E.ON: Powering businesses on their sustainable journeys, supported by Google Cloud

About E.ON

E.ON is an international, privately owned energy supplier based in Essen, Germany. It has more than 75,000 employees, more than 50 million customers, and a focus on two core businesses: energy services and customer solutions that leverage digital technology to enable customers to understand their use of energy, reduce costs, and lower their carbon footprint.

Industries: Energy, Chemicals & Utilities
Location: Germany

E.ON turned to Google Cloud to take an in-house asset management software to market and use self-managed solutions to scale and deliver data insights to 10,000 businesses worldwide.

Google Cloud results

  • Offers real-time energy consumption analytics to energy managers, helping them make decisions that reduce costs and CO2 footprint
  • Reduces internal efforts with Cloud SQL managed services, freeing up development team to build more software features
  • Scales and deploys automatically with Google Kubernetes Engine to provide data analytics to 10,000 customers

Enables steady insights with 99.9% availability

E.ON, one of the world’s largest electric utility companies, is on a mission: to transform an industry that was founded in the 20th century on burning fossil fuels and splitting atoms into a carbon-free one for future generations. With operations in 13 countries, and more than 50 million customers, E.ON sees its vast network as having a decisive role to play in shaping this change.

“Helping our customers advance in their own sustainable journeys is very important for us,” says Garance Emmerich-Bundel, Head of Digital Solutions at E.ON. “So we wanted to get more digital intelligence in our hands to enable them to make better and faster decisions when it comes to managing their own use of energy,” she explains, hinting at the origins of E.ON Optimum: a digital asset management solution providing E.ON business customers with insights about their own use of energy so they can make better decisions to reduce their energy costs and lower their CO2 footprint.

“To bring E.ON Optimum to market, we needed to transform in-house software into a highly scalable, reliable cloud-based solution. We were specifically looking for a cloud partner capable of running Kubernetes pods at scale and 100% of the time, and that led us to Google Cloud.”

Dennis Nobel, Digital Delivery Manager, E.ON

In 2016, the asset management software was only used internally, by E.ON energy managers who needed to understand their customers’ energy consumption habits to better tailor services to their needs. However, although the tool was not set up for commercial third-party use, it soon started attracting the attention of customers themselves, says Garance. “Some of our business customers started expressing their interest in our software, not just our energy services, so we were confronted with the decision to take Optimum to market,” she explains. “But launching the software for third-party use required certain scalability capabilities that we didn’t have, and that our previous cloud provider couldn’t help us with,” says Garance. That’s when E.ON turned to Google Cloud.

“To bring E.ON Optimum to market, we needed to transform in-house software into a highly scalable, reliable cloud-based solution,” explains Dennis Nobel, Digital Delivery Manager at E.ON, who is responsible for architecture and software delivery in the Optimum project. “We were specifically looking for a cloud partner capable of running Kubernetes pods at scale and 100% of the time, and that led us to Google Cloud.”

An upselling opportunity powered by Google Cloud managed services

Previously, the E.ON development team relied on a self-managed database hosted on a different cloud provider and used the open source Kubernetes system for automating and deploying its Optimum software. Following the decision to launch Optimum to market, the E.ON development team ran a proof of concept to test whether migrating the software to Google Cloud would enable it to scale without any added operational burden. The test consisted in deploying test loads of the Optimum software on Google Cloud by using Cloud SQL as a fully managed database, and running pods into Google Kubernetes Engine to automate the application’s management, monitoring, scaling, and deployment.

“The trial was a success,” says Dennis. “Our tests confirmed that Google Cloud can deliver the automated scalability and availability we need, so we started Optimum’s migration straight after the proof of concept,” he says, adding that the whole process, from initial tests to the full data migration, took less than four months. Using the managed services of Google Cloud, E.ON Optimum was launched for third-party use in early 2019.

Since then, E.ON’s development team reports having significantly reduced its operational efforts by using Google Kubernetes Engine as its primary component for performing all Optimum computations, Cloud SQL as its primary database, buckets in Cloud Storage as basic containers for organizing data, and Pub/Sub to automatically ingest and prepare data for processing at scale without worrying about provisioning, partitioning, or load isolation. More recently, E.ON also started trialing BigQuery as an alternative database for storing and processing large amounts of data.

