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One Database to Rule them all: The Telecom Inventory Database and its Role in Supporting Automation and Efficiency Optimisation

19 January 2022
Mike Dorland

Trusted by:

Telecom Egypt
BC Hydro


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

A comprehensive telecom inventory database is now indispensable for all operators and service providers. While the need for such a comprehensive view of inventory assets has been clear for some time, many operators are still wrestling with legacy systems that are no longer fit for purpose. That needs to change – read on for some key reasons why.

Databases are key assets that are essential for ensuring information is made accessible 

The telecoms inventory database has a fundamental role to play in network optimisation and transformation, but many operators run multiple systems and lack a single reference view.

As you probably know, databases are essential to the operations of any telecoms network – mobile, fixed, or virtual. That’s because they store information crucial to different processes for retrieval and use. And, with automated operations on the way, these databases will be key to enabling autonomous operation of business processes that will drive efficiencies and enhance service delivery for customers. 

As a side note, it’s worth noting that automation is increasingly viewed not just as a key tool for better service delivery, it’s also seen – by the GSMA, among many others – as a vital enabler for the path to sustainable networks[1], because tech such as AI, which is central to automation activities, has a role to play in driving operational efficiencies for energy consumption, among other areas. 

But we digress. So, it’s now clear that the instant availability of all relevant data is a prerequisite for future optimisation programmes – precisely because it needs to be available to AI-driven processes, as well as business workflows (service activation and billing, for example). The record of all network assets – the inventory – is one such register that needs to be maintained in a single database. The problem is that most networks suffer from the ‘data scatter’ problem. 

vc4 ims automation

Data scatter – the problem of silos 

For a variety of reasons, key network data has been held in different silos. It’s there, but isolated and unavailable to systems that need it – so, it’s an inherent barrier to any automation programme, as well as a drag on efficiency. This is particularly important when it comes to inventory data, which is essentially a complete picture of the entire network. 

Inventory is a particularly tricky problem, largely because the entirety of inventory has grown through time. Networks have been built over multiple generations, each of which requires new technology (and hence new equipment and infrastructure), to enable different kinds of service (often for the same customers, in parallel), as well as to extend to logical and virtual assets that are delivered over these physical layers. As a result, many operators have complex records of their inventory, that are not unified. 

Of course, different vendor solutions store their own data and, yes, that’s essential for their effective operation and for assurance, but they also need to share that data. Worse, for historic reasons, some records have been created manually, so the data relating to some systems resides in spreadsheets or in similar reports. Such records cannot be included in process automation activities. 

As a result, data is everywhere – but not necessarily where it’s needed. What’s needed is a single repository of all key network inventory data that can be used to support operational processes and performance assurance, as well as to unlock new levels of automation. We need one master telecom inventory database – to rule them all. 

How do you create a unified telecom inventory database? Federate and consolidate 

To achieve this, there are several approaches. First, federation provides a useful bridge. That is, we can create a means of extracting data when needed (and retaining it) but providing a single window through which this data can be obtained. The data remains where it is, but instead of corresponding directly with each system from every other system, all requests are made to the federation engine – it’s a sort of middleware approach. And it works – but it’s still not ideal. 

The ideal is to extract all relevant data and to store it in the master telecom inventory database, which then provides an accurate repository of everything that’s needed by other system, eliminating multiple records and any legacy manual reports. This eliminates the need for the federation platform to constantly check and refer to other systems each time a request for inventory information is made. Such a master database should also be accessible via APIs, so that it can deliver what’s needed, when it’s needed – supporting efforts to automate processes. Essentially, it consolidates all information, into a single repository. 

Of course, this database needs to be maintained, so one task for this master, consolidated inventory database is to ensure that it stays updated, automatically, by registering changes and adjusting accordingly, based on scheduled and real-time updates and data retrieval from the other systems: we can maintain data elsewhere, but we can also ensure that the master inventory record is accurate at any given moment. 

Do you suffer from data scatter? Let VC4 help 

But the fact is that many networks are some way from either approach. The data is there, but it hasn’t yet been federated or consolidated. As a result, operators lack this single view and cannot expose it to functions and processes that can benefit from it. 

If this sounds like your situation and if ‘data scatter’ is a familiar problem, we can help. We can provide you with a pathway to comprehensive data consolidation, via federation if you like, with the end result a complete, integrated telecom inventory database that is constantly updated, providing you with the information you need to support your evolution and transformation. 

Why don’t we take a look at your position and show you how we can solve the data scatter problem and provide you with the master telecom inventory database to rule them all that you need for your future operations?