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OASIS: Networking on the Grid

Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 1996

provider's name when they access the system. However, each OASIS screen only displays 18 transmission providers at a time, requiring users to scroll down for others listed alphabetically (em and perhaps placing transmission provider Z at a disadvantage.

"If there are any implicit advantages, they certainly haven't been designed into the system," Geltz says. Most users are not expected to navigate screens. They'll "surf" the application initially, Geltz says, calling up different providers in search of the best deal. But over time, users will come to know where they get the best price, and they'll make their deals directly by file transfer. Implicit advantages "will go away."

Although JTSIN is working on an application program interface that will help with back-end processing, Geltz says he suspects most transmission providers haven't given it much thought. "I think they're going to wait and see what the realities of [December] bring," he says.

As JTSIN members and users figure out the business process and the technology simultaneously, can difficulties be avoided?

"We don't have enough time," Geltz says. "Particularly in phase one, we haven't been given enough time to get the applications up and running, never mind trying to get everyone comfortable with what's happening.

"We're putting up Chinese walls in the affiliate organizations and we're changing an awful lot of things. And no matter how much we preach there may be organizations that say 'What? Internet? OASIS? How do you spell it? And can I get at it with my 1,200 baud modem?'"

Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO), a $1.7-billion utility working with ECAR to bring its OASIS node on line, understands what it's like to be two months away from implementation and know almost nothing.

"There's a kind of panic," says Joseph C. Dobes, NIPSCO operations manager-transmission. "Well, maybe not a panic, but there is some concern." In late August, Dobes's employees had attended a workshop or two. He admitted it would be difficult for his small staff to maintain hourly capacity and pricing information. "Even now, we're receiving calls from marketers and neighboring utilities on the use of our transmission system."

Phil Hoffer, a system operations engineer with American Electric Power Corp. (AEP), says his company got involved with JTSIN to move en masse with the industry, and gain compatibility.

"Individual utilities can still remain competitive because there are still intelligent systems we can develop on the front end to leave us in a competitive place in the market," he says. "The biggest thing we're doing internally is packaging all our data and

sending it to the OASIS, the JTSIN OASIS at ECAR. Because we have so many interconnections, our volume of data is probably more than a lot of utilities. . . . We're certainly not going to be able to do manual entry."

The Future: More than Transmission

Ali Ipakchi is manager of power application software at ABB Systems Control, AEP's contractor to automate its interface with the JTSIN OASIS. ABB won its first OASIS contract in May with Nevada Power Co., and has contracts with the New York