Network operations centres (NOC’s) have been around since the early 1960’s; operators would monitor the status of switchboards for the most important toll switches and routing information. In essence, this was the earliest form of network performance management within telecoms. Over the past 50 years NOC’s have changed a lot, but network performance management has always remained a focal point. However, as operators embrace a new, service-centric approach to managing their networks, is it time for network performance management to kick the bucket?
From network-centric to service-centric operations
As the telecommunications market has become saturated, operators have embraced new ways to differentiate. For many, this differentiation comes in the form of better service quality and improved customer experience management. However, old operational models have made this a challenge; whilst customer-facing teams are predominantly service led, network-focused teams have been technology-led, and now face several hurdles to becoming truly service-centric.
Traditional operational models have built specialised silos for each network domain and network technology. Each silo has its own team of engineers, processes and its own toolsets. To transition to service-centric operations, these silos must be broken down, and to do this, a completely new approach to network operations is required, commonly termed as OSS transformation. This involves an overhaul of outdated processes, organisational structures and OSS tools; including network performance management!
The rise of the Service Operations Centre (SOC)
As part of the OSS transformation to service-centric operations, network operators are embracing the concept of the Service Operations Centre (SOC). In comparison to the NOC, the SOC will consolidate network management tools such as performance management and fault management solutions, and introduce a single end-to-end application that is utilised by a team of specialist engineers. This end-to-end approach will then enable network engineers to monitor the performance of an entire service, rather than the isolated network domains that it is delivered across. SOC engineers rapidly correlate service performance thresholds alerts, network element fault alarms and probing data to quickly locate existing and potential issues, and prioritise workload based upon service impact.
This marks the end of individual performance management tools for individual network domains or technologies. But it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of performance management.
Network performance management hasn’t died, its evolved
Although isolated network performance management tools and processes have been phased out, network performance management still exists. After all, operators still need to understand how their networks perform, whether it be to identify blackspots, track dropped call rates or highlight congested trunk routes. But instead of looking at this information in isolation, operators now need to look at this with respect to a service. For example, if a 4G blackspot is identified, network engineers need to correlate that to users subscribed to mobile 4G services, and identify if the blackspot actually impacts these subscribers or not. This type of analytics in now beginning to take place within the SOC, utilising a centralised end-to-end operational intelligence system. In effect, these solutions offer the functionality of traditional silo’d tools such as network performance management solutions, but with enriched data, enabling an end-to-end, service orientated view.
So, there is no denying that the old, isolated network performance management tools are on their way out, but performance management is not dead, and still plays a major role in delivering a superior service. The functionality of the old operational tools (e.g. network performance management, fault management, service assurance etc.) has now been absorbed into the next generation of telecoms operations technology, delivering service-centric performance management.