Operators and CSPs are moving many of their enabling platforms to the cloud at an increasing pace. What about inventory management? Critical for service delivery and connectivity, is cloud enablement the right step?
OSS is moving to the cloud – what about your inventory?
For a network operator, having a full understanding of network inventory is critical. Commercial success is at risk without detailed knowledge of all the assets that make up service delivery chains and how they are correlated with each other. It’s the function of inventory management to enable control, optimization, and fine-tuning the performance of infrastructure, thus upgrading the delivery of services to end users.
Traditionally, inventory management has been an “on-premises” solution, but that is changing. With the cloud emerging as a secure and reliable model for hosting real-time telecoms infrastructure (a shift spurred by the next generation architectures of both 5G and core networks), more and more operators are looking to move various assets to the cloud. Transport layer service orchestration is one early example of this. Solutions that enable complete automation and orchestration of L3 VPN services are already commercially available and deployed in a growing number of operator networks.
With such service delivery assets leading the way, it seems inevitable that other supporting infrastructure elements will follow.
Into the cloud
Among these, OSS is a prime candidate. If automated service configuration and provisioning from the cloud is likely to be the path ahead, then provisioning of the topology, resource and asset information for use by orchestration systems should be the next step. That means the network inventory management system, central to OSS transformation and operational automation, is in play.
In fact, inventory management in the cloud should be a key first step in the broader shift. It’s a core system that interfaces to all network elements and assets, in so doing providing a consolidated picture and record of everything in the network. It enables other infrastructure systems to access and then consume information vital to functions such as orchestration and automation, provisioning and configuration of transport services, slices and others thereby reducing or eliminating problems in the service delivery chain (which is neither acceptable nor commercially sustainable).
Why is network inventory so important?
Before we pursue the question of moving inventory into the cloud, let’s briefly remind ourselves in a little more detail why the inventory management function is so central. There are many reasons, but we’ll focus on five.
Operators must have a complete picture of all physical, logical and virtual network resources in order to maximize their usage and performance. Inventory management provides this.
Managing complex, multi-vendor, multi-domain networks efficiently isn’t easy. In fact, it’s impossible without the real-time awareness of the operational status of assets that inventory management enables to be accessed.
Innovation and development
New technologies are rapidly emerging in today’s fast-evolving networks. These must be integrated as seamlessly as possible, a process enabled by effective inventory management.
Rationalizing network costs and ensuring stable performance are critical to sound financial management and profitability. They can’t be achieved without network inventory knowledge and insights.
Operators must keep their customers happy - which means service expectations must be met. To do that, operators must understand their assets, those that are required to deliver a service, what’s missing and what’s needed to fill any gaps. All this is reliant on the availability of inventory information.
Though we could continue outlining the list of benefits for some time, the point is that Network Inventory Management (NIM) enables operators to accrue a wide range of advantages by collecting, monitoring, and aggregating information related to all the resources so that the operator can understand:
• The status all resources
• Asset capacity
• Asset performance (including spares)
• Problems and returns tracking
• Resource Activation and Resource Provisioning
• Resource inventory management
• Updates and reconciliation related to inventory
So why are these and other benefits best placed in the cloud?
So why the cloud?
The answer? For many reasons, and the good news is that network inventory lends itself to the cloud domain.
Networks are inherently fragmented and distributed with often separate access, transport, and core domains: domestic, multi-national and cross-border. In these distributed environments there’s a clear need to elevate operational systems and processes into the cloud to ensure automation and efficiencies across the entire landscape.
And as we already mentioned, cloud deployment is particularly suited to supporting next-generation network architectures, already visible in the forms of software-defined networking and network function virtualization, both cloud native technologies that leverage a distributed computing network.
Furthermore, as 5G continues to proliferate, the role and importance of the cloud is set to increase because it delivers the necessary flexibility to place and then divide 5G functions and applications into network slices, a critical characteristic and advantage of the technology, delivering a wide range of different services. Of course, this trend will accelerate because the cloud will also be foundational for 6G, which is beginning to take shape, at least in terms of service expectations.
Almost any network service or functional component can be operated from a cloud environment. Plus, cloud enables telcos to reduce IT costs, improve business continuity, facilitate collaboration, operate more flexibly, and leverage a host of other benefits.
Reflecting the telco market’s direction of travel (above), VC4-IMS – the leading network inventory management solution – is now available as-a-service, from the cloud, based on the same cloud infrastructure and architecture used by operators globally.
VC4-IMS enables operators to bring clarity to their assets and provides a foundation for ensuring that investments in agile network evolution deliver the RoI desired. It eliminates scattered data silos, unlocking a single, consolidated view and importantly, it can now shift solving the long-standing OSS data problem into the emergent cloud landscape.
Network Inventory Management as-a-service delivers a number of direct benefits including:
- Advanced network inventory management functionality via a complete, cloud-based solution
- Flexible managed service options, with tiers of service and SLAs to meet your needs and budgets
- Eliminate legacy approaches to inventory management with a cloud-based solution that’s ready to support your NGN fiber, WDM/OTN and 5G investments
- Based on hyper-scaler, Tier 1 cloud infrastructure or, alternatively, it can be implemented in your private cloud
- Change the balance from CAPEX to OPEX to ensure efficient network evolution and that you target investments where they matter
- Freeing CAPEX for fiber build, for example
- Enhancing automation and assurance
With the availability of VC4-IMS as-a-service, operators can choose the deployment
model and SLAs that meet their own specific needs and plans.