The spat between SAP and Oracle has moved to a different turf - this time, it's smart energy metering.

Both companies have signed agreements that have taken them to a new area. SAP started it by signing a deal with Landis+Gyr that will see the latter company's advanced metering infrastructure integrated with SAP's business application portfolio for utilities.

Oracle followed the next day with a pair of announcements, one hyping an update to its Utility Quotations Management software and another listing a string of recent customer wins for its Meter Data Management product.

Advanced metering infrastructure allows two-way communication between the utility and their customers' meters, enabling both the transmission of usage data as well as functions like remote disconnects. AMI is of particular interest to utilities seeking to cut costs, since the traditional door-to-door method of data collection is so labour intensive.

Last year, SAP announced the AMI Lighthouse Council, a partnership it formed with seven major utilities to connect its utilities software with "market-leading" AMI systems.

Oracle beefed up its own utilities portfolio through acquisitions, such as its 2006 purchase of SPL WorldGroup, maker of revenue and operations management products for utilities, and its 2007 acquisition of meter data management vendor Lodestar.

Overall, though, SAP and Oracle have plenty of room to succeed in the market, according to Forrester Research analyst Ray Wang. "[Utilities] have built their own systems in the past. They're really looking at the alternatives."

AMI is mostly a money-saver for utility compnaies, but customers get some benefits as well, since it provides "proactive information about your metering," Wang said. "Eventually, you should be able to look up and see where you are by the minute in terms of power consumption," he added.