The Sleeping Giant Awakes: Cisco Launches First Smart Grid Products

If you’ve been wondering (like we have) what exactly networking giant Cisco (s CSCO) planned to sell to utilities for the smart grid, ponder no longer. Cisco announced its first smart grid-specific products on Tuesday, including a router and grid switch, which are based on its traditional networking products but have been built specifically for the utility environment.

Cisco’s new smart grid gear — dubbed the Cisco 2000 Series Connected Grid Router (CGR 2010) and the Cisco 2500 Series Connected Grid Switch (CGS 2520) — gives utilities another option for deploying smart grid networks, and offers them the security of having the deep pockets and extensive supply chain of a big company. Utilities are risk averse by nature, have to abide by very specific regulations for maintaining service and for the most part, prefer to work with a big company with decades of experience under its belt.

Cisco says utilities, including Germany’s E.oN Westfalen Weser, Enel in Italy and Spain, and U.S. utilities Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have already been testing out the new gear. Cisco has previously announced smart grid deals with Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, Germany’s Yellostrom, and Canada’s Enmax, and Cisco’s senior VP of smart grid, Laura Ipsen, previously told us that it’s been selling a build-buy-partner model.

Cisco says the new smart grid products are “ruggedized” for the electrical network, can tolerate higher and lower temperatures than its traditional network gear, include a high level of security, and can help integrate renewables, detect network outages and migrate older proprietary gear to IP network gear.

Cisco’s new products will also give a solid boost to a smart grid that’s based on Internet Protocol (IP), the language upon which the Internet and information technology is built. Cisco’s strategy to embrace everything IP is similar to those of younger smart grid network firms Silver Spring Networks and SmartSynch, with its GridRouter, which it says can run over any network.

Cisco also recently made an investment in Grid Net, which builds smart meter software based around IP, and its first products have been based on the wireless standard WiMAX. Cisco’s Ipsen told us the company would likely make additional investments or acquisitions in the smart grid space, from electricity generation to consumption.

But when it comes to the smaller smart grid networking firms that had been moving faster than Cisco — like Silver Spring Networks or SmartSynch — Cisco’s announcement this morning is not such good news. While Cisco has been slow, it’s clearly ready to be aggressive. Ipsen told us at our Green:Net event that Cisco sees the smart grid market opportunity as “bigger than the Internet” (video clip).

For more research on smart grid check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Smart Algorithms: The Future of the Energy Industry

New Opportunities in the Smart Grid

The Developer’s Guide to Home Energy Management Apps

Images courtesy of Cisco.