Service Providers (SP) have embraced the subscriber experience concept as a means to improve retention rates and financial performance. The key to enhanced subscriber experience is the efficient utilization of network resources across all vendor and technology domains. To successfully implement it, SPs should identify and invest in suitable Configuration Management (CM) solutions that will enable them to outsmart the competition.
Dealing with complexity
Managing the configuration of a network built with nodes from multiple vendors and multiple technology domains is undoubtedly a challenging task. Considering the scale of current network deployments, one can easily realize why massive configuration operations are not standard practice. That’s why SPs rely solely on their experts to carry out the job.
Evolving business needs require dynamic adaptation of network conditions, which in turn gives rise to additional complexity and consequently demands frequent configuration changes throughout the network life cycle phases, including planning, rollout and maintenance.
Network wide configuration management is time-consuming, practically limited by vendor-specific node implementations and proprietary command line interfaces (CLIs). Therefore, it requires specialized knowledge and familiarity with all deployed node types.
Monitoring the whole process is important in order to keep track of configuration changes, log user actions and generate notifications for effective troubleshooting.
It also requires precision, accuracy and awareness of the impact of configuration changes. Carrying out this task without a centralized solution is inefficient, as it enchains expert personnel and gives a disproportionate rise to associated operational expenditures.
SDN: A future catalyst
Software Defined Networking (SDN) is the latest technology promising to break these chains. SDN is expected to drastically simplify configuration management of multi-domain and multi-vendor SP networks.
SDN-based architectures place a vendor-agnostic controller on top of every technology domain as the unifying point of communication with the relevant network nodes, using standard information models and interfaces. SDN is mainly intended for network-wide configuration management, based on the Netconf (Network Configuration) protocol which appeared in 2006 and recently gained ground over other protocols due to its efficiency.
However, until network architecture and techniques evolve into an SDN reality, SPs need to have a solution for cross domain configuration of network resources that can be centrally, uniformly and efficiently applied across the entire network.
Selecting the optimum solution
SPs could expedite the usually long decision journey that precedes the procurement of software platforms, by reviewing the characteristics summarized below and applying them on existing and near future SDN-based architectures:
The process of network configuration is fragmented, as it is usually performed at the node level or even on a limited scale of a few nodes from a single vendor. The configuration of nodes utilizes various protocols, proprietary node management tools and utilities, such as Local Craft Terminals (LCT) and CLIs. SPs have tried to streamline this process using multiple in-house software tools developed by their experts but the end result is usually additional fragmentation, inefficiency and low productivity.
The optimum CM solution should consolidate the network-wide configuration needs in a single powerful tool with an intuitive User Interface that abstracts the process into simple and easy to perform tasks, which can be performed by all users and not only by experts.
The solution should provide the means to centralize control and homogenize the configuration without errors, irrespective of the technology domain and vendor. Moreover, the transparency and visibility of all changes should be assured so that troubleshooting can be handled in an orderly fashion, eliminating the need to involve experts.
2. Knowledge base
The optimum CM solution should provide a unified business environment with central repository, where all configuration files can be transparently categorized per node type, technology domain, vendor or even network lifecycle phase, together with rules on the execution mode and order.
Experts can be used to prepare the configuration files in order to avoid misconfigurations and errors that may lead to outages. This can be done once, with the results stored in the repository and available for use by NOC operators who can take over the labor-intensive task of assigning them across the entire network.
Efficient utilization of resources begins by disengaging the expert personnel and allowing them to focus on network optimization.
3. Degrees of automation
SPs experimenting to determine the degree of automation that fits their operations strategy often face difficulties with adopting the capabilities of a given tool.
The optimum CM solution should cover all scenarios involving the application of configuration files, whether this is performed on-demand or scheduled, per node or massively, and be able to orchestrate it through manual, semi-automated or even fully automated procedures to maximize configuration success rates.
The SPs, therefore, need tools that are ideally developed together with their evolving operational needs and organizational processes, during the transition from a manually controlled network to a fully automated one.
4. Change control
CM was traditionally static but as the nature of networks, infrastructure and systems has evolved, continuous fine-tuning is now necessary. Change management via reconfiguration is now an ongoing task that follows the entire network life cycle and as such it should be fully managed and monitored with meaningful notifications and alarms.
The optimum CM solution should maintain the full history of configuration changes and be able to support detailed logging capabilities so that NOCs can audit the configuration process and be able to answer on what happened, when and by whom.
Moreover, the CM solution should support additional capabilities, such as network-wide performance management, enabling the NOC to improve KPIs based on configuration changes.
The future-proof solution
Intracom Telecom’s uni|MS™, already trusted by Communication Service Providers, Public Safety Organizations and Utilities around the world, automates management and monitoring tasks to eliminate error-prone and time-consuming manual efforts involving proprietary and third-party devices. Products from multiple vendors have already been integrated in numerous deployments worldwide, in a variety of management applications that span the Wireless Access, Transport and IoT domains, all using the same web User Interface in existing and SDN-based architectures.
Intracom Telecom leverages the uni|MS™ Configuration Manager to streamline network-wide multi-technology, multi-vendor and multi-domain configuration management by offering:
- Centralized repository of configuration profiles
- Multiple profiles combined under composite profiles
- Flexible control of configuration mode and order
- Insightful monitoring with notifications
- Full history of changes with detailed activity logging
- Selective automation based on rules for faster rollout
- Mismatch identification against baselines to avoid errors
- Reduced DCN usage with intelligent configuration backup
- Supporting existing and SDN-based network architectures
- Easy integration with other management layers and systems (OSS/BSS).
For more information, please contact us at [email protected].
Intracom Telecom is a global telecommunication systems and solutions vendor operating for over 40 years in the market. The company innovates in the areas of small-cell backhaul, wireless transmission and broadband wireless access and has successfully deployed its industry leading point-to-point and point-to-multipoint packet radio systems worldwide. The company invests significantly in R&D developing cutting-edge products and integrated solutions. Over 100 customers in more than 70 countries choose Intracom Telecom for its state-of-the-art technology. The company operates subsidiaries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia and North America. For more information, visit www.intracom-telecom.com