One year ago, SAP prepared for Itron Utility Week (IUW) with a clear plan, purpose and a vision of success. SAP and Itron outlined an ambitious plan to bring the Itron Enterprise Edition Meter Data Management (IEE MDM) solution onto the SAP HANA platform. With high expectations and a short timeline, the team committed to releasing the combined solution before the end of 2018. Not only was that goal achieved, but performance results have been impressive.

Itron is Live on HANA with Groundbreaking Performance Results
SAP and Itron are proud to show IEE MDM live on SAP HANA at IUW 2018. SAP HANA, SAP’s flagship in-memory OLTP/OLAP platform, opens a new world of possibilities to our customers. No longer is data visibility, data structure or system integration a gating issue as it relates to meter data. With meter data residing on a common platform, utility customers can more easily leverage that and other relevant data to gain operational insights and efficiencies.

In mid-2018, using the SAP Co-Innovation Lab and a representative set of three months of data for 5 million meters (1TB of data in HANA), SAP and Itron stood up IEE 9.1 on SAP HANA to prove the power of the SAP HANA platform. The performance gains realized by SAP HANA over legacy technologies was amazing! Itron’s solution performance improved by over 60% or more than 2.5 times, leading to drastically compressed batch times with greater access to real-time meter data. Not only are we seeing increased performance in batch processes, but it revolutionizes the data management and integration process for utilities. As much as SAP can tout the performance of an in-memory platform, the real key is the reduction of the data footprint by eliminating the replication and duplication of data.

Data Model is the Key
To eliminate the need for the replication of costly meter data, it is important to understand the concept of a virtual data model (VDM). A virtual data model is a structured representation of HANA database views for an application and follows consistent modeling rules. It provides direct access to data available in the IEE MDM system using standard SQL or OData requests.

The important data in the MDM, such as billing reads or event data, is exposed through well-defined database views, operating directly on the tables of the Itron database and transforming them into consistent and easily understandable views. These views can be consumed directly by rich-client UIs (such as HTML5, SAP BusinessObjects and Excel) or, more importantly, can be consumed by a Customer Information System (CIS) without moving the data, but simply pointing back to the data model.

Why is the Data Model Important?
Meter data replication leads to increased integration costs, a more expensive data footprint and takes us further from a real-time view of the data. However, there is a bigger issue that SAP HANA solves. With a direct extract from any application or MDM, the critical data, like billing reads, may be buried or embedded in a longer string of non-usable data. Extract, transform and load (ETL) is then necessary to translate this data into a usable form. Customers have tried to address this issue by setting up ETL to a secondary data warehouse, passing only the critical information to the end billing system. If we could seamlessly view the data at the heart of the MDM, without moving or transforming, we could do so much more to the data without having to transform it. Fortunately, with SAP HANA, this is now possible!

SAP HANA, with virtual data models, eliminates the complexity and customizing dependencies of Itron to make data available without requiring a deep understanding of models. Think of the VDM as a pointer to data as it resides in the application. There is no need to move the data or transform it. Since all processing happens on primary data, there is no need to wait for data warehousing loading jobs to finish. The cycle time from recording to reporting is dramatically reduced. As illustrated in the architecture below, all data across the enterprise is now available on one data platform. This allows SAP to join meter data with other data sources across the organization, including customer data or asset data, directly from the VDM without moving the data.

In the future, with these views, all customers have to do is edit existing Virtual models/Views or create new HANA Models to support new development creating a more efficient and faster process. This reduces development time and cost of support, while increasing usability through a faster development time.

Ben Edelbrock
Vice President of Digital Innovation for Utilities - SAP
Ben Edelbrock is the Vice President of Digital Innovation for Utilities at SAP, the world’s leading provider of business software solutions.

With more than 15 years in Utilities, Ben is responsible for enabling client’s digital transformation through SAP enabling technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data, and Blockchain.

At SAP, Ben has led Innovative Business Solutions and license sales focused on enabling Utilities clients to extend SAP to deliver value across the enterprise. Ben has extensive background around Finance, Customer Systems, and Enterprise Asset Management, with a focus on the digital customer experience and reimagining of operations.

Prior to SAP, Ben led Utility services sales for a large IT Systems Integrator with a focus on process improvement, O&M reduction, automation, and Smart Grid adoption.

Ben holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University and a MBA from the University of Texas. He is based in Dallas where he resides with his wife Liz and two children. When not busy with his family, he enjoys traveling, camping, and fully immersing himself in SEC football.