AWS for Industries

How EDF Transformed its Trading Operations on AWS

Blog authored by EDF Customers UK Team:

Julie Meanwell, Director of Transformation EDF UK

Neville Towers, Director of Wholesale Markets Optimisation EDF UK

Mark Askew, Head of Solutions & Architecture EDF UK

Karim Alnakkash, Head of Operational Development & Planning EDF UK

Mark Teuton, Senior Manager of Business Solutions EDF UK

Who are EDF UK?

EDF UK is Britain’s biggest generator of zero-carbon electricity and an energy supplier to more than 3.5 million British homes and businesses. Recently, EDF announced a £50 billion low carbon programme to help Britain achieve net zero.

EDF UK’s Wholesale Market Function

With a demand portfolio of 5.9 million supply points for electricity and gas, and a large generation portfolio, including 36 wind farms, eight nuclear power stations, and one of Europe’s largest operational battery storage units, EDF UK’s wholesale market team has a critical role in optimising these assets in the wholesale energy markets, and supporting the balancing of energy supply and demand in Britain.

In addition to managing the existing portfolio of assets that match 25% of UK’s energy needs, EDF UK is transforming itself to remain at the front of the market in an ever more competitive and complex market. From servicing new assets that will be added to its trading portfolio – including two nuclear power stations that will power 12 million homes, 40 battery storage sites, and 4 GW of renewable energy assets in development – to providing routes to the wholesale market services for its vast customer base.

The Challenge

EDF UK utilises FIS Aligne, an ETRM solution (Energy Trading and Risk Management) to support its trading of energy commodities in the market and manage risk associated with market activities. EDF UK recognised that their on-premises implementation of FIS Aligne was struggling to keep up with the pace and agility needed by its traders and analysts to respond to the market quickly and execute effective strategies.

EDF legacy architecture diagram

Figure One: EDF UK Legacy Architecture

  1. The technology stack was out of date and out of support by the vendor, driving teams to build their own tools to solve daily data and IT challenges.
  2. Server hardware and operating system was dated limiting optimisation and scaling options.
  3. Application was monolithic and tightly coupled, complicating high availability and recovery.
  4. The increasing volume of business created IT tools, historic transaction, operational and fragmented datasets were contribution to an overall complex operating ecosystem for traders – making it increasingly difficult for teams to collaborate and maximise value out of the data and insights.

EDF UK began to look for solutions for its ETRM platform that could scale with its ambitious low carbon investments, deliver the speed and agility demanded by its traders, and have the resilience and reliability required for its mission-critical trading operations. As a result, EDF UK set out a plan to migrate FIS Aligne to AWS and provide a foundation for the transformation of its trading functions.

How EDF UK Solved It

EDF UK designed a data strategy to centre the transformation around. The trading data catalogue was simplified and purposely defined from real user needs to improve speed to market, replacing the legacy data architecture design. EDF UK engaged with industry specialist partners, who worked backwards from the requirements of the trading business to build a data and cloud transformation roadmap. It was not just about technology – EDF UK built a Centre of Excellence to introduce and accelerate adoption of new ways of working, invest in skilling up a strong team and build increased capability within the organisation.

As a result of the simplification, data and operations which could be supported by Aligne were re-incorporated back into the system to reduce business created IT activity. Those that could not, such as advanced analytical modelling for customer demand energy forecasting, started to be moved to cloud-native solutions on AWS.

Refocusing operations into Aligne and building a more loosely coupled architecture around it on AWS allowed the EDF UK team to load, access, and analyse the data much quicker than before, providing more trusted positions for the traders.

Enhanced business continuity and improved disaster recovery (DR) were also key outcomes for EDF UK. The architecture below provides the resiliency EDF UK needs for the business continuity of its critical trading operations. Previously it was challenging to enact full DR on-premises.

Utilising tools like Amazon CloudWatch to monitor AWS services, Amazon FSx, Amazon RDS and Systems Manager, DR is now simpler to implement, faster to test, and more reliable. The architecture now has ‘built in’ resiliency, simply by utilising multiple AWS Availability Zones. A significant step forwards when compared to the legacy infrastructure footprint.

