We're not gonna take it anymore!

Susana Schwartz
13 Oct 2008

It's no secret that network engineers base their equipment decisions on 'capability' rather than 'manageability.' They don't make purchase decisions based on the manufacturers that have the best OSS capabilities. But with all the whining about inflexible OSSs and uncommon data formats, it's a wonder service providers don't put their requirements in RFPs.

'Why can't it be the service providers that dictate the direction of management and structure of data‾' asks Nancee Ruzicka, senior research analyst with Stratecast.

The good news is that is exactly what some pioneering service providers are starting to do. Tier ones like BT, Telstra,Vodafone and Chunghwa Telecom are throwing their weight around to push network equipment vendors and OSS companies to 'listen' as opposed to 'dictate.' The bad news is that it will be a while before the rest of the industry has even a handful of standardized assurance mechanisms that make their lives easier.

Part of the problem is that it's scary to risk losing a vendor on top of whose equipment your services run. 'But, how likely is it equipment vendors would allow themselves to lose customers wanting a say in their future‾' ponders Ruzicka rhetorically.

In fact, it's already happening. 'We are pushing to get our vendors to provide us standardized interfaces, as we have to integrate fragmented data across applications and

Chunghwa Telecom: Calling the shots


network types,' says Victor Chiu, VP of Chunghwa Telecom's Telecom Laboratory.  'In the near future, we can no longer throw manpower at it.'

Sounds simple

It's already evident that customers often perceive better quality from one service provider over another, despite the fact both may offer the same commoditized product, with the same functions and performance results.

You cannot cast a wide enough net to please all of your customers all of the time. 'It's just not possible with the mushrooming number of changeable parts - northbound interfaces from the network; southbound info from the OSS/BSS about customers; data about user devices from the west; and data from third parties coming from the east. Then on top of that, you have the data from network, servers and databases,' says Ruzicka.

Rather, service providers should concentrate first on services that target their most profitable customers. That doesn't necessarily mean their biggest, but their most valuable. There is a difference. Rather than hoard mounds of data to later boil down to a customer service level, service providers have to look at the network through a customer-device view, as opposed to a switch view. The evolution of services and consequent customer expectations outpace the evolution of network management capabilities and operations support, which means the vice grip engineers have on the network has too loosen to even begin to think in the manner that a Chunghwa or BT does. To loosen that grip, there are several growing pains that must be experienced.

One of the first is gaining an understanding all the network equipment players. Where traditionally, service providers might have managed a thousands systems from a handful of network equipment players, nowadays that same thousand systems might come from dozens of different suppliers.

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