Cisco & Itron Partner for Smart Grid A-Team

Networking giant Cisco (s CSCO) and the largest smart meter maker Itron (s ITRI) have teamed up to offer a serious smart grid force to be reckoned with. The companies say they have formed a “strategic alliance,” whereby they’ll collaborate on, and create, smart grid network technology. The smart grid just went very mainstream.

The duo say they will jointly develop reference designs for standards for smart grid networking and smart metering based on Internet Protocol (specifically the numbering system called IPV6, which has more IP addresses than the oft-used IPV4). Itron says it will license and embed Cisco’s technology based on IP within its smart meters and will also resell Cisco’s networking equipment and software as part of its smart meter package. Leave it to Cisco, the ten-ton gorilla in the smart grid networking space, to convince old-school meter maker Itron to take IP seriously.

At the same time, Silver Spring Networks, which was building an IP-based smart grid before Cisco entered the space, has also been working with the traditional meter makers including Itron, Landis + Gyr, Elster and GE (s ge). And earlier this week, Cisco’s smart meter partner — and equity investment — Grid Net said it had partnered with meter maker Landis + Gyr.

The Cisco, Itron alliance is good for the greater smart grid industry. Anything that makes it easier for utilities to buy and build smart grid networks that are based on IP and other standards will help the industry grow.

However, the alliance isn’t necessarily good news for some of the startups and competitors out there that have been developing hardware and software to build out the infrastructure of the smart grid. Utilities want to buy from large and established companies — not startups — so the Cisco/Itron team is an obvious go-to player now.

While Cisco has been slower to move into the smart grid market than some of its competitors, the Internet router and network maker recently started an all-out assault on the smart grid. In June, Cisco launched a home energy management product, a hosted residential demand response-type service and upgrades to its building automation programs. And in May, Cisco launched its first smart grid product, which was basically hardened networking gear for utility substations. Cisco CEO John Chambers has said that Cisco has an unlimited budget for the smart grid. Let’s see it.

Cisco is hosting a call about the news at 10 PT, and we’ll update the story if we hear more.

For more research on the smart grid check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

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