Ascend Analytics’ Modular Software Increasingly Valuable in Rapidly Changing Energy Landscape

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Regulatory and economic changes are rocking power industry but Ascend Analytics energy analysis software's open code modular framework can be modified quickly for specific needs.

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“We’re all open code so they can certainly peek under the hood and see how our stuff works ... And make their own widgets.”

From new technologies and shifting fuel supplies to the politics of the EPA, change in the power industry continues to accelerate in the last months of 2011 and a Colorado company believes the key for utilities struggling to keep up is software that can match the pace of change.

Ascend Analytics President Gary Dorris says the latest developments highlight the need for customizable software. “The best energy executives are surfing waves of change in everything from fuel prices to these huge regulatory shifts,” Dorris says, referring to the Cross State Air Pollution Rule going into effect in January and new mercury emissions standards due to be released in November. “The only software that works for them is software that adapts quickly.”

Ascend Analytic’s modular software framework becomes a key feature, Dorris notes, making all Ascend applications nimble enough to be modified quickly.

The flexibility lies in Ascend’s plug-and-play customization structure that makes updating Ascend products like PowerSimm and Curve Developer both simple and seamless. Every sector in the power business has different needs and each player in each sector might require a specific solution, a slice of customized code that brings them the data they need in a format that fits. Ascend makes it easy. “When you have a modular design, you already have the framework in place to put in your own or customer’s components,” explains Ascend development leader Vena Kostroun.

Ascend makes sure that customers with their own algorithms or in-house process designs know where to put it and how to make it work. “We’re all open code so they can certainly peek under the hood and see how our stuff works,” Kostroun says. “And make their own widgets.”

Sean Burrows, Ascend Analytics technology chief, wrote the first version of PowerSimm and remembers the idea of a “process flow editor” to track the customized processes a first step in the PowerSimm’s development. In an early talk with a client, it became obvious immediately that customization would integral to Ascend Analytics’s success. Burrows coined the term “process flow editor” on the spot. “And the next day I built it,” Burrows says.    

The process flow editor became the nervous system of PowerSimm’s flexibility. It allows users to take a look on all the processes operating in their customizable version and slide new routines into the flow. The process flow editor was built into the first PowerSimm release. “That was the foundation of PowerSimm,” Burrows says.

Although flexibility has always been a part of Ascend’s product line but it continues to stretch to meet emerging needs. The core of Ascend’s functionality occurs in SaS, but new features allow customers to incorporate MatLab and other computer programs into their in-house solutions. Ascend development staffers work directly with code writers at client companies to make that work.

Kostroun expects that process to get easier as more customers sketch out more solutions in new formats. Ascend continues to shape an increasingly versatile scaffolding for customer-designed components. “We’re still building out core flexibility,” Kostroun explains.

That doesn’t mean the customer has to develop the solutions they need. Ascend remains a small-shop solution where customization shines as an integral piece in the business plan. Again, the modular nature of Ascend’s software makes creating new solutions speedy and simple. Ascend developers know the framework: what fits and where it fits. They wrote the code. “We’re able to leverage what we have to build wholly new applications,” says Kostroun. “Once you have the modular architecture it just encourages more of that.”

All of these new solutions, whether designed by the client or created at Ascend, remain stable across every software update. If a glitch slips through, Ascend’s experience team has the fix immediately. The modular platform keeps it accessible. Ascend expertise keeps it easy. The client-coded processes and the data they produce remain securely sequestered from other users in the industry. Item and instrument editor functions in the modular design allow that.

Those client needs speed the evolution of the PowerSimm and Curve Developer programs. The customers retain ownership of the code they write but the increased capabilities help Ascend developers push forward the whole of the PowerSimm suite.     

Those abilities coupled the open code model keep the adaptability open-ended. Ascend is continuously adapting its products to new solutions. The market moves every day. The technology advances in increments and lurches. New data streams emerge from smart grids and changing reporting requirements.

In an industry where nothing sits still, your software must move quickly to keep up.

With Ascend Analytics, that flexibility is built in.

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Rick Polito
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