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Harnessing Complexity for Profitability

Understanding the Implications of Service-Ready Network Management by Jay Mellman and Karen Sage, Cisco Systems

  Jay Mellman
  Jay Mellman
  Karen Sage
  Karen Sage

Jay Mellman is a twenty-year veteran of high tech industry. His experience in network and systems management extends from his time at HP, through his leadership at Mercury Interactive, and now as a marketing director at Cisco. He currently leads a team responsible for promoting solutions to the service provider industry.

Karen M. Sage is the Director of Marketing for the Network Management Technology Group at Cisco Systems. Her group is responsible for defining NMS/OSS network management strategy and for all aspects of marketing programs for Cisco’s current and next generation products and solutions.


It's a blessing, because it enables service providers to offer integrated triple- and quad-play services-most recently video and collaboration-to customers whose growing appetites demand anytime, anywhere services on a variety of devices. It's a curse, because providers must deliver those services at ever-decreasing prices over extremely complex networks.

A typical Tier-1 service provider needs several hundred applications to manage its networks, which are built with gear from dozens of vendors. Complexity multiplies as service providers integrate hundreds or thousands of elements into network domains that enable sets of services, all managed by a master operational support system (OSS).

The traditional approach of hiring integrators to build proprietary solutions to deliver a small set of marketable services is becoming cost prohibitive, dampening service velocity and blunting competitive edge in an impatient marketplace. An all-custom integration approach does not scale-in cost or speed-to meet demand. For example, it can cost millions of dollars and several months' work just to upgrade software or add a module in a router because of the custom engineering, testing, and qualification required to integrate new components with existing systems.

Yet complex infrastructures are here to stayand growing more complicated. Service providers are migrating from the complexities of many single-service networks to the complexities of a single converged network that supports many services. Today, service providers must not only offer triple- and quad-play services, they must also prepare for future advancements that enable seamless delivery of any service to anywhere on any device, fixed or mobile-and add significant complexity to the converged network.

While there are clear business advantages to network convergence, this migration brings with it a, set of new management challenges such as:

  • Building a service model that can rapidly respond to customer demand amid intensifying competition
  • Accelerating service velocity from months or years to weeks or even days
  • Coordinating the co-existence of legacy singleservice networks and new converged networks throughout a multiyear migration period
  • Ensuring service reliability and stability throughout the migration with successful integration of existing legacy components and systems into converged infrastructures that deliver advanced services
  • Adopting best practices for service rollout and change management
  • Enabling an infrastructure that easily accommodates hardware and software updates

Solution: Service-Ready Network Management

The cornerstone of successful convergence-and delivering the next must-have service-is the ability to manage the converged network through the OSS. Simplifying the management experience enables rapid service velocity and more efficient operations, resulting in a lower total cost of ownership-preserving profitability as prices decline. Service-ready network management dramatically eases labor-intensive integration, facilitating deployment of automated management functions. This approach has five fundamental characteristics that enable delivery of unique, affordable, integrated services that truly harness the profit potential of network convergence:

  • Scalable Solutions for Specific Problems
  • Open, Extensible Network Resource Management
  • Leverage Abstraction to Deliver Service Velocity
  • Embrace Standards, Partners, and Existing Infrastructure
  • Implement Standard Workflow and Business Processes

Figure 1: Abstraction Layer Accelerates Service Velocity
Figure 1: Abstraction Layer Accelerates Service Velocity

Just like network technology is facilating new services, powerful network resource management software accelerates and eases the integration process, enabling providers to rapidly deliver creative, powerful services. This core software automatically discovers individual elements and maps from logical functions, freeing providers to add capabilities without requiring extensive, expensive integrationeliminating the need for traditional hard coding to network elements themselves. Reducing this integration burden frees providers to collaborate more closely with industry partners, achieve a faster ROI on capital and integration investments, control spiraling operational expenditures, and protect profit margins

Scalable Solutions for Specific Problems

Service-ready network management solutions must scale to address specific service provider issues. Working backward from problem toward solution is more effective than forcing legacy systems to solve problems they were never designed to address. Services such as Carrier Ethernet must scale to serve millions of customers. Pre-tested, software-based solutions that providers can drop into existing environments substantially reduce integration costs. Such solutions support essential FCAPS functionality throughout the service management lifecycle and interoperate with leading OSS applications.

For example, a major telecommunications provider in central Europe uses Cisco IP Solution Center (Cisco ISC) MPLS VPN Management software and Cisco Configuration Engine in conjunction with a custom service management platform to fully automate service activation through a MPLS network. It can set up hundreds of thousands of circuits or deliver CPE software updates without manual intervention, dramatically improving service velocity and controlling operational costs.

Open, Extensible Network Resource Management

Service-ready network management leverages extensible software that accommodates new functions and growth. . The software automatically discovers and builds a virtual network topology that represents every network element. True multivendor support facilitates information sharing among elements and applications. Using best practices, providers can adapt the software to their particular environments, using standardsbased APIs and Web interfaces to connect existing OSS, management applications, and the network into a mediation layer that translates protocols between applications and elements. Fault correlation is tied to network topology, not rules, which simplifies and speeds root-cause analysis. A Tier-1 service provider based in France relies upon Cisco Active Network Abstraction (Cisco ANA) to correlate data for root-cause analysis. Information is available even before customers call, enabling the help desk to provide specific information to customers about service issues. The provider can quickly address and solve issues, often before the customer is aware of them. This system extends beyond network control to tie capabilities directly to customer demands.

Leverage Abstraction for Service Velocity

Inserting a mediation layer to separate physical network elements from logical OSS functions has a huge impact on service velocity (Figure 1). A "Rosetta Stone" abstraction reduces the amount of integration required, because applications don't have to speak the language of individual elements. Providers can write one script and implement it anywhere with full multivendor support. Software development kits allow all vendors to validate northbound and southbound integration for new applications and network devices. Implementing software updates or hardware changes is faster and cheaper than before, accelerating service velocity from months or years to just weeks.

Standards, Partners, and Existing Infrastructure

The viability of an extensible service-ready network management depends upon its ability to "play well with others" in the existing service provider infrastructure. It supports both software and industry standards to integrate with the existing infrastructure. Standards such as J2EE, Oracle, BPEL, Web services, eTOM, and ITIL, which enable providers to leverage industry partnerships and existing infrastructures as they migrate toward multiservice networking. The abstraction layer enables providers to deploy bestin- class software throughout the stack. For example, providers can deploy fault management and Manager of Manager capability from IBM NetCool, Infovista solutions for performance management, Amdocs/Cramer solutions for inventory management, and HPSA solutions for provisioning, and unify these solutions through the mediation layer and a common information model with minimal integration.

Implement Standard Workflow and Business Processes

Using the Chameleon modeling capabilities of Cisco ANA or the open platform Eclipse/Tigerstripe model, providers can build automated workflows and business processes. Best practices and industry standards help them model and validate workflows throughout the service lifecycle, and then build code that conforms to the model.

Are You Service Ready?

Service-ready network management is a networkcentric framework designed to propel the adoption of multiservice networks that support rapid rollout of next-generation, integrated services. It harnesses increasingly complicated infrastructures, giving service providers flexibility to rapidly extend their service portfolios-and their profits.

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