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The Need for Resiliency in 21st-Century Power and Network Infrastructures, Part 1

Welcome to the initial column of Intelligent Infrastructure Insights. We are going through a huge paradigm shift in real estate today. There is a convergence of next-generation real estate, intelligent infrastructure (power and network connectivity), technology (smartphones, Wi-Fi & DAS networks) and their combined impact on regional economic development. This clearly spells new opportunities for the market-savvy electrical contractor.

In addition, electrical contractors are seeing more markets open up for low-voltage projects as well as the traditional high-voltage projects. This column will help electrical contractors understand the changes in the market, the new opportunities, and the new ways of capturing new business for their companies and their employees.

Without further introduction, let’s start uncovering the current trends and transactions:

 

Tomorrow is not the time to start building for tomorrow. Future regional viability tomorrow depends on building and maintaining a solid, resilient infrastructure today.

 

This holds true for both power and network infrastructure. Both are going to have to support a larger and more broadband-voracious set of edge technology accessing mission critical applications in the coming years. (See Chart 1)

Resiliency is an essential term many organizations are becoming aware of as they implement more mission-critical applications. Electrical contractors need to understand this if they want to chase new opportunities within the industry

The game has changed; Cheap solutions do not work

Today, one out of three applications are considered mission critical. That number is growing to one out of two applications. Robust networks and redundant power sources need to support these enterprise-wide applications.

Resiliency focuses on business-continuity concepts where networks and systems remain in service compared to a disaster recovery strategy, where the approach is an orderly shutdown of systems and/or services for a period of time, followed by an orderly and speedy recovery from failures and disruptions. It is an important concept to understand because there has been a shift from employing disaster recovery concepts to establishing business continuity concepts in many organizations.

The six R’s of mission-critical systems

The six R’s of mission-critical systems should be adhered to in all important intelligent infrastructure (network and power grids): Reliability, Redundancy, Robustness, Resiliency, Resistance-to-Attacks, and Rigorous Regular Testing. (See Chart 2)

As more organizations rely on sophisticated applications to sustain their business, they need to ensure they are building network infrastructure that can remain operational when unforeseen disasters occur. This infrastructure will enable them access these applications during the aftermath of such disasters.

Disaster recovery meant invoking an orderly shutdown of systems when a disaster strikes and when it is clear, the systems are turned back up and business resumes. The organization incurs a downtime, and it could be a couple of hours, several days, or even more than a week where all business stops.

With a systems design focus of “business continuity," when a disaster occurs, the business continues to function and nothing is shut down. It continues to run, impervious to outside disruptions and events.

“Disaster recovery” and “business continuity” are very different strategies in the way systems, networks, and applications are designed, implemented, and maintained for an organization. The costs to implement either strategy are different as well.

Working with a client like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, they would want the highest resiliency for their networks. The reason is simple. They cannot afford any downtime with hundreds of trillions of dollars in transaction values running through their networks annually.

In today’s marketplace, leading-edge organizations are more dependent on mission-critical networks and applications that support their core businesses and governmental responsibilities. These technologies need to be resilient and robust for the organizations to thrive in a very competitive market. This translates into new opportunities for the electrical contractors that do not reflect the "cheapest cost solution” strategy.

Over three decades ago, I first said this, and it still holds true today:

 

Leading-edge organizations do not maintain their position using trailing-edge technologies.

 

What is an hour of downtime worth? You can calculate this value. When you can measure the cost of downtime, the cost for resiliency can be compared to what the cost of downtime is.

Let’s continue this discussion in next month’s column.

About the Author

James Carlini

Contributing Editor

James Carlini, MBA, is a strategist for mission-critical networks, technology and intelligent infrastructure. He has been the president of Carlini & Associates since 1986. He is author of "LOCATION LOCATION CONNECTIVITY," a visionary book on the...

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