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Smart Grid IT Challenges > Integration of Software Applications - Pg. 276

276 PART | III Smart Infrastructure, Smart Prices, Smart Devices concentrator unit that normally receives the data from the meter, a failure of the wide area network (WAN) connection to the concentrator, 20 or other things such as a power outage or temporary radio interference. Exception Management Some IT system needs to identify the failure--also known as an exception-- diagnose possible solutions, and initiate a resolution--all automatically-- because manual processes are cost prohibitive in a network of millions of devices. Exception handling is the bane of operations departments, and auto- mated processing is seen by utilities as a major smart grid benefit. 21 The resolution is typically one of these three approaches: A retry of the communications, an automated repeat request for the infor- mation. Such retries are part of the basic operations of the AMI head-end software. However, retries can be initiated by upstream systems as well, such as the meter data management system or billing system. Simply waiting another day. Missing meter reads in a daily file of smart meter reads are often resolved the next day in the regular daily meter reading process. This happens automatically in the operation of most AMI technologies. Manual intervention. A work order is created by the meter data manage- ment system, CIS, or work management system--or manually--and a human being takes various steps to diagnose and solve the problem. Integration of Software Applications Making the smart grid work requires different IT systems to talk to one another reliably and efficiently. The AMI head-end software needs to talk to the meter data management system, which needs to talk to the billing system. Linking all of these systems can be quite complicated. When multiple systems are involved, and each is individually connected to others, the result is sometimes called "spaghetti integration" as shown in Figure 11.4. The challenge of application integration is increased by the diversity of the systems. Some are new, others old. For example, a brand-new AMI head-end may be connected to a 20-year-old legacy billing system. Moreover, technical interfaces differ, ranging from modern, XML-based, interfaces to traditional To clarify, the WAN is the communications link between the utility office and communication nodes typically mounted on utility poles in neighborhoods. From there, pole-top nodes communicate via radio frequency or power line carrier to the meters in the areas, this being the LAN. The meters then communicate via a separate radio or power line carrier modem into the home or building to connect to smart devices; this is the HAN. 21 Southern California Gas Company, Advanced Metering Infrastructure Chapter II ­ Summary of AMI Business Case, Testimony Filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, September 29, 2008. 20