Thursday, August 25, 2016

Once Again: Is IEC 61850 another Protocol?

IEC 61850 and related standards like IEC 61400-25 offer very complex definitions that are intended to ease the life-cycle of the whole system: design, engineering, configuration, operation, maintenance, system extension, documentation, error diagnosis, ...
In my experience with protocols since 1982 (when I started working for Siemens) I have seen (too) many protocols coming and going. I guess I could list several hundred protocols including IEC 60870-5-10x, DNP3, Profibus FMS, Profibus DP, ...

Many experts (especially in the higher management and HR) have years of experience with one or several protocols - working with 600 baud or even 100 Mbit/s Ethernet based links. It happens quite often that those experts are promoted for higher management functions. Many of them have no experience with the approach of IEC 61850. But they often have to decide if, how and when the new technology will be used.

Because of the complexity, they may decide not to use it at all and even not trying to understand what it really could offer their engineers - at least as long as they are the persons in charge.

The real issue is (as Dee Hock, Founder of Visa put it): "The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts [IEC 61850] into someones mind, but how to get old ones out." One of these "old ones" is the opinion that IEC 61850 is something like DNP4 or IEC 60870-5-105 -- just another but more complex protocol (MMS, ISO 9506). This (old, too old, wrong) opinion has also a big impact on decisions, e.g., to get a green-light for attending an IEC 61850 training course. Managers and HR often have the opinion: Why do we need this comprehensive training (of 2, 3, 4, or 5 days) for just another protocol? Often the light stays at RED!
We could put it in future in a different way:

  1. IEC 61850 Protocol Training -> 1/2 day
  2. IEC 61850 Services (Client/Server, Publisher/Subscriber, Reporting, Control, Setting Groups, ...) -> 1 day
  3. IEC 61850 Modeling and Models -> 1 day
  4. IEC 61850 Engineering and Configuration -> 3 days 
  5. How to use it for protection, SCADA, monitoring, power generation applications -> x days (depending on what application you have in mind).
If you don't understand what Models and SCL provide ... either take a course or stop discussing it.

IEC 61850 is not intended to replace any other protocol with MMS! In order to harvest the fruits of the application of IEC 61850, you have to look at any other topic than protocols.

But you have to be open to take a closer look at the issues listed under bullets 2 to 5.

You will not get an answer by just reading the standards ... take a course to get a reasonable understanding.

Be an ENGINEER - not just a boss or a leader.
Click HERE for a nice illustration at LinkedIn (or optionally HERE) to see the difference between old approaches and the engineers solution. IEC 61850 is a very big vehicle to carry a lot of loads - to make life easier.

I will post some example to show you the real benefits.

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