In response to strong consumer demand, many electric utilities are in the process of modernizing their substation infrastructure to support the increasing demand for electricity from distributed energy resources (DER). They are also aiming to introduce more advanced automation and stronger security at the substation level.

As renewable energy sources come online, power grids need to be more intelligent to support more complex distribution scenarios and ensure a real-time balance of supply and demand. Why? Because the traditional one-way, consistent flow of power from the substation to consumers is evolving. One reason for this is that solar and wind generation feed power into the electrical grid intermittently, not in a steady flow. In addition, more customers install solar panels on their homes, potentially generating more power than they consume. If this happens, a residential subdivision can become a virtual powerplant, and the local substations experience a reverse flow as they send that excess power back into the grid.

For utilities, diverse power sources and nontraditional flows make balancing supply and demand more difficult. That has prompted many of them to explore advanced technology that can help improve their forecasting and operational control while also supporting automation and security.

Turnkey Server Solution Enables Substation Modernization at Scale

Given these changing conditions, utilities need to update their advanced distribution management systems (ADMSs) to support DERs and other technologies to ensure a high level of reliability and resiliency. To better manage the larger and more diverse data streams handled by the grid control systems, many utilities are bringing more processing capability, efficient automation, and enhanced cybersecurity into their substations. Accomplishing this modernization across all substations within a utility’s area of operations can be a complex, costly, and protracted undertaking without the standardized, validated infrastructural hardware that can withstand challenging workloads.

Dell Technologies is committed to the success of the utility industry and collaborates closely with innovative, large electric utilities. We have optimized the Dell PowerEdge XR12 server as a turnkey solution for substation deployment. The PowerEdge XR12 complies with IEC 61850-3, the international standard for hardware devices in electrical substations.

Intrinsic Security to Safeguard Utility Data

Dell PowerEdge XR12 Server.Electric utilities are frequent targets of cyberattacks and must address any risks associated with large-scale technology modernization across substations. For most utilities, the success of substation modernization will depend on strengthening their cybersecurity and addressing vulnerabilities at the edge and elsewhere in their environment. The XR12, designed with intrinsic security to give utilities an advantage in safeguarding their data and substation systems, can be an important element in increasing security. The advanced security capabilities of the Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor, including Intel Crypto Acceleration, complement and extend our security engineering.

Dell Technologies helps deliver intrinsic security in every phase of the server lifecycle, from design to manufacturing, through use and end-of-life. Utilities can deploy PowerEdge servers in highly secure and other environments. Our cyber-resilient architecture comprises every aspect of server design and operation, starting with the firmware and extending to the operating system, stored data, hardware components, chassis, peripherals and management capabilities. Secured Component Verification ensures that PowerEdge servers are delivered and ready for deployment exactly as they were built by Dell manufacturing.

Noteworthy security capabilities of the PowerEdge servers include encryption at the motherboard level, proactive auto-detection of approaching part failures, a secure parts supply chain, and advanced vulnerability analysis services. The Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller 9 (iDRAC9) offers utilities an arsenal of configurable server security features to help utilities reduce the number of in-person support visits. Dell OpenManage Integration for VMware vCenter (OMIVV) allows the streamlining of data center processes by enabling the management of physical and virtual server infrastructures with VMware vCenter Server.

We evolve and innovate PowerEdge security capabilities to help utility customers stay ahead of ever more sophisticated threats and risks to their systems and applications. Dell Technologies maintains stringent, auditable, zero-trust security across our global supply chain.

Optimized for Efficient Operations

Utilities can be confident that the XR12 — a ruggedized, single-socket 2U server with reverse mounting capability and a depth of only 16 inches — not only fits easily into existing substation racks but also deploys quickly and helps make better use of limited space. The XR12 offers up to two accelerator options to maximize performance and efficiency. Utilities can run multiple vendors’ software virtually on the same server, eliminating the need for a dedicated server to run each specific software application. Utilities accustomed to using dedicated servers for individual software applications will likely find that using a single high-performing device to run multiple workloads will simplify IT administration, reduce operational expenses and minimize their exposure to cybersecurity risks.

Virtualization — decoupling data and software workloads from physical hardware — is key to running several grid-monitoring software tools on a common hardware platform. It also keeps substation modernization and automation with the XR12 efficient yet scalable. Our server design incorporates virtualization technology from VMware to achieve optimal resilience and manageability of the software systems that manage substations.

Preparing for the Future of Renewable Power Distribution

Judging by the modernization initiatives underway in utilities, we expect that substations will evolve into small edge data centers that need to accommodate future artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) capabilities and significant growth in data volumes. We have already published design guidance for these more dynamic, powerful substations. They will play a critical role in delivering the intelligence that utilities will rely on as they manage grids with power from sustainable and conventional sources to reliably meet demand.

Dell Technologies OEM Solutions is committed to developing products and solutions that advance the achievement of net-zero climate targets. The Dell PowerEdge XR12 server has been validated to support substation digitization efforts that are critical for the ongoing energy transition. As we partner with many leading software vendors, we strive to ensure that the PowerEdge XR12 will operate each of their validated designs to provide their end customers with a wide range of options to solve their specific challenges.

Learn more about Dell’s Rugged server family and the new utility grade offering on PowerEdge XR12.

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