The journey to integrated inventory
Having an integrated inventory offers telecommunications organisations a complete view of their networks and it is revolutionising the way they operate. Yet the significant operational changes required mean most integrated inventory strategies are never fully realised.
That said: the industry now stands on the precipice of change. In a bid to meet consumer demands for quad-play services, internet providers and network operators are joining forces to consolidate their assets into a single infrastructure which can be centrally managed. Therefore, the time to deploy an integrated inventory solution has never been better, says Kevin Challen, lead consultant, Communications, Cyient.
Back to basics
At its core, an integrated inventory brings both the physical and logical networks together to deliver an overview of the network location, connectivity, capacity and availability. It provides a platform from which network integrity can be continually enhanced.
By removing data silos, telcos can enjoy a consistent view of their network, with visibility to plan for the entire network, not just its component parts. This means decisions on upgrades or capacity stretching can be made earlier, avoiding any potential network bottlenecks.
However, a lack of skills, resource and technical nous, plus the sheer size of current networks, have typically prevented organisations from integrating disparate inventory systems. This in turn has increased costs for service providers as they look to manage their networks more effectively.
As with any major integration programme, there will always be challenges that need addressing first. Initially, this means identifying the specific challenges facing the organisation by understanding the state of the network data. This can be achieved by the immersion of various sources to better understand the quality, consistency and veracity of the recorded information.
It’s also important to keep in mind the specific challenges facing the physical network. Though GPS technology has helped providers map physical assets, it has also presented some issues for old data sets that need updating to cope with new accuracy requirements, which can be disruptive. Additionally, the challenge of maintaining a real-time view of the network means any changes to physical assets must be recorded as soon as possible.
The logical network also presents challenges, such as when more than one instance of the network is generated. This typically occurs when accelerating time-to-market to meet increasing consumer demands for faster, ‘always on’ connectivity across multiple services. This can cause confusion as data has to be input multiple times, leaving organisations constantly seeking the most recent and accurate version of their network.
The journey to integrated inventory
Of course, these challenges are not insurmountable. They do however, necessitate the development of a clear roadmap.
Firstly, telcos must identify their starting point in terms of systems, data and accompanying processes. If starting with a geospatial system, for example, look closely at the current technology in use (e.g. whether it is a copper, fibre or HFC network), what systems are supporting the platform and any external factors that could be relevant to its management.
Roadmaps should be planned to help strike a balance between program complexity and the incremental ROI. A big bang approach simply won’t cut it, as moving to integrated inventory requires incremental steps, so consolidating the physical network is a good place to start gaining the benefits.
While undertaking this program can appear daunting at first, benefits can be realised early on. With a realistic roadmap and timeline, organisations can formulate an integrated inventory and enjoy the associated benefits: reduced overheads and a greater understanding of network capacity and regulatory compliance. However, they should operate at their own speed, and ignore vendors and consultants’ attempts to accelerate or block this process.
The author of this blog is Kevin Challen, lead consultant, Communications at Cyient.
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