Due to the ease of scaling, E.ON Optimum is now available for all E.ON business customers, no matter where in the world they are. One year after its launch, E.ON Optimum is already helping 10,000 businesses to gain insights from their own energy consumption data, so they can more efficiently manage their energy usage to reach their business and sustainability goals.

“Using Google Cloud SQL, which automatically takes care of updates, scaling, and all these infrastructure concerns for us, we’ve been able to improve our processes, speed up our delivery to customers, and develop more interesting features for our software, with no added operational efforts.”

Dennis Nobel, Digital Delivery Manager, E.ON

Bringing steady optimum value to 10,000 customers worldwide

“Energy data is a complex topic,” says Dennis, “because there are so many different channels through which our customers’ energy data can come into our system to be processed by Optimum.” He explains that business customers who choose to use Optimum and are already using E.ON energy services can simply have their data monitored directly via the E.ON systems. Others might choose to install E.ON hardware gateways in their major systems instead, or send their data directly to E.ON in order to better contextualize their energy usage patterns. Hotel chains, for example, may share the number of guests they hosted over a certain period to explain spikes in energy usage overnight. Optimum’s flexible data engine makes it possible to interact with these varying data sources and formats and accommodate varying customer needs and preferences.

Once their data is ingested and processed into Cloud SQL, new customers can start accessing the resulting insights on the front end of E.ON Optimum within the day. The software is an easy-to-use web application that customers can log into via the E.ON website to view various reporting formats about their energy consumption, from time graphs displaying their usage in relation to customizable variants, such as weather or time of day, to more comprehensive charts. “We have different levels of complexity in the product, which we call modules,” Garance explains. “They range from Optimum Entry, the simplest version of the software and the first to have gone to market, to Optimum Professional, which is the most complex module available at the moment and used by experienced energy managers who have more complex needs when it comes to tracking their energy data.”

Meanwhile, the E.ON development team relies on a fully managed database to process customer data into insights and continually enrich the solution: “Using Cloud SQL, which automatically takes care of updates, scaling, and all these infrastructure concerns for us, we’ve been able to improve our processes, speed up our delivery to customers, and develop more interesting features for our software, with no added operational efforts,” says Dennis. One such feature is an automated anomaly detection functionality that flags to users whenever their site’s energy consumption deviates from their set expectations or usual pattern. “The product is really a supporting tool to help energy managers be on top of their job, and it’s continually improving to help them make the most of their own data,” says Garance.

“Migrating to Google Cloud was crucial for offering steady data insights to our customers. We increased our system availability to more than 99.9%, which means we have no outages, no downtime for maintenance, and our solution is available 24/7 for any customer who needs it.”

Garance Emmerich-Bundel, Head of Digital Solutions, E.ON

Regardless of what Optimum module customers choose to use, E.ON makes it a priority to keep the solution available at all times, for all customers, so they can consult their energy data whenever they might need it. “Customers typically check the product a few times a week or monthly, to inform their sustainability reporting,” says Garance. “But this is significantly increasing as managers want to get more real-time insights to inform their decisions more often.”

“Migrating to Google Cloud was crucial for offering steady data insights to our customers,” she adds. “We increased our system availability to more than 99.9%, which means we have no outages, no downtime for maintenance, and our solution is available 24/7 for any customer who needs it.”

Easing the journey towards sustainability with intelligent automation

Looking ahead, E.ON wants to continually empower its customers with even more automation and deeper data insights. “We want to develop our asset management solution even further to do a lot of the heavy lifting on behalf of our customers with automation, streamline their time to insights, and use the AI capabilities of Google Cloud to make their energy insights even smarter,” Garance says.

“Our customers can choose to use the software to gain energy insights themselves, or rely on us to manage their sustainability path on their behalf,” she adds. “Either way, we aim to use the Optimum product family to create digital enablers that can contribute to a more sustainable world.”

About E.ON

E.ON is an international, privately owned energy supplier based in Essen, Germany. It has more than 75,000 employees, more than 50 million customers, and a focus on two core businesses: energy services and customer solutions that leverage digital technology to enable customers to understand their use of energy, reduce costs, and lower their carbon footprint.

Industries: Energy, Chemicals & Utilities
Location: Germany