Light Reading

A NOC in the Cloud for the IoT

Jason Meyers

A new cloud-based approach to the network operations center is aimed at helping utilities, municipalities and other entities deploying smart infrastructure to manage and monitor the vast number of devices expected to comprise the Internet of Things (IoT).

The platform was developed by Nivis , a developer of smart grid technology and wireless sensor networks based on standards such as 6LoWPAN, ISA100.11a, and WirelessHART. The company's Cloud NOC is designed to allow management and monitoring of networks of connected devices -- such as smart meters on a utility network or wireless-enabled streetlights in a city -- in a way that accounts for the increasingly complex standards environment in the IoT. (See AllSeen Attracts More IoT Hopefuls and Thread Group Spins New IoT Networking Protocol.)

"Over the course of the last five or six years, various standards bodies have created and generated a wide gamut of standards that are targeting fixed devices such as meters," says Robert Assimiti, co-founder and CTO of Centero LLC , which Assimiti says was founded last year to function as the commercial distribution arm of Nivis. "We support these technologies natively. If you have an IoT device that resides in the field that speaks 6LoWPAN, for example, you can connect to the NOC without any translating agents."

For in-depth coverage of the IoT, smart grid innovation, and utility communications topics, visit Light Reading's dedicated content channels for the Internet of Things (IoT) and utilities communications sectors.

That ability to assimilate is becoming increasingly important in an IoT world. A new study from PwC Consulting indicates that investment in sensors to connect devices to the IoT is on the rise in a broad range of industry sectors, especially energy and automotive.

For utilities in particular, having a dedicated virtual NOC to turn to for network diagnostics and device management is necessary, given the increasing complexity and security implications of smart grid communications, Assimiti says.

"Utility companies used to have a backend solution provided along with meters -- a software package that would allow them to mine data," he says. "It has morphed into something more complex. Now it's not just about the data -- it's about network health, and also security has started to play a crucial role. Now we're talking about very complex encryption and authentication. This is all fairly novel to the utility companies."

The Nivis cloud NOC can be provided as a cloud-based service, or as an enterprise software package that customers can host themselves, Assimiti says.

— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
8/7/2014 | 8:37:36 PM
Re: communications complexity
@jasonmeyers, I think this holds great promise.  I would think that they will configure the network for the more specific needs of utilities and municipalities - which is a key infrastructure area that is developing.  Makes a lot of sense, plus with the development of IoT.  They probably won't need to develop as much innovative functionality as core fundamentals, for utility grids, etc.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
8/7/2014 | 2:57:15 PM
Re: One big outlying issue
I realize this is a cloud-based NOC but there are clouds and there are clouds - do we know for sure this one isn't offering layer 2 connections, It does seem like, as brookseven says, relying on your Internet connection to your NOC is risky at best. 
sam masud
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/7/2014 | 1:35:35 PM
Re: One big outlying issue
Given the pervasiveness and centrality of the Internet, is it such a crazy idea to think that the time has come when Internet service providers get cracking to bring the reliability of the Internet closer to private IP networks? Hmmm....
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/7/2014 | 12:05:43 PM
One big outlying issue

I ran a small SaaS provider and when I got there I moved our NOC to "The Cloud" sort of.  It was located in our HQ and I moved the systems to our Equinix Data Centers.

One of the challenges is that a public cloud connected service is that General Internet Issues (like say a route flap at Level 3) can cause all kinds of problems in network monitoring.  So, just as customers are calling up to complain you have lost the ability to know what is going on in your network. 

My solution around it was to connect to one of the data centers via a Layer 2 connection.  This meant that even if the general Internet was having wobbles and troubles that I was able to reach my NOC.  If I had had the money, I would have connected to all my DCs with L2.  I figured if I lost the San Jose DC to an Earthquake and the internet Wobbled because of it, it would be on the news.

NOCs in particular have to have more resilicency than the service that is being offered.  When all is going wrong the NOC has to be working.


User Rank: Blogger
8/7/2014 | 11:51:00 AM
Communications complexity
The utility communications sector is getting increasingly sophisticated, with many utilities deploying smart meters that connect to the IoT, and others rolling out communications services over optical networks. Some are doing all of the above. It will be interesting to see how network management platforms traditionally geared toward telecom operations might be adapted for changing utility needs. 
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