Power networks made safer and more efficient

Smarter Grid Solutions adopts eXtremeDB Cluster DBMS to make power networks safer, more efficient.

Issaquah, Wash.—McObject, provider of real-time database software, announced that Smarter Grid Solutions has integrated McObject¹s eXtremeDB Cluster distributed database system within its Active Network Management technology. Smarter Grid Solutions helps power grids to increase their energy transfer capacity and ease integration of alternative energy sources. eXtremeDB Cluster’s fault-tolerant architecture supports the company’s mission- critical requirements, and eXtremeDB features including its Java Native Interface (JNI) help deliver needed real-time performance.

Smarter Grid Solutions' patented and proven technology increases existing grid capacity, enables timely connection for new loads and generators, and manages complex, bi-directional power flows while maintaining the power system within statutory voltage limits. Its solutions help power companies accelerate the move towards large-scale use of renewable energy at a fraction of the cost, simply by making better use of the existing grid and simplifying connection for new low-carbon technologies.

Providing power grids with the intelligence to accomplish these goals requires a lot of critical field data—and that’s where eXtremeDB Cluster comes in, according to Neil McNeill, Head of Solutions at Smarter Grid Solutions. McObject’s database system resides in Smarter Grid Solutions’ platform software that monitors and controls devices across the network and facilitates communication between them. The platform runs autonomously in locations ranging from regional control centers to local electrical substations, executing deterministic algorithms to manage multiple generators associated with different network constraints.

“Speed of response is critical,” McNeill said. eXtremeDB Cluster’s time-sensitive roles include tracking conditions at network constraint locations (“pinch points”) and triggering remedial actions on an escalating basis, such as curtailing the energy production from renewable generation or tripping circuit breakers in order to maintain the electrical power system within statutory operating limits, he said.

To provide the needed speed, eXtremeDB Cluster relies on its core in-memory database system (IMDS) design. In-memory databases store records in main memory, eliminating the overhead of disk and file I/O, cache management and other functions found in traditional on-disk database management systems (DBMSs). The Smarter Grid Solutions technology’s responsiveness also benefits from eXtremeDB Cluster’s in-process architecture: the database system is embedded in the application process, eliminating the latency of inter-process communication (IPC) between client and server modules.

Smarter Grid Solutions chose Java for development because of its wide acceptance by utilities and other power network operators. eXtremeDB’s Java Native Interface (JNI) delivers the fastest performance in this environment by providing direct access, in Java, to database functions that execute as ultra-fast compiled C/C++ code. It also streamlines coding by enabling developers to access eXtremeDB while working entirely with "plain old Java objects" (POJOs). Smarter Grid Solutions also makes use of Real-Time Java to retain determinism within their Smart Grid algorithms.

In its need for determinism, McNeill compared his company’s technology incorporating eXtremeDB to an automated control unit within a real-time process control system. It must respond synchronously to events on the network, with a time threshold of approximately 800 milliseconds. However, Smarter Grid Solutions has tested the system successfully down to 20 ms, he said. (This overall system response includes database processing with eXtremeDB.)

Smarter Grid Solutions must meet power network operators’ stringent fault-tolerance requirements. eXtremeDB¹s clustering capability ensures database up-time by spreading processing across multiple hardware nodes, providing continuous availability in the event of failure on one node. eXtremeDB Cluster¹s “shared nothing” architecture eliminates reliance on a shared SAN or other storage resource.

Clustering can also dramatically increase net processing power available for data management, and reduces cost-of-ownership by enabling the system to expand by adding low-cost servers. This “horizontal scalability” meets Smarter Grid Solutions’ need for a technology that supports both small and large deployments, McNeill said.

“Energy production and transmission solutions, with their need for the highest performance and reliability, present significant challenges to database systems. McObject has long targeted this market with eXtremeDB and can point to many successful deployments,” said Chris Mureen, McObject’s chief operating officer.
“We are pleased that Smarter Grid Solutions is leveraging our eXtremeDB Cluster distributed in-memory database system to help network operators meet key goals including greater efficiency and sustainability, without the need for costly infrastructure upgrades.”

For more information about McObject or other database systems, click here to go to Utility Products' Buyers Guide.

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