By now most of us know the extensive (and hopefully familiar) range of benefits that accrue from an investment in Network Inventory Management solutions. But as the network evolves, NIM is becoming the place to address a range of new challenges, not just traditional ones. In this blog, we’ll look at what’s coming next.
Efficient resource assurance can reduce operating costs. End-to-end views of multi-customer, multi-technology networks lead to improved resource utilization. These – and other factors – are all key advantages that have been delivered by Network Inventory Management (NIM) solutions.
These will remain important. But as we move into the new world of pervasive fiber, 5G, massively connected devices and beyond, new challenges are emerging that place new demands on NIM platforms. Let’s look at six of them and see why NIM is well-placed to address them.
1.Open APIs and network-as-a-service delivery
We know, for the most part, that next generation, network-centric services will require greater openness at the business and partnerships levels. An open network means functions and data will be more easily incorporated into new solutions that are, in turn, likely to demand network reliability and high performance.
This represents a shift in the direction of an emerging network-as-a-service landscape that will be hallmarked by flexible components and open APIs. Put another way, the traditional monolithic network approach will become a dinosaur and instead, the maxim will turn into “if it can be offered as a service, it will be offered as a service”.
To realize this new vision, operators will likely open up their networks to be used as platforms for third parties to build on via open APIs. This will present a challenge for NIM solutions, that have to evolve so that they can account for and manage an increasingly complicated inventory landscape.
2. The new network of networks
Imagine one “network of networks” with fixed, mobile and satellite networks working seamlessly to deliver universal coverage at high capacity and high speed. There’s more, too: in this new domain, open standards enable collaboration across vertical industries (not just telecoms). In the new world, standardization, compatibility, and interworking at a global scale will be challenging - if the new network of networks is to deliver what it promises.
Given the breadth and variety of infrastructure and digital assets, and the need to maximize return on them, NIM faces critical demands and has a key role to play in both assuring and monetizing the future.
3. The OSS umbrella
NIM will always be centered around managing resources and inventory, collecting, and making available the data and information gathered and sending it to different endpoints throughout the infrastructure including network planning, configuration, fault management, CEM, and more.
As (see above) the network evolves and its component parts change or expand in number, NIM will need to evolve in tandem to maintain a broader inventory database that supports ever more demanding data processing requirements, in the process, overcoming the complexity of dedicated interfaces, and cutting unnecessary operational costs.
4. Multi-layered abstraction
The nature of 5G, SDN/SD-WAN, MPLS and FTTH/GPON, as we know, leads in particular to service complexity often hallmarked by (sometimes multiple) partnerships being involved in a single service chain. This requires resource allocation and control at different levels of abstraction than before.
For example, entities placed in different layers may sometimes need to be shared across customers or even partners which will place new demands for NIM to operate at these different levels and send information across them dynamically.5. Network slicing (and dicing)
5. Network slicing (and dicing)
A story that’s already becoming more familiar. Network Function Virtualization and Software Defined Networking are now spreading across our industry but as, techniques such network slicing continue to evolve, there may be even newer paradigms that emerge (in fact, it’s almost certain there will be). Again, whatever happens next will require a dynamic response from NIM, propagating status across slices and such entities as are involved in the process.
6. The single source of truth
Operators today are already seriously challenged to unify inventory from often siloed landscapes to create a “single source of truth”. 5G, SDN/SD-WAN, WDM/OTN, core fiber, and FTTH roll outs, as we’ve seen already, will only exacerbate this problem. And it’s a challenge that must be met because being able to access a comprehensive, unified view of network resources and end customer services isn’t an “optional extra”.
The need to achieve visibility which in turns helps to simplify, optimize, and automate key operational processes such as network planning, service fulfilment, and service assurance in a dynamic environment is vital. It’s also one that can’t sensibly be delayed.
Network Inventory Management: not to be ignored
For today’s network operator, if a single inventory management system offering visualization of service and network resources, with separation of the physical, logical, cloud and virtual components is lacking, then there’s a problem that requires an urgent solution. And that urgency will only increase if the lack of inventory management becomes an operational barrier for your evolution.
VC4’s solutions help operators to plan and manage their network investments efficiently and effectively via solutions that span across their entire infrastructure and grow with the business. Built and deployed for over 20 years, VC4 has developed and delivers a complete OSS inventory management suite, with all functionalities available in a single application – and accessible to all relevant processes that need this consolidate data set.