For aging power utility to transform and develop into a modern substation automation system with smart grid technologies, the need for rugged computing platforms with faster processors and reliable storage capacity is essential. The many applications found in a digital substation, including intelligent human-machine interfaces (HMIs) for communication and operator terminals, and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems require high performance hardware to ensure safe operation.
The number of industrial computers required by substations continue to grow as separate servers depending on application type and level of redundancy are required. Virtualization provides an efficient, low-cost method of accommodating many systems into one platform.
The concept of virtualization is consolidating multiple applications on a single or redundant cluster of high-performance hardware, which allows for emulating virtual services and in turn executing the hypervisor and virtual machines in a multi-operating system environment. Virtualization behaves like a dedicated hardware or software object that offers a mechanism for long-term management of the solution.
An edge computing expert from Europe collaborated with Lanner, to provide a solution to customers for demanding industrial applications. The joint solution meets the following requirements and features:
- A high-performance platform with sufficient computing capacity, multiple processor cores and suitable memory equipment is required.
- Minimum 32 GB ECC-RAM (error-correcting code), ECC memory can correct data corruption in memory areas to increase reliability in substation environments.
- Dual swappable drives support RAID.
- Central hardware components including CPU, graphics processing unit, and I/O system, must be capable of optimizing multiple operating systems to support virtualization. Substation computers with Intel® VT-x CPU and VT-d processors can increase maximum efficiency for virtualization support and enable guest systems to provide dedicated access to hardware components, such as LAN ports.
- The rugged computing system must be able to sustain harsh environments without sacrificing operation safety and productivity. Extreme temperature ranges from -40C to 70C and high electromagnetic compatibility, in addition to shock and vibration resistance are essential, in compliance with standards IEEE 1613 and IEC 61850-3.
- The computing platform must have flexibility and be high-available, as well as modular and maintenance friendly. Having redundant power supply and hot-swap function is pivotal for continuous operation even during maintenance.
- 4 PCIe expansion slots for future expansion, such as NIC support HSR and PRP, NICs capable of performing VLAN tags and trunking, NIC with multiple fiber connectivity.
By leveraging a powerful and fail-safe hardware infrastructure with virtualization application levels creates numerous improvements during the planning and operation stages:
- Increased Reliability – Ensuring redundancy and dependability of each individual application and component of the substation.
- Lower Costs – Decrease requirement of multiple single hardware server systems.
- Maintenance Friendly – Reduces maintenance and repair costs.
- Cohesive system – Uniting IT and OT infrastructure in one.
- Security – All-around security taking each process into consideration.
In this virtualization case, Lanner introduced LEC-3340, an IEC 61850-3 compliant 3U rackmount system powered by Intel® Xeon® E3-1505L V6 or i5-7442EQ processor to deliver high-performance computing and accelerate virtualization applications with built-in engines Intel® VT-x. To ensure data integrity in memory, LEC-3340 supports ECC memory. The high-availability system comes with optional redundant power supplies. To accelerate graphical process, LEC-3340 comes with four PCI Express slots for installation of external graphic card or HSR/PRP enabled modules. Regarding connections with industrial instruments, LEC-3340 is designed with isolation-protected Serial ports (COM).
Considering the ambient temperature in mission-critical infrastructures, LEC-3340 can operate under wide temperature range (-40~70°C). For deployment recommendation, LEC-3340 is compliant with IEC 61850-3 and IEEE 1613 for substation environment.