New EDF architecture

Figure Two: EDF UK Trading System Architecture

  1. Collaboration between EDF UK and its key partners, the migrated application is loosely coupled with an Active/Passive high availability configuration.
  2. High report execution activity had been responsible for the database performance issues. The first step taken to fix this was to redesign segmentation of reporting data in order to optimise the number of calls made on the database. The entire reporting layer was then distributed among an elastic fleet of EC2 instances sharing a scalable, highly available Amazon FSx File System to improve the speed and performance with Amazon WorkSpaces reducing the latency.
  3. With the application more loosely coupled, EDF UK implemented an automated diagnostic, alerting and self-healing mechanism using CloudWatch alarms as an automation trigger.
  4. Security and administration were improved and simplified with Windows Updates centrally managed; database schema refreshes automated via RDS’ S3 integration to distributed environments

Finally, in a single cutover weekend and with AWS monitoring and assisting the team through their AWS Infrastructure Event Management support, EDF UK migrated the infrastructure supporting FIS Aligne to AWS and upgraded all components adopting many AWS Managed Services.

EDF architecture

Figure Three: Configuring AWS DMS tasks and performing application schema upgrades in parallel, the team migrated and upgraded the 2TB database to a Multi-AZ RDS.

What Were the Results?

There have been immediate benefits from the implementation of Aligne TRM on AWS. Overall volume forecasting updates have been reduced by over 80% in processing time. Previously critical production issues were an almost daily occurrence due to the slowness of the system.

The transition from on-premises database to a Multi-AZ Oracle on RDS, with the latest support version has reduced operational risk, increased transparency and monitoring, whilst providing 40 % improved (via Provisioned IOPS and the latest CPUs). Manual administration and maintenance activity has also reduced – allowing the focus to be on more business-value add activity and delivery of continued improvements.

Development and testing environments can now be refreshed and automated in a matter of hours rather than days. The trading team no longer need to resort to their own DIY tooling to solve core daily problems, and can rely on a centralised platform, reducing the dependencies on business owned IT within the organisation. Because the traders were able to simplify their trading books and streamline all operations on AWS, report times are now running between 5-20 times faster.

“We didn’t want to just get it to a point where we were in line of competitors, but ahead of competitors. What we have done here is market leading” said Mark Teuton, Business Solution Manager. “This ties in with our long-term strategy to adopt cloud capability where it makes sense for us to do so. In addition to speed, agility and flexibility, we also feel we have de-risked our trading operations to a greater degree – successfully tested the ability of our systems to fail over reliably and made our disaster recovery procedures more robust. We have seen our systems switch over automatically and self-heal when we hit our peak in terms of data usage. All these capabilities on AWS will be crucial to our day to day operations and business continuity.”

What’s Next?

EDF UK are now able to respond more quickly to changing requirements from their trading desk, by building modular functionality based on use cases. Next steps include optimising the overall Aligne ecosystem, unifying the integration patterns that link Aligne to the broader EDF UK landscape. Business owned IT, across the organisation continues to reduce as a result of the transformation, as users find value in using the core Aligne solution on AWS.

EDF UK’s TRM Centre of Excellence is now shaping the future roadmap of intent and optimisation of its trading capability, making the most of an improved, modernise IT offering.

With the solid operational foundation now embedded, performant and providing the necessary end user experience, EDF UK is embarking on its transformation of the broader trading IT environment – utilising AWS native technology stacks to provide a modern, functionally rich, unified trading experience.

Don McDonnell

Don McDonnell

As Global Head of Power & Utilities Marketing for Amazon Web Services, Don McDonnell is responsible for building AWS’s industry identity – leading strategy for messaging, content, events, demand generation, customer engagement, and sales enablement – delivered through physical, digital, and social channels. Don brings more than 25 years of experience in power and utilities technology and solutions strategy, energy consumer engagement, and P&L leadership. He holds an MBA in international marketing from Georgia State University and a BA (magna cum laude and phi beta kappa) from University of Rochester (NY). Don also volunteers serving on the board of trustees of non-profits BetterGrids.org and Goshen Valley, Georgia’s top rated foster agency provider.