Tags Posts tagged with "Network Intelligence"

Network Intelligence

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Natural human tendency is to focus more on things that affects our present rather than the future. Coming to things that affect us for which there is a lack of awareness about the “extent” of issue caused, there would be little or no attention from us to resolve them.

Let us look at the priority with which investment decisions are made by telecom service provider on the software systems that they wish to have. Before a service provider can go live with a product offer for their end customers, they need to have the network in place to support the product. The priority for the software systems they should have to support their products are:

  • The first and most important is the billing software. They do not want go wrong in the billing as it would directly affect their revenues.
  • Second is the assurance software to make sure the network and the services are up and running.
  • The fulfillment software to automate as much as possible the order to activation process
  • A software which will help in strategic decision making like a planning software.

Above are the verticals, now let us look at the horizontals which are the domain.

  • The first and most important aspect that is recorded well is that of the end customer. The entire lifecycle of a customer, right from acquisition to end of service to the customer in most operator environments is maintained well.
  • The second would be product life cycle management. This is important to know what needs to be billed based on the product that the customer is using.
  • The next important aspect is the maintenance of service life cycle.
  • By the time Telecom service provider gets all of the above going and fully operational, it is already a mammoth task for them and they tend to lose focus on Resource lifecycle management.

A recent survey that was conducted by TMForum led by Subex revealed the following findings:

  • 1 in 3 operators do not measure returns on CAPEX investment
  • 77% of the respondents believed that inadequate asset utilization leads to increase in costs
  • 55% of the respondents believed that network planning is based on guesses
  • 64% believed that capex planning is driven by technology and not business objectives

From the above findings it is clear that getting the right business process and tools around resource life cycle management is extremely critical for the long term health and efficient operations of a telecom service provider.

In this blog, I would like to discuss about the exciting new world of SDN, NFV and cloud technologies and the relevance of resource lifecycle management in this new world. While a part of the telecom operator community is very aggressively embracing the concepts of SDN and NFV already into their network, there are others who are waiting and watching to see how things progress. I strongly believe, for the telecom industry to break the shackles of “reducing margins” and “increase in the need of CAPEX/OPEX investments” that it is currently facing, the key answers can be provided by SDN, NFV and cloud technologies.

It is obvious that maximum energy is spent by telecom service providers, vendor community and standards bodies like ONF, ETSI, IETF, OPNFV etc. on how the network will work in this new world. Also, what I observed is that a bulk of the energy is being spent on defining standards around next gen BSS and OSS by TMForum, ETSI and ONF are in the following areas:

  1. Orchestrator
  2. VNF Manager
  3. VI (Virtualized Infrastructure) Manager
  4. SDN controllers
  5. Network and Application adapters
  6. Protocols used for communication with the devices and applications
  7. Policy engine
  8. APIs etc.

As we go about defining the standards, let us look at covering the life cycles of all the domains starting from Customer life cycle, product life cycle, service life cycle all the way to resource life cycle. In this new world, resources can be physical compute, storage and network resources or virtual resources like software licenses. Let us not restrict ourselves in defining standards only on the operational aspects of resource life cycle management (OSS inventory) which was done in the eTOM model of TM Forum. Some work is being done by one group under the ZOOM initiate of TM Forum to define standards on onboarding of the software resource. This is definitely good, but we need to cover all aspects of the life cycle right from onboarding till end of life.

So what if we do not do it, the systems will work, be operational and deliver services to the end customer. But we will probably end up being in the same state that we are in today, i.e. not being able to monitor how the CAPEX decisions of the past have fared, optimize on the investments already made, learn and improve in order to make better CAPEX decisions going forward.

I would like to leave you with the following thought before I end my blog. If we ask any telecom service provider on the number of database or web server licenses they currently have deployed in their data centers, they may or may not have an answer. But if we go to the extent of asking how many of these licenses are in use and in how many cases we have a compliance issue, I am pretty certain that almost all of them will not have a precise answer to the question. Going forward, if all the network functions are going to be software running on COTs hardware, the need to have answers to the above questions will be even more important.

Join the webinar on ” Telecom Asset Management in SDN & NFV world” to discuss more.

It’s 7AM and I can’t put off getting up any longer, so I look out the window and see there’s a light frost on the grass, which the weather channel warned me about 3 days ago.   An hour later I’m at the train station waiting for the 7:42 which is delayed because the frost has caused the points to seize up in a town 50 miles away, so now the entire South East rail system is completely snarled up. They predicted the weather and probably knew there would be a point’s failure, but still the network crashed. So I need to phone work to let them know I’m going to be late, but I can’t connect. Thousands of other commuters around me are also trying to phone ahead, but the network can’t handle it. It seems to happen every day.

We are surrounded by events which are beyond our control, but often they happen in predictable ways. The points failure was perhaps less predictable than my alarm, but we always knew that when the temperature dropped there would be some kind of failure somewhere that would lead to cancellations and a breakdown of the network. We always knew that rush hour would become an agonising crawl into town on overcrowded trains. The congestion could probably have been avoided if they could have predicted which parts of the network were under the most stress and the impact on the network in the event of failure or congestion at those stress points. Additional resources could then be provided at those points, or alternative routes planned to bypass the congestion and limit the ripple out effect, like a fire break.  The problem is only likely to get worse, and the network more unreliable, as the population increases and more people than ever rely on the rail network to get to work.

