It boasts the distinction of being the largest producer of electricity in Africa and ranks among the top seven utilities in the world in terms of generation capacity, providing power to more than 4,3-million customers. But what exactly goes into powering a major electrical utility like South Africa’s Eskom?
A rather complex IT infrastructure, consisting of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, that is positively surging with data. Massive amounts of it, in fact.
“Eskom in particular relies on SAP software to help run the various aspects of its diverse business, using it to manage everything from financial controls, materials management, plant maintenance, right through to attendance and payroll for in excess of 400 000 employees,” says Gerald Naidoo, CEO of Logikal Consulting.
“As many aspects of our lives are becoming increasingly digital – including the intricate operations of the companies that supply our utilities – the world is being engulfed by a tsunami of data.”
Recent reports estimate that more than 15 petabytes of new information is being created on a daily basis. To put that into perspective: that is eight times more than the information contained in all the libraries in the United States.
Naidoo says this out of control data growth is being regarded as a crisis, because it places great strain on IT departments in not only the utilities industry, but across all sectors. A recent survey conducted by the Gartner Group found that data growth is the biggest challenge facing data centre hardware infrastructure today, with 47% of survey respondents ranking data growth as their number one challenge.
What’s more, in Eskom’s case, many of its SAP and other business systems used to be run on different hardware platforms, which made it extremely difficult to manage, collect, access and integrate data. In some cases it was causing delays – with financial reporting that sometimes reportedly took up to two months – and inaccuracies.
“Data is the lifeblood of any company and organisation. It needs to be easily accessible, even if it has been archived,” says Naidoo.
“Therefore it is crucial for a utility company – or any other large corporation, really – to simplify their systems to such an extent that it can provide them with an enterprise-wide overview of all their operations.”
One way of accomplishing this is by implementing an information lifecycle management (ILM) system, suggests Naidoo. ILM refers to the way in which a company/organisation deals with the process of managing their information (data) through its various operational stages, from initial capture right through to archival.
It is the recognised best practice for managing data across the enterprise. The different aspects of ILM include backup and data protection, disaster recovery, restoring, archiving, long-term retention, data replication and application retirement.
This is why Naidoo’s firm Logikal Consulting recently struck a deal with Solix Technologies, a US-based provider of enterprise data management and related technology. According to the agreement, Logikal has been appointed to be South Africa’s sole distributor of Solix products, which includes Solix EDMS, a single product for ILM and application testing.
“Too much data turns an application’s performance sluggish and places a burden on IT resources,” says Naidoo. “Adopting an ILM system like Solix EDMS will help a utility company such as Eskom to establish a cost-effective, streamlined business solution across all of its operating units.”
Since Eskom adheres to the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), they have to disclose and report information to their shareholders. Solix’s products also deal with archived data that has to be retained for just such compliance.
“Solix’s solution will be effective for utilities and most other industries. It is cost-effective, easy and fast to deploy and will ensure that users are in compliance with regulatory and legislative requirements to global standards, as well as diminish business risk associated with data loss or application inaccessibility,” Naidoo concludes.