PJM Interconnection, LLC (PJM) is the largest electrical control area in North America, and the fourth largest in the world, providing electricity to nearly 23 million people in all or parts of five Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia. PJM coordinates the operation of 8,000 miles of bulk power transmission lines and 540 generating units providing more than 56,000 megawatts of capacity.

PJM needed to develop a creative, yet cost- effective way to capitalize on the changing business environment that is characterized by emerging electric markets and changing control area operations, as well as identify anomalous market behavior. Due to the deregulation of utility companies, PJM had to determine a way to help these utilities best meet their customers' needs and thereby maintain the reliability of electric power.

With the objectives of providing PJM with the most scalable, integrated and reliable source for data and ensuring optimal efficiency in performance reporting, Walklett Group and PJM jointly decided on data warehousing technology to establish the PJM information warehouse.

Previous Challenges

Prior to this data warehousing solution, PJM stored its data in a legacy operations system which made it difficult to access. PJM needed models for the various business segments of the company, as well as an enterprise-wide business model to enhance its operating efficiency, improve its customer service and gain competitive advantage. PJM's sources for mission-critical information were not centralized, and the company needed smarter software tools (tools that would seamlessly interface with existing and future databases) for accessing critical data. End users could not view data in various dimensions and points of view or manipulate the data in a way necessary for business analysis ­ they needed to be able to instantly access up-to-date, near real-time information through their Web browsers.

Solution ­ The PJM Information Warehouse

By employing the assistance of Walklett Group, a project management and IT consulting firm with particular expertise in delivering data warehousing services, PJM determined that a comprehensive, consistent and centralized data source was necessary as a foundation for any future decision support functionality. This decision led to the PJM information warehouse, which consists of a decision support data store, an operations performance data mart and a data warehouse.

PJM selected a team of eight Walklett Group business intelligence consultants to:

  • Refine and validate the requirements of the PJM information warehouse.
  • Develop and support the IT architecture investigation and completion for the PJM information warehouse.
  • Create a common data model.
  • Spearhead the detailed and technical design (including defining the data elements and developing a data dictionary for the warehouse users).
  • Extract the data from legacy data sources and transform the data into information for storage in the information warehouse.
  • Investigate and select the graphical meta data search and reporting and analysis tools.
  • Implement the warehouse.
  • Manage the analysis, the modeling and the quality assurance planning.

The first phase of the project addresses PJM's energy market and control area operations needs. The information warehouse will support the assessment of how PJM's control area complies with industry reliability standards (operational assessment). Additionally, the information warehouse will support the monitoring of PJM's energy market to identify anomalous market behaviors (market monitoring) and will be the source for the publication via the Internet of certain operational data of PJM's energy market and control area for the use of market participants (eData Data Publishing Project). The information infrastructure developed to support operational assessment, market monitoring and data publishing will become the strategic infrastructure supporting other business functions of PJM, which may include industrial metering, system planning and grid accounting.

Technology

Microsoft Windows NT is used as the operating system for all platforms (including the decision support data store, the data mart and the data warehouse) on IBM Netfinity machines. Windows NT Server is the most complete platform available for building and hosting Web-based applications and the easiest, most flexible and compatible server operating system available. It was designed to help developers build and deploy business applications faster than ever before. IBM Netfinity provides a business intelligence solution that addresses the massive calculation volumes of enterprise data mining, data mart and data warehouse requirements.

Oracle8.0 on NT is the database platform for the decision support data store, as it offers a scalable and flexible solution in processing high volumes of information. Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 is the server for the data mart and the data warehouse, as it offers the best price-to-performance ratio, makes data warehouses and data marts easy to design, build and manage and offers ease of use, reliability and scalability.

PLATINUM technology's Decision Base is the product chosen for data extraction and transformation, as it offers a flexible environment for a single, integrated approach to data extraction and transformation, and meta data capture and viewing (the daily volume of data being extracted and transformed is one gigabyte). The sources of data are Oracle databases and flat-file data from a series of RS/6000 boxes running the AIX operating system.

Benefits

By supporting the business community's needs, the PJM information warehouse will support the creation of a robust, competitive and non-discriminatory electric power market. The warehouse will give PJM the ability to capitalize on the changing business environment characterized by emerging electric markets and constantly changing control area operations. Furthermore, it will help ensure that PJM is meeting customer needs and maintaining the reliability of the electric power systems in all the markets served. The PJM information warehouse will also provide a common information infrastructure for PJM's information analysis needs, allowing end users to instantly access, query and analyze near real-time data for better decision making.

Since PJM is a non-profit company, funds must be spent wisely (perhaps moreso than other businesses); however, return on investment (ROI) is not always measured in terms of dollars and cents. It should be noted that the reports provided to the users via the PJM intranet have generated much discussion about the ways that the warehouse can be exploited to provide information to the member companies via the Internet. The level of excitement among users is very high, and ideas are generated daily about using the warehouse as a critical business resource.

Practical Advice

Other companies just beginning a major data warehouse initiative can gather some advice from the PJM application. Any project team needs to carefully evaluate the capabilities of the software tools being considered for the data warehouse. Because the market is still maturing, buyers should do their research to avoid some significant surprises that could arise during implementation. If consultants are involved, they should plan to spend a good deal of time understanding the specific business of their customers. The relationships among the various entities that describe the business provide the foundation for developing the warehouse solution. Without a good understanding of these relationships, the dimensional model may not be flexible enough to support. This is just as important for in-house development as it is for consultants. Internal IT groups often have different interpretations of the business model than the business users.

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