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Automation needs accurate and complete data to work properly

Carrier networks are becoming increasingly complex, driven by the shift to software defined networking (SDN), network functions visualization (NFV) and cloud. Network operations teams struggle to keep pace with this change while simultaneously maintaining customer quality of experience (QoE) and driving out operations costs. It is now well accepted that automating operations processes is essential to the long-term success of these networks.

The reality of most carrier networks is that they have evolved through several technology cycles and grown through acquisition. It is not uncommon for carriers to have more than nine separate inventory systems—none of which are connected. At the same time, these inventory systems often have incorrect or missing data—some surveys indicate an average of 16%. Getting a single view of the network and service inventories and correcting the inaccurate information will be essential for automation. Working with incomplete or flawed data will lead to inconsistent or incorrect actions.

But, getting a consolidated view of network and services inventories is hard. There have been many attempts to federate inventory systems—most have failed. In fact, the same Heavy Reading survey indicates that as many as 71% of these projects failed, and a great cost to the operators.

However, there are some successful implementations of inventory unification: federation. EXFO has successfully federated the service and network inventories of tier 1 carriers in North America, Europe and Asia. EXFO’s Nova Context is the only solution today that has demonstrated the ability to federate network and service inventories into a single view that can then be leveraged by other systems for critical activities like end-to-end path computation or automated route-cause analysis. Nova Context is unique in that it use graph database technology along with a proprietary semantic inference engine to build a federated model of all inventories. It should be noted that Nova Context does not replace any inventory systems, rather it provides unified model of them, giving the operator a single “pane of glass” view of their end-to-end, top-to-bottom. At the same time, its semantic inference rules detect missing or inaccurate information in the various inventory systems and suggest the most likely corrective actions to resolve them. Using this system, a tier 1 Asian carrier improved the accuracy of their inventories from 70% to over 90%.

A particular benefit of Nova Context is its ability to autonomously create this end-to-end model of the network and services. Once connectivity has been established to the source inventories and the semantic rules have been established to adapt Nova Context to the specific carrier environment, the system builds and maintains the model automatically. If new inventory data is added that Nova Context does not understand or have a rule for, it automatically flags it so that additional rules can be added. The entire process of getting a complete, federated end-to-end view of network and services can be completed in a few months, rather than years.

One of the benefits of having a single end-to-end view of the network and services is the ability to quickly put service impacting events into context with the entire network. Outages that typically would have required several key subject matter experts to stop their regular tasks and join a war room exercise to identify the root cause—an activity that typically takes about seven hours—can now be identified automatically within minutes, saving the carrier significant time, revenue and operations expenses, not to mention avoiding SLA penalty fees. But perhaps more importantly, it helps carriers keep their customers happy and lowers the risk of churn.

Additional benefits of Nova Context’s ability to provide a federated view of network and services include:

  • A real-time, cross-domain service topology spanning legacy, physical, logical and virtual service components
  • A complete view of service elements, at all layers in the infrastructure for monitoring and root-cause analysis
  • The topology view to support visualization, troubleshooting, workflow and data alignment for the network operations center (NOC), service operations center (SOC) and care systems
  • An automated way to overlay performance data to the related topology, to see the dependencies between QoS and QoE, the customer impact and root cause
  • Close integration with the OSS/BSS—required for functions such as order and ticket management
  • A high degree of automation in virtualized environments driven by higher quality data within each environment on a range of sources (VIMs, orchestrators, data center management and the OSS)

Automation is essential for managing today’s virtual, hybrid and cloud networks. However, automation also demands accurate and complete network and service inventory data to function properly. Federating these inventories is a very difficult task due to the dynamic nature of the information—especially in today’s software-based networks that enable massive growth of new services—the inherent inaccuracy in these inventory systems and the fact that these inventories were never designed to be federated. EXFO’s Nova Context solves this problem by federating inventories through a unique graph-based model of the entire end-to-end network and through semantic inferences that can fill the gaps in the various inventories and highlight inconsistences that require manual intervention to correct. The result is a single, unified view of the entire network that becomes a platform for enabling the automation innovation required for long-term growth and success.

To learn more about why automated operations and service assurance demand clean and complete network and service inventories, and how EXFO’s Nova Context delivers on this need, download the white paper The need for a single version of "data truth" in next-generation networks.

1 June 2019 Heavy Reading survey sponsored by EXFO