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Guest View: A network with a conscience – it’s all about making sense of big data

Nan Chen, Co-Founder and Executive Vice-Chairman of CENX and President of the MEF | June 20, 2014
An immense amount of data would be required to adequately describe a Tier 1 network's topology, resources and services – data scattered across multiple operational support systems, each holding a partial and often mutually inconsistent set of data. What is needed is a comprehensive information model of the network – one that is consistent, trustworthy and offering a clear window into its operation.

As legacy OSS struggles to handle such complexity, people increasingly rely on spreadsheets. Standards bodies are busy creating and aligning standards to channel Ethernet's flexibility into added value and simplify performance monitoring and OAM - but these are long-term solutions that do not address today's problems.

Instead service providers need to:

1.      Correlate data from network elements, OSS and other sources,

2.      Continuously audit and analyze it

3.      Create a reliable service-centric model that transforms static data from multiple sources into actionable Ethernet service intelligence such as: authoritative SLA reporting, usage and capacity planning, and pinpointing of faults.

To simplify management and orchestration of such complexity, the model should provide end-to-end visualization of services - with intuitive tools to dynamically manage critical ordering, inventory, performance and reporting services across inter-carrier networks, management systems and vendor equipment types.

Three examples illustrate what has already been achieved by this service orchestration approach.

Barely 20% of Carrier Ethernet services succeed first time, because of inventory inaccuracy between sources. And it can take over a hundred days to turn up a circuit. To solve this problem, an operator's network data was first extracted, audited and  mapped to a structured format - data sources included OSS, activation notices, SLA agreements with AVs, Excel spreadsheets and inter-carrier agreements. Automated continuous audit could now identify bad data and assign a quality indicator to simplify integrity assessment. Continuous correlation plus big data analytics was able to identify risky changes, and check consistency and value ranges, with warnings transmitted to the data owner. The system also provided a graphical overview of the topology, revealing actual circuit inventory details, simplifying ordering, provisioning and service assurance.

The result has improved inventory integrity to over 90% accuracy, significantly reducing fall-out and improving time to market - while on-going automation of auditing and inventory updates is cutting OPEX.

In a second example, workflow automation is cutting costs and accelerating service turn-up, leading to rapid growth of the provider's footprint and capacity. An Additional Services Request (ASR) - such as Move, Add, Change or Delete - is transmitted to the AV and order state is tracked in the preferred method. Whether automatically or manually processed, the changes are automatically broadcast to all network elements, without delay or risk of human error. This includes populating test equipment with updated test configurations so Service Operations, Administration, and Maintenance (SOAM) tests run automatically, and results are collated and reported.

In the third example the challenge was to quickly and accurately identify faults, and sectionalize them to determine service provider or AV dependencies. Real-time feeds were taken from existing monitors and summarized in a single customizable dashboard - registering alarms and correlating them to circuit segment states. Thresholds were set per AV and used to benchmark SLA performance so reports could indicate exception events and leverage historical data to determine trends. Without manual work, the provider now benefits from lower MTTR, faster triage and root cause analysis - thanks to rapid, accurate isolation of degradation and better SLA penalty capture with authoritative proof and reporting.


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