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The electric SOA

Delaware utility proves that SOA is no small wonder

The electric utility business can be a strange business. Heavy-handed regulation aside, it's in a utility's best interest to sell as much electricity as possible, of course. But sometimes it's more profitable to promote conservation to avoid having to build expensive new power plants. In essence, they make more money by helping people to cut back on usage of their product.

Can service-oriented architecture help manage paradoxes such as this? And, can SOA help even the smallest enterprises control their own destiny? 

RedMonk's James Governor reports that at an IBM-sponsored analyst presentation, he learned how Delaware Electric, a small electric cooperative in a small wonder of a state, implemented a service-oriented architecture. "Not your average IBM reference," he notes.

Even more interesting is that the utility's SOA strategy was led and articulated by a non-IT person. In fact, Gary Cripps, CFO of Delaware Electric, "put forward one of the clearest explanations of how SOA could help a business that I have heard," Governor said.

Delaware Electric needed to compete against the bigs -- Delmarva Power is the commercial giant in the region, and could quickly eat Delaware Electric's lunch. The best way to do that is to be able to provide advice to customers on how to cut their energy loads.

The utility employed WebSphere Process Server to pull and manage information that was formerly trapped inside its proprietary billing engine, Governor relates. Now, load management services are provided through a standardized platform, and it doesn't really matter what billing engine now runs behind it.

Governor relates that Delaware Electric was, in the past, at the mercy of the billing engine, and the associated application provider, but not any more. The SOA middleware "puts me in charge, so other vendors can't tell me how to run my enterprise... No proprietary apps."