An Unmatched Utility Analytics Database: HEXstream’s Exasol Partnership

Real-time analytics are becoming essential to the transformation of utility operations (we explore this potential in depth in our article here). Any real-time analytics solution, however, can only be as fast as the underlying data infrastructure. HEXstream wanted to offer our customers access to one of the most innovative database architectures available, which is why we partnered with Exasol, the world’s fastest analytics database.

This foundation enables operational analytics solutions capable of delivering the greatest possible ROI:

  • Reliable access to timely data ensures that analytics are useful for addressing even the most urgent, fast-moving business problems.
  • Scalable solutions that can respond to the natural ebbs and flows of utilities’ analytics needs.
  • Data can be integrated across various source systems in real time and accessed by thousands of users without impacting performance.

In this blog, we look at why a database like Exasol can offer improved performance over more traditional options. Next, we examine why purpose-built analytics databases can be so valuable for utilities.

What is an analytics database?

An analytics database is a database with an architecture specifically designed for analytics applications. Every aspect of their design is optimized for this use case:

  1. Data Storage: Column-based storage allows for faster queries and general performance. Exasol manages the data so that only relevant data is stored in memory.
  2. Hardware Usage: “In-memory” algorithms enable large amounts of data to be processed in the main memory, resulting in the fastest access times in the industry. With Exasol, hardware requirements are minimal, unlike many other in-memory databases. The database requires minimal administration and features auto-tuning capabilities.
  3. Architecture: Innovative architectures help support superior database performance. Exasol provides an excellent deep dive on their approach here. In short, using parallel algorithms, data can be processed locally in each node’s main memory. This helps analyze large volumes of data faster.

What are the benefits of an analytics database?

Collectively, the features above deliver faster queries, simplified maintenance, and streamlined scalability. We explore what this means more specifically for utilities below.

Why are analytics databases more important than ever?

Traditional relational databases perform well in a variety of applications. They encounter limitations, however, when used to power a data warehouse supporting real-time analytics solutions and large volumes of data. Limited query speeds increase analytics latency, limit the complexity of analytics methods available, and ultimately prevent the organization from using data to support agile decision-making.

How Exasol Delivers A Fast Analytics Database Ideally Suited to Utility Analytics

HEXstream has delivered utility analytics solutions for some of the biggest utilities in North America, and we have seen up close how technology capabilities need to be carefully aligned with business challenges. We partnered with Exasol because their approach delivers databases that are not only lightning fast but offer some practical benefits for utilities.

Exasol’s distributed, shared-nothing architecture offers seamless scalability. Available in cloud, on-premise, and hybrid options, the system can easily be extended to increase performance simply by adding additional nodes. This flexibility is perfectly suited to the natural ebbs and flows of utility analytics usage. For many utilities, analytics usage dramatically spikes during distinct periods (like storms for electric utilities). Scalability is essential to ensure that analytics are ready for this heightened use while avoiding paying for peak capacity at all times.

Exasol also helps support these usage spikes because its architecture supports high user concurrency. This means thousands of users can access analytics without bogging down database performance. Crucially, this advanced performance can be achieved without dramatically increased needs for expensive database administrators. A large degree of automation is built into the design, including:

  • Automatic distribution of data across all servers.
  • Automatic duplication of data to ensure integrity even in case of a hardware failure.
  • Compression based on algorithms automatically selected to reflect the relevant data type.
  • Automatic monitoring of system resources for streamlined capacity planning.

A Faster Database Offers New Possibilities for Utility Analytics

Outage Management: Situations like storms, floods, and extreme weather create complex, fast-moving outage management challenges for a variety of utilities. Responding effectively requires integrating data from a variety of source systems (e.g. customer accounts, outage management systems, field service systems, reliability reporting, and more) and tying this data together into actionable analytics as fast as possible. From customer service representatives, to dispatchers, to field technicians, professionals across the utility can respond more effectively to outages when they have access to relevant insight available through a convenient UI. The fastest possible database ensures that this critical insight remains rooted in the most timely possible data.

Asset Management: Systematically monitoring and analyzing asset performance data can result in hugely valuable predictive maintenance analytics (we take a deeper look at this topic here). Catching critical failures before they occur helps ensure a timely replacement is ready, limits the risk of service outages, and helps prevent failures from causing any collateral damage. When predictive maintenance KPIs suggest a piece of critical equipment is in danger of failing, the relevant managers (and ultimately field service technicians) need to be alerted as soon as possible.

Field Service: Field service management (FSM) requires the orchestration of complex, interconnected service operations. This work involves scheduling work orders, dispatching technicians, tracking shifts and labor hours, monitoring maintenance conditions, managing extensive part inventories, and more. Virtually all of this work can benefit from the fastest possible access to real-time operational analytics. We explain why in our blog here.

Learning More About HEXstream’s Approach to Utility Analytics

HEXstream has proven experience helping utilities get the most out of their data. We partnered with Exasol because we have seen up close just how valuable this innovative architecture can be. If you are interested in learning more about Exasol’s technology, their knowledge base provides an excellent resource.

With our new partnership, HEXstream now offers turnkey analytics solutions with the option to take advantage of a robust database that is built for analytics.

To learn more about building the foundations for the most effective operational analytics, reach out to our team using the button below.

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