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IPv6 central component of smart grids

By Max Burkhalter
April 1, 2013

There's this crazy thing happening around the world - IP addresses are running out. I know, we've been told that it's inevitable. I know, we've known for at least a year that IPv4 addresses are going to run dry. I know, you can't really call something crazy if everybody knew it was going to happen. But here's the thing, everybody knew IPv4 addresses were going to run out more than a decade ago when IPv6 came around. It still hasn't happened. That doesn't mean that IPv4 addresses aren't dwindling, it just means you probably aren't going to hear much about it except in the few sectors that really depend on large quantities of connected devices. With the rise of the internet of things, many market segments will be depending more on connected devices.

Many experts agree that the smart grid depends heavily on internet-of-things principles, and a recent standard release from the ZigBeeAlliance echoes this need as it is focused on creating a common foundation for widespread IPv6 use in smart grids, Smart Grid News reported.

Smart grids and IPv6
According to the news source, one of the challenges in the smart grid is establishing many of thesmall networks that are needed to provide connectivity for various devices that are spread around the grid, but not necessarily close to network sources. These types of micro networks require a wide range of IP-enabled devices that need their own IP address and have to be secure. IPv6 can be key in making this functionality possible.

The report explained that the new ZigBeestandard is designed to add important functionality to what was already achieved with theIEEE 802.15.4. Additional layers of network and security frameworks are possible through the new standard, allowing for some performance enhancements. While these features are nice, the focal point of the standard is enabling end-to-end IPv6 interoperability throughout a smart grid setup.

Dealing with broad compatibility problems in the smart grid
Interoperability is a major smart grid issue. Specialized equipment in the electricity generation, storage and distribution fields often use communications protocols that are not interoperable with Ethernet. Serial connections are particularly common. This creates a challenge because network not only has to be adjusted for serial to Ethernet interoperability, it also has to support IPv6 throughout the entire setup. IPv6-enabled terminal servers can play an essential role in enabling utility providers to establish smart grid systems that allow them to enable IPv6 and overcome interoperability problems.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations. The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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