Skip to main content

The 4 Vs of big data – Velocity, Variety, Volume and Veracity

14 June 2023
Peter van Hartingsveld

Trusted by:

Telecom Egypt
BC Hydro


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

Fast evolving networks yielding exponentially increasing amounts of critical operational data present both an opportunity and a serious management challenge for operators.

The 4 Vs of Big Data – Velocity, Variety, Volume and Veracity

Already inherently complex, telecom network are in a state of flux as they transition to a new era of mass communications that will be defined ubiquitous fiber, widespread 5G, and the Internet of Things. For their operators, changes related to network evolution present serious challenges which, as we’ll see, make it more important than ever that the master record of the network remains constant and up to date. 

Communications networks are comprised of a complex mix of assets ranging from physical and virtual elements to IT systems and beyond, none of which are static. Most often these are sourced from multiple vendors, operate across different domains, and involve different generations of technology working alongside each other. From the operator’s perspective, everything must be visible and understood if networks are to run efficiently, even as the component parts change rapidly. That’s why the master record is critical.

In this context, one of the most immediate problems operators face relates to data which, of course, is the “footprint” generated by assets within the network, as they perform their assigned functions. These assets are involved in delivering each service and in doing so they generate rapidly increasing volumes of data, most of which is scattered around the CSPs infrastructure and thus difficult to leverage. 

A significant proportion of this data relates to the operational status of these assets – and so this is essential to understanding network operations and delivering services. So, the relevant data – what we need for the accurate inventory of the network – needs to be brought into the master record – but not all operators are able to capture the right data that they need. 

That’s no longer tenable if operators are to deliver services efficiently (and profitably) – and to provide the performance customers expect. Managing this inventory data – it’s the cornerstone of the single source of truth operators require to manage their networks effectively – has become a foundational challenge they have to overcome.

Defining the 4 Vs

To understand the scope of the data problem, let’s backtrack. It’s a challenge characterized by what have become widely known as the “4 Vs” (a term coined by IBM). These are Volume, Velocity, Variety and Veracity. In the context of data, what do they mean?

Volume – The term “big data” itself is reference to volume. Given the explosion of new devices, endpoints and the supporting infrastructure required, the volume of data that’s available regarding network assets has exploded. Traditional network could cope with millions of connections- but now they may have to cope with many millions more endpoints, thanks to smart meters, new fiber routes and the devices associated with the IoT.. 

Velocity – Not only is there more data, but the speed at which it is generated and must therefore be processed is increasing too. Data is generated from network assets in real time and must be processed with the requisite speed to support operational agility. 

Variety – New sources of data are rife and they output in an increasing variety of format which makes the processes of collection and management increasingly difficult, particularly when taking velocity into account. And, some data is more important than others.

Veracity – To be useful data, must be both accurate and organized. For network operators, it’s impossible to accrue critical value from data if this isn’t the case or else to act on it.

Combined, and in simple terms, the 4 Vs characterize a landscape that challenges the effective management of the network itself.

vc4 big data

For Network Management, a Challenge

All data regarding network assets, resources, status and more provides foundational inputs for Network Management Systems (NMS) which, as a result, must be able to cope with the more dynamic landscape we’ve just described (as well as being able to keep up with future evolution and change). 

Furthermore, the NMS itself provides a resource that can be used by downstream data analytics platforms. The question for operators then is how to manage the data tsunami in an effective way? There’s an inventory of resources that have to be understood and handled dynamically. 

This challenge is primarily the responsibility of the Inventory Management System (IMS). If operators want their networks to perform optimally, the IMS is a critical bedrock. It yields the insights and information which allow numerous important questions to be answered and issues to be flagged up and resolved in areas such as resource planning, orchestration, service assurance, network configuration, and others.

The IMS contains information regarding assets that is essential to goals such as decreasing time for service restoration, optimizing network productivity, reducing network errors and issues, and ensuring service delivery to the required standards. The desired outcomes can’t be achieved without mastery of the underlying data.

For example, a use case – Smart Cities

Putting all this theory into practice let’s imagine a use case, for discussion’s sake the impact of deploying a smart city service. On the ground, this might require deploying monitors for streetlights, for waste collection, for air quality, and for other actions potentially involving thousands of new devices coming into play, most if not all of which will generate critical operational data, and all of which will be connected to the network which might mean more base stations and other network assets. While the service may depend on information such as whether a light is functioning, the network operator is concerned with data regarding the device status (in service or not), its location, the connectivity to reach it, service availability statistics and more – and so these need to be added to the inventory management system. 

For the operator, suddenly inventory has expanded significantly. Inventory systems will have to cope with these changes. If they don’t, accessing a single source of truth will remain out of reach. It’s the Inventory Management System that provides the pathway for the operator to access the required holistic view of the network, to more rapidly deploy new components, to more effectively leverage relevant network data, and to enhance network design and build.

Reconciling the Data

The inventory management challenge for operators could be defined roughly as how to maintain veracity with the growing volume, variety and velocity of data inputs that are relevant to network management. Note, veracity is the keyword. It’s a huge problem, particularly (though not only) one of scale.

The answer to addressing veracity lies in reconciliation, an underlying process of inventory management. We can understand it as the process of obtaining all data related to changes (additions, removals, and operations) in the network. With changes constantly happening, in order to maintain the necessary degree of operational awareness, the operator must be perpetually scanning for and collecting new data. 

This (data) is sourced from multiple levels ranging from the Network Management System (NMS) itself to every type of equipment that is (or might be) deployed. Reconciliation is central to turning the 4Vs into an operationally impactful outcome.

About VC4

VC4-IMS, the leading Network Inventory Management software solution brings clarity to the data you need regarding your assets and provides a foundation for ensuring that agility is achieved. VC4-IMS eliminates scattered data silos, unlocking a single, consolidated view. This eliminates operational friction and boosts efficiency. It offers the reconciliation you need to gather relevant data together and to cope with the 4 Vs.

VC4-IMS supports the full-service lifecycle, helping you to manage complex networks and plan investments more effectively for future evolution. It can help any network operator manage its infrastructure, connections, and customer relationships.

Supporting any generation of technology, VC4-IMS software helps operators to plan new investments more efficiently and seamlessly integrate operations, end-to-end. By bringing all data together, VC4-IMS is the foundation of operational excellence, providing:

•    Insight to drive optimization and performance
•    Integration to business processes
•    Frictionless automation and service delivery
•    Enhanced KPIs, costs management and financial performance