Interview with Torsten Birn, Siemens Smart Grid Strategic Alliances.
On April 15th 2013, Siemens and Teradata announced a global strategic partnership in the field of big data. Torsten Birn works for Siemens Smart Grid Strategic Alliances and is one of the architects of this partnership.
You were heavily involved in creating the Siemens Teradata partnership.
How much preparation went into this project?
Torsten: Well agreeing on a complex contractual framework between two large companies is never a trivial task, so we have been discussing this partnership for about a year now. It started with learning about each other´s exact product and solution portfolio and how it could complement the other’s offering. We then initiated conversations about if and how we could work together. The next important stage was promoting the idea to our own senior management and getting all stakeholders onboard. Finally we discussed and agreed upon the terms written down in this contract. It was quite a journey.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of bringing two companies together?
Torsten: No matter how similar two companies may seem, there will always be differences. A challenge for this partnership was building up a common understanding of the area and details of the cooperation. It was important to precisely define the scope of the cooperation and to come to an agreement about critical business topics so as to protect one’s own strategic core competencies.
The difficult areas in this negotiation process only worked out because a trusting environment was created. I have to admit that trust was not granted automatically; on day-one, trust was something that grew while discussing and finding promising and convincing solutions together for all topics. Thankfully our complementing and non-conflicting portfolio offering helped in creating constructive and focused discussions, which we have now successfully closed, and now we are in the implementation phase.
Why does Siemens need to partner with Teradata?
Torsten: In a “software world” or a world where the power grid has started to become a large part of the “internet of things,” one cannot succeed without leveraging partners. You cannot do everything by yourself – it´s simply not possible. With this partnership we extend our own solution completeness with cutting edge big data expertise from Teradata. And with Teradata it is a clear win-win situation meaning the partnership has a much higher chance of being sustainable. Let me explain further.
In essence Siemens brings its 160+ years of industry expertise and leading position in the global energy and utility industry with its complete end-to-end portfolio and Teradata brings its position as the global leader in business intelligence and big data analytics. Combining these two world class companies with capabilities across the entire energy supply chain including big data analytics creates a powerful and mutually beneficial partnership. Not only is it a win-win from the perspective of the partnership, but also from the energy industry. And creating customer value in this industry is what counts at the end of the day.
Could you give us an idea of how much data is being produced by smart grid products like a smart meter, protection devices or control centers?
Torsten: I can quote an estimate given by a study from GigaOM (> Web link ) . “when smart meters are fully deployed, they will generate 1,000 petabytes of data a year, about five times the amount of data on AT&T’s network.” Now just imagine, right now there are smart meter load profile data that is only being sent hourly, not by the minute, which could very well happen. And smart meters are only one piece of the picture.
There exist data that could come from a large list of sources. For example, a recent expert blog post from Teradata aggregated different data producers such as control centers, virtual power plants as well as (> Web link) “from syncophasors, transformers, substation sensors, social media, websites and computerized logs.” These different sources create large volumes of data that could be analyzed and turned into business intelligence for utilities. It is clear that the utilities that are able to capture the correct data, do proper analysis and act on this new knowledge will lead the industry.
There exist many different big data analyst providers. Why have we chosen to work with Teradata?
Torsten: We strived for this partnership after a stringent evaluation in which Teradata proved itself to be the most technologically advanced and mature. In fact, Teradata has been a global technology leader in analytical database systems for many years. Getting more specific, the key criteria for our decision was based on Teradata´s high performance level, excellent data management capabilities, complete vision, wide partner ecosystem, future proof strategy and sound technology roadmap.However, it was not only important to find an industry leading partner, but also one that complements our own offering where the strengths of both sides are not only added but multiplied.
An example of this is Teradata´s Unified Data Architecture, which perfectly complements Siemens’ strategy with its existing architecture and high performance platform. For instance, we can develop utility use-cases and aggregate them to packaged applications for our customers based on Teradata´s product: Aster Data.
The saying goes, "garbarge in, garbage out" in the world of finance. Is that also a problem for utilities to know which data are relevant or not?
Torsten: Garbage in, garbage out is valid for all industries. Having a single source of truth and clear processes for data governance (including data clearance) is the foundation for reliable reporting and data analysis. In utilities a special focus lies on uniting all the different historically grown data sources originating out of a “silo’ed” organization to create this single source of truth- or as I call it, “360 degree view on data.” This is the first step every company has to do. Only then can one begin to make real sense out of it.
To conclude, what do you think about privacy and security? Doesn’t big data usually imply big brother?
Torsten: This is certainly a topic to be taken very seriously. Data security and privacy is on the very top of our as well as Teradata’s priority list. Only a responsible approach to data with the highest security standards will allow us to really leverage the opportunities arising from the possible availability of large amounts of data. However, you need to be granted access to capture and analyze data, which in turn requires a high level of trust from whomever you have gained this privilege. So building a trusting relationship with our customers - based on technology, processes and people - is absolutely key to ensure data protection and at the same time exploit the opportunities that arise in a big data driven world. And that’s what we do.