Use case: infrastructure monitoring in the energy sector

 Published by Shaun Behrens
Last updated on July 10, 2024 • 10 minute read

Managing power plants and energy grids is a massive undertaking: they are a combination of Operational Technology (OT) networks, IT networks, and distributed facilities and infrastructure. Because of this, an approach that relies on remote access and monitoring is key. Obviously, we’re most interested in the monitoring aspect of this approach, and specifically: how it can be integrated into an overall management and control solution to provide an holistic overview for OT operators. To give you an idea of how monitoring fits into the picture, let’s take a look at a concrete example.

use case infrastructure monitoring in the energy sector

Remote access and monitoring

insys-trainWe recently presented a showcase at an exhibition where the focus was sustainable energy for the future. We demonstrated with some of our partners how it is possible to empower OT operators to manage energy infrastructure by providing them with the data they need, where they need it. To do this, we created an energy grid with a model train running on it.

Here’s what formed the basis of our example for the remote control and monitoring of the grid:

  • SCADA system
    As in many OT implementations, a SCADA system handles the control and management of the OT network and components. PCVue was the SCADA system used in our demonstration

  • Remote access
    The secure connection to the OT network is provided by an INSYS MRX router, utilizing the INSYS icom Connectivity Suite VPN service. Connected to the router were several other devices.

  • Monitoring
    We used our Paessler PRTG Hosted Monitor, which is monitoring software hosted in the cloud, to monitor various aspects of the grid and its supporting elements. Additionally, Paessler PRTG OPC UA Server was used to get monitoring data into the PCVue SCADA system.

Using this monitoring data, we created a dashboard in PRTG to summarize the most important information:


Monitoring as a part of the solution

In our demonstration, PRTG monitors several supporting components, as well as metrics vital to understanding the status of the entire energy grid. 


INSYS-MRX-routerThe key to managing the power grid remotely is remote access, and this is provided by an MRX router in our scenario. Since the MRX router is Linux-based, we were able to deploy our PRTG multi-platform probe as an LXC container to retrieve monitoring data. Using predominantly SNMP and Modbus functionality, we were able to monitor not only the MRX router itself, but also devices connected to it: a Dehn lightning detector, a Wago PLC, and a CCTV camera.

Here’s a look at the devices and metrics we monitored:


  • INSYS MRX router
    Router metrics that we monitored include the status of the router, memory usage, VPN traffic and more.
  • Wago PLC 750WAGO-PLC-750
    A Wago PLC was connected to the train system and could provide PRTG with access to the number of laps the train had completed, as well as whether the train was positioned at the station or not.

Displaying monitoring data in the SCADA system

Having these metrics is already incredibly useful for getting insights into the infrastructure. However, the management of distributed OT networks requires an holistic approach – which means consolidating the data. In our example, we were able to make the monitoring data from PRTG available in the PCVue SCADA overview. We did this using Paessler PRTG OPC UA Server, which makes monitoring data accessible to control systems over OPC UA.PCVue-dashboard-Eworld

Meeting the requirements of critical infrastructure management

The recent global focus on cybersecurity for OT networks, as well as the implementation of more stringent industry standards (such as NIS2 in Europe) mean that the management of critical infrastructure needs a coordinated and holistic approach. Infrastructure monitoring plays a big role in such an overview, and should be included in any strategy for managing OT networks.