Tennessee Valley Authority deploys RAD solution to begin TDM-to-packet-switched transition
ATLANTA—RAD, a communications-solutions provider for power utilities, today announced that the company’s platform is being used by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as part of the large utility’s effort to transition from its legacy TDM architecture and meet cybersecurity requirements that will become effective next year.
Such transitions are ideal for RAD’s Megaplex platform, which includes myriad TDM and Carrier Ethernet interfaces that flexibly supports migration on a timetable that makes the most budgetary and operational for the utility, according to Dave Thomas, business development manager for RAD.
“Historically, [TVA has] done their networking, SCADA, teleprotection and [remote terminal unit] RTU-type traffic over TDM networks,” Thomas said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Those products have become obsolete or hard to support going forward, so they’re looking to us to provide products that basically will give them a migration path away from TDM to packet-switched [technology] and still be able to accommodate all of the SCADA and teleprotection traffic.
“One of the big things that we did with them was test teleprotection over packet-switched. That was a huge obstacle for them, and we were able to overcome that. We were able to prove that our products could do what they were accustomed to in a TDM environment, but we do it over a packet-switched environment.”
Uri Zilberman, RAD’s vice president for North America, echoed this sentiment.
“We are delighted that TVA selected RAD as a partner in upgrading the communications infrastructure in their facilities,” Zilberman said in a prepared statement. “It is an ideal solution for power utilities with an extensive base of existing legacy services that also have an eye towards packet migration. The dual-backplane and comprehensive catalogue of service modules, both circuit switched and packet-based, make it an easy fit in power utility operational networks.”
Like many utilities, TVA initially had concerns whether a packet-switched platform could provide the reliable, low-latency connectivity needed to support key utility applications, but RAD was able to demonstrate its effectiveness last fall, Thomas said.
“They’re concerned about latency,” he said. “And a lot of people get the impression that, when you say packet-switched, it will be best effort, like the Internet. Our product is based on Carrier Ethernet, which is not best effort; it has things in place that will guarantee deliver of traffic, quality of service and things like that.
“They basically wanted to see that proved out. We went through that last fall with them.”
TVA, the second-largest power wholesaler in the U.S. that covers eight states, also will use the RAD platform to support long-term smart-grid initiatives while beginning to encrypt its traffic to meet NERC-CIP v5 requirements that will become effective by the second quarter of 2016, Thomas said. Under the new rules, communications to a remote asset in a utility network must be encrypted, he said.
“A lot of utilities will be coming up against a brick wall, where they are either going to have to quit communicating with devices or come up with a way to encrypt it,” Thomas said. “TVA is being proactive.”
RAD estimates that the overall transition project with TVA will be completed in five or six years, Thomas said.