With the arrival of LTE and rapidly increasing popularity of Video on Demand then telecoms networks are also facing increasing levels of congestion and instability. Global data traffic is predicted to increase by 10 to 20 times by 2019 (Cisco).   In order to meet regulatory obligations and maintain customer experience Capex is set to spiral upwards. MNOs, who are already facing a year on year decrease in ARPU, will struggle to keep pace with demand and the risk of congestion will be ever present.

As with rail networks MNOs need a longer term strategy in place to understand where and when future choke points in the network will occur so that the risk of congestion can be eliminated for the least cost. Subex Capacity Management provides the capability to predict these points of congestion by monitoring and correlating metrics from across the network to provide detailed forecasts of network utilisation. Additional factors can be brought into the forecasts, such as the impact of major events or the rolling out of M2M services and different scenarios played out to understand how the network will respond. By automating the forecasting process network managers can be alerted long before issues become critical and congestion begins to occur. They can evaluate different options for either re-homing traffic or augmenting the network for the least possible cost. Stranded or un-utilised assets can even be recovered and re-located to satisfy demand for very little cost.

CFOs need to find ways to keep increasing revenue while controlling costs, and CTOs need to keep network delivering ever greater speeds as volumes of traffic increase exponentially.  Both need to look into the future to avoid a future of network instability, falling quality, crippling network costs and lost revenue.

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Your network has a story to tell you about wasteful Capex practices which are likely reducing your Return on Capital.   If you are like most Operators, you may not be listening.

Much of the Telecom Industry’s recent focus has been placed on CEM and related analytics.  Certainly, customer acquisition and retention programs are critical as these drive revenue.   Network augments and migrations to new technologies are an unavoidable “price to pay” and the lion’s share of management’s attention is placed on squeezing as much revenue traffic onto pipes and spectrum as possible.

Trouble is, EBITDA margins are being squeezed for reasons that I’m sure you are all too familiar with.  Amongst many Operators with whom Subex has spoken recently, there is a growing recognition that network costs must be better managed, but also a frustration that lack of visibility and insights undermine the ability to do so.

As I said, your network has a story to tell you—in fact, many stories.  What’s more, it will give you critical information that your ERP or Asset Tracking system simply can’t.  Without this information, your ability to optimize Capex throughout the asset lifecycle can be significantly eroded.

Can you answer:

Where are my assets?

ERPs are important for managing vendor relationships, driving supply chain process and tracking warehouse inventory. Once an asset leaves the warehouse, responsibility for tracking and managing the asset typically shifts to technical OSS’s (e.g. Network Inventory).  Data quality within technical OSS’s is notoriously poor.  As a result, assets can become stranded, under-utilized and/or lost.   Consequently, Operators spend Capex that could otherwise be avoided if existing assets were effectively harvested and redeployed.

The Asset Lifecycle and Relative Positioning of ERPs vs. Technical OSS

When are my assets generating returns?

A critical capital management objective is minimizing the cash-cash cycle.  This is the interval between paying cash to a vendor, and receiving cash from a customer once an asset becomes productive (i.e. carries revenue traffic).   Each extra day in the cycle increases your cost of capital.  Reducing the cycle requires that you know the answer to:

  • How much time elapsed from the purchase of an asset until deployment in the network?
  • How much time elapsed from deployment of the asset until it became productive?

Equipped with such time-to-value analytics, finance can better hold Network Operations accountable for any excessively long intervals.  Network Operations also has the actionable information it needs to identify and correct inefficient deployment and service delivery processes.

Where did my assets go?

A very common dysfunction is mismanagement of assets once they are decommissioned or retired.  Some assets remain powered but unproductive, contributing to excessive energy costs.  Others simply disappear (whether moved, shelved or pilfered) and are no longer available for re-provisioning or salvage.  A recent PwC survey found that “one half of wireline operators and over one-third of wireless operators indicated that less than 50% of their assets are currently catalogued and managed.”  Network Intelligence enables Operators to track movement of assets in the network and provides an early alert when an asset has been removed and does not reappear elsewhere.

What assets do I need?

A critical component of avoiding unnecessary Capex is having accurate and timely Network Intelligence to guide the budgeting, forecasting and planning process.  This is especially important for portions of the network which are most sensitive to traffic growth.  It is essential to monitor resource utilization and equip planners with metrics and trending to ensure assets are purchased when needed, where needed and for the right purpose.

Introducing ROC Asset Assurance

Drawing on our industry leadership in Data Integrity Management, Capacity Management, Network Discovery and Analytics, Subex is launching ROC Asset Assurance to harness Network Intelligence throughout the asset lifecycle and do for Asset Assurance what Subex has famously done for Revenue Assurance and other business optimization areas.   Look for more exciting details on ROC Asset Assurance in the days and weeks to come.

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