Point-to-Point integrations: 6 Reasons Why they Don’t Work for Today’s Utilities

If the future of utilities is data-driven, then data integration is critical to the future of utilities.

Effective data integration makes data easily accessible throughout your utility. It means that data can be seamlessly shared with your partner organizations and with end-users through apps. It enables rapid innovation. Operational efficiencies become more achievable. Adaptability becomes part of the organization’s culture.

But not all types of integration can deliver these benefits. Point-to-Point (P2P) integrations make the journey towards an innovative, data-driven utility a painful (if not impossible) process.

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In many organizations, Point-to-Point integrations have grown up over time. When new integrations are needed (often under the pressure of a looming deadline), continuing with the existing approach seems the quickest and easiest way. But short time gain leads to long-term pain as a complex network of integrations form spaghetti IT and technical debt is stored up for the future.

Why Point-to-Point Integrations don’t work for Today’s Utilities

Imagine this. Finally, after weeks of hard work, your utility’s new smart meter rollout is up and running. But now your Meter Data Management system needs to be upgraded to handle the data the new meters are generating. Trouble is, it’s going to take weeks of custom coding to replace the Point-to-Point integration between the Head End System and the new MDM system. And you need to start using that data now. Then you remember that the one person in your organization who remembers the coding left six months ago.

Data Integration is potentially the backbone of Digital Transformation. But Point-to-Point integrations can hinder the growth of a digital organization and make it impossible to adapt to a changing business environment.

Let’s explore why:

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1. Scalability is Essential for Today’s Utilities: P2P isn’t Scalable

    • Today’s energy sector is moving quickly. New technologies, new apps, new distributed energy resources seem to be arriving on a weekly basis. They need to be integrated rapidly…before the next new integration comes along.
    • Because of their interdependence and reliance on custom coding, rigid Point-to-Point integrations can’t keep up with either the speed or the volume of integrations needed.
    • Data often ends up in silos instead of flowing freely throughout your organisation.

    2. Utility IT Budgets are under more Pressure than ever: P2P is Resource Heavy

        • Custom coding is expensive and time consuming. If you’re under pressure from a deadline, and your organization already uses P2P, an additional Point-to-Point integration may seem the easiest approach. But long term, it’s a resource-intensive solution that can potentially take up weeks of your IT team’s time.
        • If a vendor needs to be brought in, time and money soon ratchet up.
        • Simply maintaining the complex infrastructure that builds up over time begins to monopolize your team’s time.
        • As the number of P2P integrations increases, the system become more unstable, unreliable, and prone to failures, taking up more and more resources to manage.

        3. Flexibility and Innovation are Key for Today’s utilities: P2P Kills Both

          • If your team is wrapped up in maintaining a complex architecture of P2P integrations, they can’t spend their time on innovation.
          • Today’s utilities need to adapt quickly to a rapidly changing energy landscape. The rigidity of P2P integrations doesn’t give utilities the flexibility they now need.
          • Because of the difficulties in creating new integrations, data tends to get stuck in silos. It hampers the free flow of data around the organisation. Data sharing with other organisations in your ecosystem is a huge challenge.
          • P2P integrations prevent utilities making the most of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence.

          4. Utilities need Real-Time Visibility: P2P can’t Deliver Real-Time Data

            • Today’s utilities are increasingly reliant on real-time data. This is essential for monitoring intermittent energy resources, for creating flexibility services and effectively using smart meter data.
            • There is increasing pressure from consumers to see their energy usage in real-time through user-friendly apps.
            • P2P integrations usually exchange data in batches. This makes the seamless flow of data and real-time visibility impossible.

            5. Easily Accessible Data is Vital for Utilities: P2P Integrations are Hard to Monitor

              • P2P integrations usually end up in Spaghetti IT. Spaghetti IT that’s hard to monitor. What’s more, as integration architectures become more complex, they’re more prone to failure.
              • With no overall central strategy, it’s hard for IT teams to identify and solve issues as they arise.
              • As employees leave the organization, there is a declining number of people left who understand how to maintain integrations…or even that the integrations exist.
              • Data becomes siloed and inaccessible. Effective data sharing, even within the utility, becomes impossible.

              6. Utilities today are Facing a Rise in Security Threats: P2P Hampers Security

                • With the increase in cyber threats to critical infrastructure, it’s more important than ever to patch as updates become available. But patch updates may not work with existing connections, making the process slow and cumbersome - or worse, abandoned altogether.
                • Vulnerabilities are now exploited faster than ever before, making unpatched systems a dangerous weakness.
                • The lack of overall data visibility makes central data governance challenging. It becomes difficult to track and monitor data and data breaches may go undiscovered for too long.

                So, what is the alternative?

                Many utilities are finding that switching to a modern iPaaS solution, like Greenbird’s Utilihive, solves the constraints and challenges of P2P and offers a data integration solution that is future focused.

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                Here’s how a modern iPaaS solution accelerates utilities’ digital transformation

                1. It’s easily scalable:
                  Because integrations are connected in a centralized platform, new integrations can be rapidly delivered. If changes need to be made, other integrations are not affected. Platforms using a library of low-code connectors require minimal coding.
                2. It saves time and money:
                  Pricing is by subscription. IT leaders know what they will be charged in advance. Maintenance can be supplied by the vendor, cutting the time spent by in-house teams.
                3. It enables flexibility and Innovation:
                  Integrations can be up and running quickly, enabling change when circumstances change.
                4. It enables the delivery of real-time data:
                  iPaaS offers the potential for real time analytics and insights, enabling flexibility markets and user-friendly consumer apps.
                5. It brings Data Transparency:
                  The central platform makes the entire infrastructure visible. Web-based interfaces make data more accessible and easier for operators to track events and alerts.
                6. It leads to improved security:
                  Not only is data monitoring easier, the iPaaS provider regularly supplies upgrades. Patching becomes a more straightforward process.

                Enterprises that end up with a complex architecture because of multiple Point-to-Point integrations, don’t start out with a strategy to create a spaghetti IT. It grows up over the years as IT teams, working with the architecture they already have, take the most expedient route.

                Switching to a modern iPaaS solution may seem like a daunting prospect. Tackling the existing technical debt that has grown up through P2P integrations does take an initial outlay of time and effort. But with the speed at which today’s utilities need to change and evolve, it’s an investment that will deliver huge benefits now and in the future.

                About Greenbird:

                Greenbird is an international solution and technology company with roots in Norway. We simplify the complexity of Big Data Integration to help organizations unlock the value of their data and mission critical applications. We founded Greenbird in 2010 with a mission to revolutionize how the energy industry thinks about enterprise system integration. Our flagship innovation, Utilihive, is a cloud-native platform combining enterprise integration capabilities with a data lake optimized for energy use cases. Today, Utilihive is used by utilities across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia — serving more than 50 million consumers.

                Greenbird is headquartered in Oslo, with approximately 50 employees, comprising primarily senior developers and consultants specializing in technology development and customer onboarding of the Utilihive platform.

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