Keeping Track of the Network

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2002-01-02
Network upgrades and expansions are typically implemented to eke greater efficiencies out of a communications system, but paradoxically such upgrades can create their own management inefficiencies. As enterprise networks become larger and more complex, they become too unwieldy to track on a whiteboard with sticky notes. Tackling this conundrum, operational support system, or OSS, vendors that traditionally catered to service providers are now adapting their products to private networks.

Large network operators typically have an accurate view of only 60 percent of the network inventory and available capacity, according to Sanjay Mewada, analyst with The Yankee Group in Boston. "With effectively 40 percent of the network, you do not have an effective idea of how much is available for provisioning," Mewada said. "By implementing service resource management software, you have a very good tracking of what is in the network."

Another telecommunications industry trend -- the rapidly shrinking CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) industry -- is also spurring OSS developers to turn their attention to network operators other than carriers, namely the largest enterprises. What they are finding, however, is that enterprises have a different set of network inventory requirements, including the need for flexible interfaces.

This year, Granite Systems Inc., of Manchester, N.H., will market a recoded version of its service resource management software, built with the flexibility to adapt to enterprise communications systems. Granite Systems Xpercom database system not only keeps an accurate record of network inventory, but also provides a logical view of the network, including IP addresses and floor plans. It acts as a central repository for other operational support systems, including order management, service activation, fault management, trouble ticketing and electronic gateways.

The new version of the software is based on a three-tiered, client/server architecture to offer better integration capability. "With a thin set of software on the desktop, it makes administration a lot easier," said Mark Mortensen, chief marketing officer at Granite Systems. "You dont have to run around and put the software on every desktop."

Granite Systems champions the softwares compatibility with other network management systems. "The trick is to keep it completely open so you can connect in with all the other systems," said Mortensen, formerly chief architect of Lucent Technologies Inc.s Software Products Group.

Another OSS provider, MetaSolv Software Inc. in Plano, Texas, started making inroads in the enterprise arena last year. MetaSolvs Enterprise Communications Management product, which offers a real-time, round-the-clock view of the network, is the companys core OSS product adapted to the enterprise.

"This is the early stage [of the enterprise OSS market]," said Ed Bryson, spokesman for MetaSolv. "An OSS system for a service provider customer is between $1 million and $1.5 million, and that solution is very broad. I dont think enterprises are in that ballpark."

While some of the major telecommunications equipment vendors have attempted to move into the service resource management business, they have not been successful. Lucent discarded its own system in favor of Granite Systems product. In 2000, Nortel Networks Corp. bought Architel Systems Corp. but is now trying to sell it. "If youre a Lucent, it is rare to have a carrier that uses only your equipment," Yankees Mewada said. "[The large vendors] are not in the inventory management business."

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