Correlating physical and logical telecoms network inventory (and why it matters)

02 August 2021

Correlating physical and logical telecoms network inventory (and why it matters)

The effective correlation of physical inventory assets with logical resources is essential for the smooth operation of telecoms networks and for seamless service provisioning. With a vast new range of dynamic and differentiated services in sight, it’s even more important than ever to ensure that you have the consolidated data set and view across both.

Physical inventory assets are the foundation of the network

All telecoms services – whether for voice and data communications – ultimately depend on the physical infrastructure that is required for their delivery. A wireless service depends on base stations, which are connected to the core (well, that’s changing, as we move to disaggregated cores, but that’s another story, for another time), while a fiber service depends on the link between premises and cabinet (and much more – read on for more). Each of these last mile elements depends, in turn, on other infrastructure to which it is connected via other connectivity – whether wired or wireless.

In sum, we call these infrastructure components the physical network inventory. It needs to be deployed, installed and, in many cases, is the result of multi-year planning and rollout exercises. You need a complete record of what’s there, where is it, what capabilities it has, who’s using it, and so on.

But, all this physical infrastructure does nothing without services running across it. A fiber connection is just a length of (complex) glassware unless and until it is activated – moving from the dark to the light, so to speak. As soon as you turn on the network and start to provision users and the services you sell them, we must take into consideration another dimension: logical network inventory.

network layers

Correlating physical and logical assets

Logical inventory assets define services and their requirements

Logical telecoms network inventory is how we describe the assets that define a service. A 100Mb/s service to a household may use the same connectivity mode and infrastructure as a 1Gb/s service to a nearby business premise – apart from the last few meters, obviously. The physical inventory for each is similar, but the logical service that is enabled is different – and may also have very different operational parameters. So, an important task is to correlate logical services with the physical infrastructure that is required to deliver them.

This is true of wireless services. If we want to deploy cellular coverage, using 5G spectrum and with VoLTE voice for a given area, we need to plan the base station, connect it to other necessary assets, provide power (and backup power), and switch it on. The logical service – in this case, enhanced Mobile Broadband with voice – is delivered in the defined zone – and is preserved when users move to an adjacent zone that supports the same service. This service depends also on other elements – the mobile core, the VoLTE servers, the IMS and so on.

New and more complex services place new demands on physical infrastructure

But if we want to enable another kind of 5G service – such as Massive IoT, for example – then we need to configure our first base station to deliver the appropriate signals to radios in the vicinity. It may be that we don’t want all base stations to offer this new service, or it may be that we need one cell to cover a slightly larger area, so we increase the power or take some similar action. We need to know if we have capacity available to deliver this service alongside others, and we need to know when we need more physical assets to support increasing demand here and anywhere else where we wish to enable this service.

In any event, we must know something about the capabilities of the necessary physical assets (and where they are) in order to be able to turn on the service, whatever it is. There is no point in selling a 1Gb/s fiber service if the connection in place cannot support this. It probably can – but let’s look back along the chain.

Our fiber link will connect to a cabinet, which, in turn, connects to something else, all the way back to the fiber optic terminal and equipment that generates and controls the signal delivered. If we want to deliver this specific service, we need to know that ALL such elements are aligned and, crucially, that they are capable of delivering the new service. The same is true for any other service we seek to deliver over any of our physical inventory assets. For example, if there is no fiber connection to a property and the household wishes to order one, we need to check whether there is one nearby that can be used to support part of this connection.

Instant service delivery demands a consolidated view of logical and physical inventory

The point is that we need this information – instantly. To run the network effectively, to make changes and to provision new services for new or existing customers, we must be able to check that physical inventory is in place and that it can support a logical service. Do we have these? Where are they? Is there a gap, somewhere? Is there sufficient capacity to add the service or accommodate more users? Is a live service failing to meet demand?

The logical inventory, then is our record of the services we can deliver, the services we have active – wherever and to whomever they are delivered – the capacity available for new services, and so on. Can I add another broadband service using what’s there, or do I need new physical resources?

If operators want to sell digitally – as they most certainly do – and to remove (as far as is possible) the manual elements from service provisioning and delivery, the process of checking these variables must take place, instantly. The data relating to logical and physical inventory assets need to be accessible, from a single location, so that queries and answers can be generated, and assets correlated to determine whether the service can be delivered, or whether it requires some form of other work to complete the order.

The need for this kind of view has grown, dramatically – and is about to grow again. That’s because we’re entering an age of entirely new services which, instead of the traditional yearly or three-yearly contract plan, may be required for highly variable time periods. We may, for example, sell a service for a weekend to a business that requires extra capacity for an event, with enhanced performance requirements. Or, offer a new autonomous vehicle connectivity service, with all the complexity that entails.

Coming soon – dynamic, agile service provisioning and demand

This will happen at scale, so operators need a fully automated process for enabling customers to select (and specify – yes, they will have quite interestingly varied demands) from portals that, before the order is even complete, check that the service can be delivered and, when purchased, ensure that it is orchestrated correctly.

There are other dimensions to consider, too – such as virtual assets – but for now, we’ll stick with logical and physical concerns. Put simply, if you plan to sell new differentiated services while also delivering classical (or any other kind) services, with the agility and rapidity your customers need – and without driving up operational costs, incurring delays – and in a seamless, automated process, you need to ensure that your logical and physical inventories are accurate, aligned and can truly correlate, so your other systems and processes can get the information they need, when they need it.

That’s what CROSS does. CROSS provides a complete record of all logical and physical (and virtual) assets, based on a common data model that is accessible to any other process, so that the correlated, consolidated view you need to drive operational excellence is continuously available. And, because it automatically updates and stays abreast of changes, you can keep up and depend on this single source of truth.