Four things to consider when choosing a resource management solution – Part One
Is your organisation still using a fragmented set of tools or even manual processes to plan and manage network resources? Are you struggling to fulfill new products and services due to a lack of a holistic view of your assets and resources? If so, you’re not alone, writes Bernd Pruessing, a senior solutions consultant at FNT Software in the first part of a two part article.
Many communications service providers (CSPs) are finding it increasingly difficult to keep pace with competitors, ensure service quality, and reduce operating costs without having the end-to-end visibility they so critically need from a fully integrated and automated resource management solution.
The implementation of such a management solution would help CTOs and the network operation and planning organisations to keep track of available resources, speed up time to market of new services, prevent misconfiguration, reduce recovery time from network outages and significantly lower overall opex. If you’re considering a new resource management solution for your organisation, it’s important to take common challenges into consideration and strategise a plan to overcome them beforehand. This will ensure a cost-efficient and smooth implementation.
Preparing for potential problems
The last thing you want is to be blindsided by unanticipated issues. The most common resource management challenges an operator is likely to face include fragmentation, working mode, and interface limitations.
The landscape of systems and technologies in a CSP’s network is typically very much disjointed due to the number of different devices from different vendors and each vendor having its own management system. Furthermore, acquisitions are common among CSPs, which makes an already complex landscape even more so. In many cases, the merging of IP and transport departments results in a multi-technology network. This reality must be factored into any resource management solution.
Over the years, each CSP has developed its own workflows and processes. These are the result of organisational structures, self-developed tools and legal restrictions at the time. Regardless of how a CSP arrived at its present state, they now find themselves in a situation with very specific working modes. This is problematic because any change in the working mode will force changes throughout the entire organisation. Adapting the organization from its Present Mode of Operation (PMO) to a new Future Mode of Operation (FMO) will take time for people to learn and adapt to the new processes. It also requires the new solution to be flexible enough to support the specific working modes and any subsequent changes down the road.
Another challenge is the northbound interface on network management or any other systems. Even though they are based on standards, these interfaces have limitations, or vendor-specific behaviours and extensions. They may not support the required functionality, or there may be different data models within the management systems below. This creates additional challenges to develop a common resource management solution on top, especially in a multi-vendor and multi-technology network.
Resource management principles
A network is a living system. As such, changes are frequent and expected. Data consistency is therefore important and managing it should be a high priority. The closed loop principle is integral for high data consistency. It means that network configurations created in a planning phase are transferred, step-by-step, into a bill of material and a purchase order, followed by a rollout, installation and operation phases. The loop is closed when the resources in operation are compared with the original planned resources, and any data discrepancies as planning changes, installation errors or changes as of outages or maintenance work have been resolved.
Without data consistency, a planned network extension may be not implemented. For example, slots may already be occupied by undocumented cards or there may be network misconfigurations because of wrong assumptions that were based on incorrect network documentation. These scenarios are painful and expensive – and highly avoidable. The closed loop principle ensures that the next planning cycle is built on verified and accurate data, and that no surprises await the technician when installing new planed resources.
Another important principle of resource management is to implement a common central database for all resource related data. This ensures that all activities carried out by various people and roles within the organization are always based on a shared master data source, and all involved people have the same consistent view of the network, at all times.
Finally, a unified data model is a very important principle for accommodating and managing disparate data. This data model needs to be detailed enough to facilitate daily work, and be flexible enough to support extensions, for example to manage new objects and attributes of new network layers or to support new equipment in the network.