February 7, 2019
IBM Cloud is again flexing its substantial muscle in the energy industry with a multimillion-dollar agreement with Smart Energy Water, which will move its some of its applications to Big Blue’s cloud platform.
Under the new five-year agreement, Smart Energy Water (SEW) will move such enterprise web and mobile workloads as customer engagement and mobile-workforce engagement applications, as well as online bill processing, applications for energy efficiency and demand response, reward programs and real-time, field-based data collection and management tools.
More than 150 utilities around the globe use SEW’s cloud-based utility workforce-management processes engagement software that now will be hosted on the IBM Cloud, where customers can access the applications. In announcing the deal, SEW said that through the IBM Cloud, the company will be able to more quickly scale its services globally to better address the fluctuating demands of customers. At the same time, they pointed to their intentions to leverage such advanced technologies as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, data analytics and the internet of things (IoT).
SEW is preparing for the impact that the fast-growing number of connected devices and technologies will have on its customers, said Brad Gammons, global managing director of IBM’s energy, environment and utilities business.
IBM’s Brad Gammons
“By investing in data, their workers can do their jobs better than ever before and customers will have access to self-service capabilities that can help improve client service,” said Gammons.
The energy industry is working to address customers’ growing demands for more efficient and less expensive energy as well as governmental regulations around power efficiency and water conservation. That combined with aging infrastructure, IBM says, is leading companies in the space to look for new technologies that will modernize their businesses and make them more responsive to shifting demands. That includes the cloud.
A report from MarketsandMarkets predicts that the energy cloud market will reach $15.81 billion by 2021, driven by the need for customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities, aging infrastructure and growing concerns around power-grid security. IBM and other cloud providers are putting a focus on the energy industry.
In a December blog, Darryl Willis, vice president for energy at Google Cloud, noted that energy companies, like those in oil and gas, electricity and renewable energy, generate a lot of data but often use very little of it because they lack the tools.
“As a result, cloud technologies have become increasingly important to energy companies that want to grow and evolve,” Willis wrote. “The cloud can help them get on-demand access to more data than ever before, and make huge leaps in computational power to produce actionable insights that can have a real impact. The technologies of cloud mean that energy companies can make better, faster and safer decisions.”
IBM points to an array of solutions that energy and utility companies can use to better leverage their data and offer a lot of those advanced technologies, such as AI, in its cloud. In announcing the SEW deal, IBM also touted other energy firms that have signed on for its cloud, including TenneT Energy, an electricity transmission company in Europe that is using the cloud to find ways of leveraging a permissioned blockchain network to ensure the supply of electricity. Hydro Ottawa is developing a hybrid cloud environment that leverages the IBM Cloud, and Ista UK has a prepayment solution hosted on the cloud.
In addition, ExxonMobil, the largest oil and gas company in the world, runs its Speedpass+ app on the IBM Cloud.
The capabilities with the IBM Cloud dovetail with the drive within the energy industry for optimization, says Paul Teich, principal analyst at Liftr Cloud Insights. That includes machine learning and AI for advanced analytics and pattern detection in areas like …
… IoT as well as security, and Teich notes that IBM, in its IBM Cloud Private (ICP) for Data, integrated its Watson, analytics and IoT services — and linked ICP for Data to its Multi-Cloud Manager.
Liftr Cloud Insights’ Paul Teich
“IBM’s ICP private cloud message being linked to advanced analytics and a multicloud story is a good value proposition for the energy industry,” Teich told Channel Futures.
According to the latest numbers from Synergy Research Group, IBM ranks fourth among the largest cloud providers, far behind market leader Amazon Web Services and trailing Microsoft Azure and Google. Teich sees IBM’s planned $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat as a way of bulking up its multicloud efforts.
“Enterprise public cloud access starts with private cloud, and now both IBM’s own ICP and Red Hat’s private cloud solutions will list IBM Cloud as one of the destinations for a multicloud solution,” the analyst said. “IBM is counting on Red Hat to keep IBM Cloud in the multicloud mix.”
He also noted that the issue isn’t the size of the cloud provider by revenue or data centers deployed; rather, it’s more about whether the provider can deliver the services an organization needs in the right region “while meeting contractual service guarantees at a solution price that provides value to the customer. Anyone can play, if they can provide the right solution value,” Teich said.
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