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Issue 20 Articles

FNT IT Services logoConverging Technologies:
One comprehensive data model for OSS and IT automation

InterComms talks to Ulrich Schälling, Head of Business Line Telecommunications, FNT, about FNT's IT and Telco market expertise and the launch of a new product and service portfolio management solution

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Ulrich Schälling, Head of Business Line Telecommunications, FNT
Ulrich Schälling,
Head of Business Line Telecommunications, FNT

Ulrich Schälling, Head of Business Line Telecommunications, has been working in the telecommunication market in various roles for Alcatel-Lucent for the last 20 years, most of the time in the OSS and system integration business. He is now responsible for the Business Line Telecommunications within FNT.

Q: FNT is a household name in many industries, can you talk us through your 20 year history and the key achievements?
A: In reality it is 19 years since the foundation of FNT in 1994 but next year FNT will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

It started all in 1994 as a software development start-up company for facility management and network technology developing a software product for some large and well-known German automotive companies. Today’s resulting standard software product is named FNT Command (former FNT C6000). FNT Command is the central repository for the management of large IT infrastructures like physical networks, cables, facilities, WANs, LANs and the logical networks as well as the telecommunication infrastructure of large enterprises.

After the first projects FNT Command become known in other industries like airports, banking sector, public authorities and telecommunication service providers.

FNT is a leading provider of integrated software solutions for IT management, data center infrastructure management and telecommunication network and service resource management worldwide. FNT Command is used worldwide as an OSS / IT management application by more than 25,000 users. Our customer base has more than 500 customers in a wide-range of well-known organizations working in various sectors, such as the automotive industry, banks, insurers, chemicals, energy management, airports, clinics, media, industry, telecommunications,IT service providers and public institutions. More than half of Germany's DAX30 listed companies are part of the customer base.

Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge

Until today FNT grew to a software company with 200 employees operating internationally with subsidiaries in United States (Parsippnay, New Jersey), Singapore and Moscow.

With our new product FNT ServicePlanet we will enhance our product portfolio with a solution that provides the foundation for modeling, managing, and monitoring business services and service assets over the entire product and service lifecycle. Products and product components are standardized in FNT ServicePlanet, making it possible to combine all service-related information in a central database. This in turn allows efficient reuse of product components and supports flexible provision of consistently high quality services, while keeping costs under control.

FNT ServicePlanet includes all the information needed to fully support a customer’s business processes from the service viewpoint. FNT ServicePlanet provides a high value especially for Communication Service Providers and Multi Service Operators which combine many technology assets and product items to a final product customer product bundle. It also helps manage heterogenious environments and multi-cloud service approaches. But also the IT product and service portfolio within enterprises can be managed and delivered with FNT ServicePlanet.

Q: You work with a cross section of industries; can you explain how other industry experience is relevant to telecoms companies?
A: Looking at the core processes between IT service providers within large organizations and communication service providers, there are many commonalities. Handling a complex infrastructure, managing a bundle of different services and products and providing the end-product in an efficient way to many end-users within a defined service level needs a detailed documentation,knowledge of the basic working assets and transparency of the underlying infrastructure. ITIL processes and eTOM reference processes are influencing standards and have been represented within FNT Command during the customer-and project oriented development stages for many years.

One example is the experience gained from a project with a large German financial institution which focused on the management of the IT infrastructure and all related assets. During this project FNT developed an auto-discovery solution together with our partner Infosim. FNT Command has an open repository which allows us to cooperate and enhance our solution with many other tools in the market. Together with Infosim we created a StableNet® interface that provides FNT Command customers with the comprehensive, in-depth information about their company network or telecommunication infrastructure. StableNet® helps customers perform an automated documentation of active network components and afterwards, does an automated target/actual comparison of the components documented in FNT Command with the devices detected by StableNet® as the input for an automated change management workflow. This interface can easily be used for discovery of telco inventory assets within the telco sector. This shows the ongoing merge and integration of IT and telecommunication technologies.

The converging technologies of IT and telecommunications, along with our many customer projects, influenced the software suite, FNT Command. FNT Command was developed in close cooperation with our customers’ needs and an analysis of the market’s needs. This ensured well-proven functionality based on German quality standards. Therefore FNT Command provides integrated transparency for the management of IT, network infrastructures, data centers and telecommunication today. FNT Command covers the business areas of Telecommunication resource inventory, Outside/Inside Plant Management, Data Center Infrastructure Management, IT Infrastructure and Configuration Management, and Portfolio and Service Management within a single product suite. This is the appropriate resource management approach cope with today’s diverse communications services.

Q: Your multi-layer approach to IT management, Data centre and telecom infrastruture management means you have faced many challenges that your competitors haven't, where does this give you a key edge?
A: FNT Command is a multi-purpose solution for all layers mentioned above based on a large integrated repository It does not solely focus on a single solution area, like some best-of-breed solutions which only covers solutions like data center infrastructure management, CMDB or pure cable management or only service catalogues. The FNT Command product suite can combine all these areas based on the large data model that covers the following 7 layers:

1. Facility Layer
2. Physical Layer
3. Logical Layer
4. Systems Layer
5. Applications Layer
6. Services Layer
7. Business Services Layer

This allows FNT to address many different target groups within one organization and even address different industry segments like IT organizations, public authorities, airports, or Telecommunications.

