk to integrate some key systems and serve the data to the enterprise via tools like SQL Reporting, SharePoint, and PerformancePoint.  Some of the core initial data types include line impedance & ratings, asset information, EMS/SCADA, weather, and generation forecasts.  The key deliverables/benefits that Microsoft hopes to achieve are the design guidance for establishing legacy application to CIM ESB connectivity, the schema for an operational data store repository, and some initial User screens.  Eventually the project will touch operational actions within other systems such as partner Areva and bring this utility one step closer to our Integrated Utility of the Future concept.

- Larry Cochrane, Worldwide Power & Utilities Industry Technology Strategist/Architect