As energy trading companies move more and more activities to the cloud, we sat down with Amir Soufizadeh, heading the Commodities and utilities Practice at BJSS, to get his thoughts on the pitfalls to avoid when migrating to the cloud, his take on security concerns, and his vision on the current and upcoming industry trends.
‘Security in the cloud is a top priority’
Many companies are currently implementing cloud solutions. What would you say are the main pitfalls to avoid in that field?
Implementing cloud is like any change activity, you have to consider both people and process as well as the technology.
Many companies who have tested cloud solutions on a few workloads, and found it to deliver some immediate benefits, then fall down when implementing a bigger change, which then leads to a stall in implementation. Ensuring the right skills, operational model and control of costs are important key factors to consider and plan for well in advance. Another key aspect is the security which is as always should be on top of the agenda when implementing cloud solutions but the security boundary often moves from the data centre to the individual developer or engineer who has to be security aware more so than ever.
IT and back office professionals often talk about data security as being a great source of concern. What do you say to your clients when they bring this up? What are the top measures to avoid being vulnerable, especially when working with the cloud?
Security in the cloud is a top concern for most organisations. Although there is an argument that the cloud data centres are inherently more secure than most organisations due to the investment made by cloud operators, the risks of a breach are still there.
We are helping many of our clients develop a cloud foundation layer that provides the business with standards and patterns for cloud adoption. A successful cloud foundation layer deals with people, operations, governance, cost and finance, platform and most notably security. All functional owners need an understanding of the security principles as applied to cloud, and we’re seeing security awareness increasingly being taken on as an education activity across the business.
Following the adoption of a cloud foundation layer and awareness, we see the implementation of security policies and patterns made available to all involved in cloud engineering, and the establishment of a cloud security governance capability that not only reviews the initial design but does it continuously. In summary, organisations need to adopt a cloud foundation layer to provide structure, develop an education program to provide awareness, and define cloud security policies, standards and patterns to provide enablement.
Apart from cloud computing, what do you see as trending in energy trading? What are your clients focusing on at the moment?
Largely driven by market uncertainty, the security of supply, and volatility of global pricing, many large players are looking towards a future in renewable energy. The appeal is that these energy sources will become more affordable and reliable than their traditional rivals. Utility players also aim to enhance their predictive analytics capabilities. This will boost customer knowledge and will allow firms to offer more advanced energy management solutions. Driving effective IT/OT integration will be critical to enable data and operations to work together seamlessly.
Another area of focus is Blockchain, which has the potential to greatly disrupt the utilities sector. This will result in changes to the existing business environment, decentralisation and democratisation of legacy business processes. In summary, the utilities industry is well into a substantial transformation. Consumers will expect to benefit from these changes, so a top priority for most energy firms will be to use digital channels, collect data in real-time, and embrace analytical data sources and collection methods.
Amir will be leading a session on cloud computing during ETOT 2018, alongside Karim Alnakkash, PowerShift Lead at EDF Energy.