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Distribution System Operators (DSOs) are called to play a new role in the scenario of smart distribution systems: they must allow the full exploitation of demand flexibility, and also benefit from its spreading. To this aim, Distribution Management Systems have to be equipped with new or upgraded functionalities, which could profit of the well-established know-how in the transmission systems. Unfortunately, the underlying modeling would require the treatment of a huge quantity of information. A key issue is then to develop models with reduced requirements in terms of measures, information and communication structures. In the paper, a new modeling for distribution systems is presented, based on the concept of Load Area, a set of consumers whose behaviour has a similar impact on the distribution grid operating constraints. In addition, new functionalities needed for the management and operation of distribution grids in the new scenario are depicted in connection with the new network modeling.