4 requirements for your SCADA network

When it comes to transporting supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) traffic, power utilities must consider several factors before they choose the best data-transport protocol.

There's no one-size-fits-all approach. You have to first look at your own situation. What is your business model? What are your overall communications needs? Do you want a converged network or one dedicated to SCADA traffic?

Once you've sorted through these issues, you’ll need to focus on specific SCADA requirements. Every network transporting SCADA traffic must satisfy at least the following criteria:

1)    Reliability

As utilities discuss when to migrate their networks to data-transport technologies, reliability is a hot topic. In fact, some utility people argue against migrating their networks right now. They feel new data-communications technologies are not yet as reliable as existing TDM and SONET networks.
However, other utilities and many telecom companies have already deployed Ethernet and IP/MPLS equipment. They've discovered these systems are just as reliable as any legacy gear.
2)    Redundancy

Power is critical to business and residential subscribers' lives. (Not to mention the economy as a whole.) So it's just as critical to build redundancy into your SCADA transport.

Regardless of which data-transport protocols you ultimately select, you need both redundant hardware platforms and path protection for the SCADA traffic.

3)    Low latency

Latency is a huge factor for utilities. Your network can’t afford to be dormant when getting information from critical electrical components, mostly in the power-distribution function. If an alarm goes off or you get a status alert about a potential problem, that signal must reach the right people as soon as possible. Those people need to take action quickly and minimize any negative effects on equipment.

Clearly, not all of your traffic is latency-sensitive. But some of the SCADA traffic is, especially your trip-protection mechanisms around directly connected equipment. It’s important to architect and configure your SCADA network appropriately, using either standardized connection-oriented data protocols or proprietary solutions with Ethernet or IP/MPLS. Then your data network can satisfy even the most stringent latency requirements, regardless of the data protocols you choose.

4)    "Utility-class" equipment"

Finally, data-networking equipment that carries SCADA traffic should have all the traditional carrier-class attributes—reliable, well-tested and proven. But it should offer even more security, reliability and environmental hardening.

For networks that carry SCADA traffic, these 4 requirements are essential.

Subjects: SCADA