Teradata (NYSE:TDC) and Siemens Smart Grid Division have forged a global strategic partnership in the area of big data.

Siemens will use Teradata as part of its portfolio of smart grid solutions, especially across transmission and distribution applications.

“We look to partner with industry leaders in whatever market we’re going into,” said Bryan Truex, senior director of industry solutions for utilities at Teradata.

Siemens is certainly one of the largest players in smart grid, and already has sophisticated analytics around meter data with its acquisition of eMeter. Teradata is already working with some utilities, like Oklahoma Gas & Electric, to provide the backbone for its smart meter data and to build an understanding of consumer data.

Teradata’s Unified Data Architecture can work with data streams coming off of eMeter’s platform, but the initial analytics will be more about operations than consumer data. “A huge amount of value lies in bridging the gap between the meter data and the operations data,” said Truex.

At the time of the announcement, Truex would not offer any details about the applications that Siemens and Teradata will be rolling out, or any initial customers (although they do share some customers in various regions of the globe). The two companies worked together with an unnamed European utility on the proof of concept.

Without specific details, the announcement teased some of the potential applications, including better information about transmission losses, better weather analytics to help with load planning, and predictive maintenance.

"Based on the broadest smart grid technology portfolio and our leading position in energy automation and meter data management, we know which data are key to an optimized operation of networks,” Dr. Jan Mrosik, CEO of Siemens' Smart Grid Division, said in a statement. “Combined with Teradata's expertise in analytic data solutions, we can provide our customers with relevant and valuable information, allowing them to make faster and significantly more informed decisions.”

GTM Research identified ten drivers to move utilities to big data and analytics in the report The Soft Grid 2013-2020: Big Data & Utility Analytics for Smart Grid. The drivers include analytics to improve asset management, bring more granularity to demand-side management programs, better ROI for smart meters, more streamlined outage restoration and leveraging geospatial intelligence for grid operations. 

Teradata is well positioned to work with utilities after acquiring Aster Data in early 2011. Aster Data’s claim to fame is its SQL-MapReduce software, and it is that technology that will allow Teradata to help utilities leverage big data, according to the GTM Research smart grid analysts.

The potential market for smart grid related analytics is expected to top $20.6 billion from 2012 to 2020, with the annual global spend in 2020 reaching $3.8 billion. Teradata is just one of many big analytics companies, including Oracle, EMC, SAP, IBM and SAS, that are vying for market position.

“We’re helping utilities understand the whole picture,” said Truex, who added that Teradata’s professional services start utilities with a blueprint to help solve whatever challenges they face. Once the problems are outlined, Teradata brings in data from across the different silos and then integrates it across the business. For any big data analytics company, helping utilities with cultural change, and not just data integration, will be key to success.

Although some utilities are averse to changing longstanding business practices, Truex said people come around once they see results. “Often, when you’re answering those complex questions, it makes such a big difference that people embrace the change.”