Like the technologies are converged within the last years also our software developed with the requirements of our customers to keep control of their valuable infrastructure assets. FNT started as facility, network and cable management software, but with the integration of IP and telecommunication the IT infrastructure merged more and more with communication services.

So, we enhanced FNT Command’s data model and features to follow technology trends. The integration of server management and application management was necessary because of the converging technology trends. Today, Command’s telecommunications solution is based on a network and service resource inventory model providing integrated physical, logical, and service resource information in an integrated way. This allows the relationship between services, underlying physical and logical network resources, connected applications, customers, and other assigned information to be retrieved.

Because the FNT Command data model covers all those areas, it’s easy to enhance and integrate new solution areas. For example, in the DCIM area, FNT Command was enhanced with an interface to Data Center Management Integrator (DCM) powered by Intel which measures real-time power consumption and CPU temperature in a server system or other network equipment. This information makes it possible to draw conclusions about overall power consumption and ways to save energy. As a component of FNT Command, DCM Integrator brings together relevant monitoring aspects of a server infrastructure in the data center, including the creation of workload diagrams and forecasts future utilization and power demand.

Among the benefits provided by an integrated solution like DCM Integrator in conjunction with FNT Command is the ability to track down ghost or orphaned servers that are underutilized or not used at all. An additional application area is analyzing rack density in order to populate racks with more components if appropriate.

Optimizing data center processes and reducing energy requirements is impossible without reliable information on all data center components and the ways in which they are interlinked. This is true for IT systems as well as power supplies, air conditioning systems, and building management systems. And there is another consideration: In the future, data center infrastructure management must place greater emphasis on facilitating the provision of IT or telecommunication services. This brings back the benefits of an integrated system that helps to identify and analyze all relevant aspects of a communication service provider from the physical infrastructure layer up to the definition and management of the delivered business services.

Q: We have looked at FNT's general expertise across all sectors, if we look specifically at the Telco arena where can you help the operators become more efficient?
A: Communications Service Providers are faced with strong competition within a highly dynamic market. In this context, time-to-market, overall cost optimizations, high-class customer services, and operational effectiveness based on efficient fulfillment, assurance and planning processes are important business parameters. The cornerstone of a modern OSS/BSS architecture today is an integrated network and service resource management solution. Based on FNT’s expertise in service and infrastructure management for IT and Telecommunication over the last 19 years FNT’s software solutions provides integrated transparency for the management of IT, telecommunication network infrastructures and data centers. The deep integration of all data items and the comprehensive data model of FNT Command are unique in the software market. It builds the central resource repository for all planning, fulfillment and assurance processes within the business areas telecommunications, cable networks, outside & inside plant management, data center infrastructure management as well as IT infrastructure management.

From a customer’s perspective, the application part of a service is increasingly taking center stage. Service providers need a cohesive view of the applications, servers, and underlying data center management issues in their IT environment in combination with their telecommunication service and network resource infrastructure. To achieve this, FNT Command not only builds the unique basis to enable OSS but also any kind of IT process automations to improve operational efficiency, to optimize cost, to increase service quality, and to boost customer experience.

Q: Could you talk to us about FNT ServicePlanet and where you see this solution being aligned?
A: Based on the introduction of new technologies, service providers need enhanced service inventory capabilities to manage the more structured product and service catalogues. FNT addresses this need with its new Service Management Data Base product, FNT ServicePlanet.

FNT ServicePlanet provides the foundation for modeling, managing, and monitoring business services and service assets over the entire service lifecycle. Products and product components are standardized in FNT ServicePlanet, making it possible to combine all service-related information in a central database. This, in turn, allows efficient reuse of product components and supports flexible provision of consistently high quality services, while keeping costs under control. FNT ServicePlanet includes all the information needed to fully support customer’s business processes from the service viewpoint.

FNT ServicePlanet is also the central tool for managing services in a multi-cloud environment. Today’s service provider product offerings to residential and business customers are composed of various service items bundled into product packages for service delivery. Ongoing pressure to cut costs, boost operational efficiency, and offer new and innovative products with reduced time to market will lead to more cloud-based service compositions. From a customer perspective, the service provider is responsible for the service package delivered and is the single point of contact in the event of any requests or complaints. However, the service bundle is typically composed of an array of service items hosted in a multi-cloud environment.

The biggest challenge around managing multi-cloud environments is the trade-off between the need to create an attractive, appealing and easy-to-understand product for the customer and staying in control of the complex reality of the bundled services in the background. In multi-cloud environments, this becomes even more difficult to manage. FNT ServicePlanet bridges this gap.

With FNT ServicePlanet, the product manager defines a product and all the related service elements. The service manager selects the product from a product catalog in FNT ServicePlanet and specifies all the relevant services and configuration parameters. For an in-house infrastructure, the necessary data is provided via seamless integration with FNT Command, FNT’s CMS solution. FNT Command maps all aspects of the OSS, IT, and data center infrastructure in a single data model. Other CMDBs can be integrated via a standard adapter.

For cloud-provided service elements, the service parameters are likewise defined and configured in FNT ServicePlanet. The OLA parameters of these external service elements are exchanged with the cloud providers for the purposes of service level management. Particularly when combined with the FNT Command CMS solution, delivery of specific detailed information about products and services is a central capability that supports the service architecture in self-owned and mixed environments.

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