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The Importance of the Network Inventory Management System in Network Planning

1 March 2023
Peter van Hartingsveld

Trusted by:

Telecom Egypt
BC Hydro


National Grid
Open Fiber
TPX Communications
Ella Link
Red Iris
Surf Net

Effective network planning is in part reliant on an effective network inventory management system. In this blog, we’ll look at how and why that’s the case.

What is Network Planning?

Essentially, it’s an iterative process the goal of which is to make sure that a communications network performs in an optimal way. At a high level, that means the network has the ability of the network to quickly and cost effectively meet the demands of both subscribers and the its operator. 

To achieve this, network planning encompasses the structure, design, and organization of the components that make up the network. It takes into account a variety of inputs related to transmission, switching, physical and logical network elements, routing paths, circuiting, and others in order to understand how the network operates, how it might be expanded, how it might be managed to increase performance and more, yielding insight into questions such as the best way to tackle:

•    Expanding coverage 
•    Guaranteeing quality of service
•    Adding resources where and when necessary
•    Improving operations and maintenance
•    Delivering upgrades and new service offers

…and many others.

Successful planning means that new elements, networks, or services can be rolled out seamlessly, expansion can occur where it’s needed rather than where it might not be, and new assets and infrastructure can be deployed in a cost-effective manner. Network Inventory Management enters the planning picture because a crucial ingredient in successful planning is an awareness of and ability to manage the network inventory itself.

How network inventory management helps network planning

So, in addition to its other roles or uses, network inventory management can be seen as an aid to network planning.

Let’s look at some examples of how this is the case:

•    As their customer bases grow, operators need to scale (and in some cases even re-design) their networks to keep up with user demand. To do this, they need to be able to access and understand information related to the elements in their current network, right down to cabling.

•    Networks use a great deal of hardware and software (and network planners may want to add more). With sufficient visibility and regulation, not only can their performance be optimised but maintenance and updates can be reduced. Without the insights provided by inventory management, higher costs will follow.

•    Cabling is the foundation stone of service delivery and performance. Understanding this and having a view of it is critical to both improving network speed and performance and identify and resolving security issues. And, of course, if the network expands in future the starting point for planners will be understanding the cabling picture that exists today. To some extent, you can think of cabling as an asset to be managed.

•    Security, mentioned briefly above, is a primary concern for all operators today. Mitigating threats to the network – whether through avoiding attacks by fraudsters or simply threats due to fire or other physical breaches – may require backup power or involve other steps that require knowledge of what resources are available in the existing network.

vc4 network planning

In various ways, effective network inventory management contributes to decreasing time for service restoration, optimizing network productivity, reducing network errors and issues, and ensuring service delivery to the required standards. These are issues of concern not just to network managers but to network planners too.
Inventory management enters the planning picture

So, exactly where does inventory management enter the planners’ picture? Answer: at the start because most likely, without inventory management solutions, network planning would be a piecemeal process that resulted in a lower-performing network that failed to meet the performance requirements of either operators or their customers.

Network Inventory Management solutions enable operators to gain clarity into their assets and operations, helping them to achieve the desired Return on Investment.

There are a number of ways this is achieved to the benefit of network planners and managers, including:

1.    To plan and manage their networks, operators must be able to view a comprehensive picture of all their physical, logical and virtual network resources. If they can’t “see” their assets, it follows that they won’t be able to maximise their performance.

2.    Networks are becoming more complex: multi-vendor and multi-domain. And they’re still expanding, with new assets and technologies that need to be onboarded driven by the planning process. This complexity has to be managed but first it has to be understood. Network inventory management enables in both cases.

3.    Planning involves the design of end-to-end networks and must take into account their need to be managed based on accurate and real-time knowledge of resource availability. Here, planning and inventory management go hand-in-hand. 

4.    Operators must be able to (and planners seeks to ensure) the rationalization of network costs while simultaneously ensuring stable performance. Neither can be achieved without network inventory management.

VC4-IMS network inventory management software is critical

VC4-IMS is a leading example of network inventory management software. It uses a rigorous set process to collect raw data from data from multiple endpoints in the network, then normalizes and reconciles it. 

As a result, VC4-IMS delivers a critical, panoramic view all physical and logical resources in the network giving the operator a clear, unified understanding of live network assets, and their utilization and configuration at any given time. The platform can also be integrated into the network itself to perform auto-provisioning (service fulfilment) which facilitates building and rolling out services in the network.