For telecoms operators of all types, network inventory management has always been a central function. To achieve optimal operational performance, the resources within the network (or networks) – all of them expensive technology investments - have to be carefully managed.
Understanding network inventory management solutions: the what – and why it matters
Managing the resources in a communications network is not an easy job, and it’s impossible to do it effectively without a Network Inventory Management solution. It’s also an ever more important one. With the transformation of networks that the communications industry is currently experiencing, inventory management is becoming an increasingly critical function because it plays a central role in the processes of enabling effective network operations, planning and service delivery – as well as innovation.
Indeed, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the successful introduction of new generations of technology for both current and future networks to a great extent depends on the effective management of the total inventory.
For these reasons, network operators are now paying considerable attention to how they tackle the issue. They’re also doing so because, in their quest to become more agile businesses (an agile approach is an enabler of innovation, faster service delivery, proactive subscriber management, reduced costs, and much more), they recognize that effective resource management plays a vital role.
A lot of resources to manage
The source of the problem that inventory management solves is the scope of the resources themselves. Network operators have a lot of resources and all of them need to be fully understood (including how they relate to each other and the contexts in which they are required) and fine-tuned to perform their individual functions effectively, while collectively they determine how seamlessly the business itself functions. These resources range from the physical “in the ground” to the transit infrastructure that carries traffic, and much more.
They are the bedrock on which the services, the operator provides, rests. All of which originate from network elements and are transported over the connections between them. The success of services, delivered across chains of physical elements and composed of logical and virtual resources, are to a great extent dependent on how they are managed. Only by understanding all the elements in the delivery chains and correlating them with each other can operators manage, optimize, and evolve the performance of their assets and the delivery of their services.
To understand all these disparate elements, what operators need is a “complete picture” of the network inventory. That’s what Network Inventory Management is what it delivers. The trouble is, few operators possess the complete picture they need, which has negative consequences: to take just one example, creating friction for service delivery (e.g., activating another connection to a property in the same neighborhood). That means ineffective network performance and unhappy customers.
Impact and Use Cases
Perhaps the best way to understand the impact of Network Inventory Management solutions in the landscape described above is through the Use Cases that they enable and the benefits they deliver. Here are four:
1. Understanding faults means better performance and satisfied customers
Being able to quickly identify the effect on customers of network faults is obviously vital to ensuring optimal service delivery and, by extension, to reducing churn. Fault identification has always been a challenge for operators, even more so now with today’s increasingly complex services. The effect of unplanned outages can be huge. Network Inventory Management allows repair activity to be matched to business priorities and ensures accurate customer notifications to be sent.
2. Isolating Single Points of Failure
Ideally, CSPs will be able to identify where they have problems in the network and address them quickly, before an outage results. This can be done by identifying potential single points of failure (SPOFs) which generally derive from a flaw in the design, implementation or configuration of a circuit or system. Network Inventory Management solutions can quickly isolate these problems, allowing the operator to address them before problems build up.
3. Network expansion requires oversight
As networks expand and modernize, fiber rollout is increasingly widespread. And it presents challenges perhaps foremost among which is the difficulty of achieving a successful rollout and subsequent operation while relying on a myriad of generic IT solutions to give an overview of the emergent network. Integrating data from all such systems to realize a holistic view, can be achieved with an effective Network Inventory Management solution.
4. Network optimization
An optimized network is beneficial from the perspective of both costs and revenues. Data analytics driven by an inventory management solution can provide insight into:
- network logs,
- hardware maintenance,
- marketing efficiency,
- logical, physical, virtual and service elements together at one glance
- and near real time, granular levels of analysis
that were previously impossible to do at scale can reduce costs. Combining separate customer data silos into one source of truth can deliver insights that increase revenues.
The solution to Network Inventory Management
To summarize, networks are expanding, and network technologies are evolving rapidly. As a result, the range of assets and functions that operators must manage is increasing. To deliver against expectations and perform optimally, they must always have an accurate picture of their inventory, across all levels. Being able to access a consolidated repository of all the data associated with each network asset and service is a critical component of commercial success. A network inventory management solution is therefore key to unlocking the potential of myriad advances in the network itself.
Effective network asset management tools are thus an essential components of the next generation operator’s go-to-market planning. The importance of a single source of data for all operations and processes from planning to deployment to revenue cannot be overlooked. VC4-IMS, the leading Network Inventory Management solution brings clarity to assets and provides a foundation to ensure that investments in agile network evolution deliver the RoI that they should.