Four things to consider when choosing a resource management solution – Part Two
Bernd Pruessing, a senior solutions consultant at FNT Software continues his article on what communications service providers (CSPs) should consider when selecting a resource management solution.
Key requirements of a resource management solution
Any new resource management system should support at least the following four basic requirements:
- Documentation of physical and logical network resources
This is a basic functionality and should be the foundation of any resource management system. Physical resources are the chassis, modules and SFP, as well as the cable, patch panels and splice boxes. Logical resources are network connectivity and network functions such as firewalls or data filters. Any dependencies between the physical and logical resources need to be modelled e.g. to report the effected services in case of an outage of physical resource. This is especially true when it comes to cable management. Another requirement for the system is that must also support the documentation and displaying of geographical information on a map, such as GIS functionality.
- Flexible frameworks to implement interfaces
Since a resource management solution is both the source of data for many external systems, as well as a repository for them, flexible interface adapters are critical for northbound integration, for example with OSS and BSS systems, and southbound integration to the network for reconciliation of the network data.
- Library of components
Another feature of a resource inventory solution is a database of predefined components from the different devices to be managed. This includes a graphical representation but also data such as size, power consumption, slots and ports and others. Access to such a library speeds up the addition of new equipment and reduces the effort for the user to define these components.
- Reporting and dashboarding of resource data
Having the required resource data in a database is one thing but making it useful for the operator is another. For example, can the operator easily access the data to identify free resources to be put into service, or those to be replaced? To get the most value from an implemented resource management solution, a flexible, user-defined reporting and graphical representation of data on a dashboard is required. This also includes reports for impact analysis, for example in case of fibre breaks or outages, as well as for workorders generated for new equipment and configurations in the network.
Managing implementation costs
A productised software solution is the key to managing the cost of a solution. Such a solution eliminates the need to integrate each new customer solution from scratch, which eliminates the cost of programming for software integration and customised features. Each customer of the productised software solution can then decide for themselves whether they need additional customised functionality to support their specific historical workflows.
While this sounds straightforward and simple, it still requires certain principles to be considered when starting the software design of the solution. Configuration instead of programming are the key words. The solution needs general openness through its interfaces, but also of the software design. Most vendors don’t make their software generally configurable and open with the configurable interface adapters that would make their solution flexible enough to create a productised software solution. Instead, they let their customers pay for the additional programming during solution implementation or extensions. The productised software solution, with its ability to configure features, is much more fiscally desirable for CSPs of all sizes than expensive integration and programming.
The benefit of such a solution is not only a reduced cost, but also faster implementation and extensions, as the functions are already available and data migration is the main topic. Productised features can even help to streamline the data migration process. Lastly, software upgrades for a productized software solution are much cheaper than with a highly customised solution, which drastically reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO). To ensure quality service, a productised software solution makes the addition of new features from a software upgrade instantly available for all customers.
Prevent vendor lock-in
Vendor lock-in is the most critical topic beyond the technical capabilities of a solution. It means that a solution, and its vendor, is mission critical and cannot easily be replaced. This allows the vendor to dictate the price for any innovation.
A productised software solution is one of the best ways to mitigate the risk of a vendor lock-in. With the configurability of the software, the CSP can independently configure and use new features. With a configurable interface adapter, they can even introduce new devices and modules without additional programming.
Finally, with a productised software solution strategy, the cost for the operator is limited to software upgrade and maintenance. Upgrading all customers is in the best interest of the supplier as the maintenance cost for older versions will increase with each new version.
Overall, how CTOs respond to these challenges will determine the overall success of an organisation’s digital transformation and its ability to remain competitive in a digital world. An integrated software solution for network infrastructure management that delivers and maintains an accurate, up-to-date inventory of all physical, logical and virtual network and service resources is vital to achieve a holistic view of all assets and resources.
The resulting transparency is the hallmark of a modern infrastructure – it enables providers to maximize the use of network resources and make confident decisions about how to plan, build, deploy and manage the business. Additionally, this visibility enables providers to convert emerging opportunities into revenue by making sure they have the information and tools needed to support not only existing networks, but also networks of the future as they undergo digital transformation.