Oracle Corp.

made its smart grid ambitions known Tuesday, announcing a broad range of software meant to support utilities efforts from smart meter and distribution automation management to back-office data management.

Oracle's smart grid software will focus on a broad range of smart grid-related business segments, including smart meter data management, customer billing and relations, load analysis, regulatory compliance and workforce and asset management, the company announced.

Oracle is also promising a "utilities network management system" to help smart meter networks pinpoint power outages, or enable distribution automation systems to isolate faults and return working grid sections to operation.

Oracle's promise of an "end-to-end" solution for utilities' smart grid challenges echoes that of Cisco Systems Inc., which on Monday announced a broad push into a smart grid information technology market it estimated will reach $20 billion a year over the next five years (see Cisco Wants to Be Everywhere in the Smart Grid).

According to an Oracle survey released in March, only 16 percent of the 200 utilities it surveyed are now implementing smart grid technologies. That could open the field to well-established companies seeking to provide a complete package for managing the complex interacting systems that will make up a truly "smart" electricity grid.

Oracle already has a utilities-specific line of business, based largely around its 2006 purchase of SPL WorldGroup, which makes revenue and operations management software for utilities. Oracle expanded that offering in 2007, when it bought utility meter data management software company Lodestar Corp. to give it a leg up in the business of managing smart meter data.

Building on that base, Tuesday's announcement broadens Oracle's "visible and early leader" position in smart grid software development, said John Quealy, director of equity research for Canaccord Adams.

Given the millions of smart meters being deployed by utilities across the country, the task of managing that data could grow to be quite lucrative. Oracle will be competing against fellow enterprise software giants like SAP, startups like eMeter and Ecologic Analytics, and smart meter makers like Itron that make their own management software, for that business (see Integrating the Smart Meter Universe and eMeter: Data-Keeper for the Smart Grid).

As for broader smart grid systems integration, that's a market drawing the attention of companies including Cisco and IBM, which has a number of smart grid projects underway (see Top Ten Smart Grid).

"This is an example of a bunch of companies duking it out for some of these high-margin software dollars for smart grid deployments," said Ben Schuman, analyst with Pacific Crest Securities.

Providing software to integrate smart meter operations and data collection could pay as much as $100 to $150 per meter deployed, without the costs of actually building and installing the hardware involved, he noted.

Whether or not Oracle and its big IT competitors will continue to acquire smaller smart grid specialty companies in their quest for market share remains to be seen, although trends seem to indicate the answer will be yes (see Carbon Consolidation Begins With SAP's Latest Buy and Acquisitions in the Smart Grid: Get Used to It).