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September 2008

Operation Support Systems & Business Support Systems: An Overview


By Ravi Sharda

1. Overview
Before the initial 1970s, most of the support activities in a telephone company such as taking orders, maintaining network inventory, provisioning services (for example, line assignment and testing), configuring network components, managing faults and collecting payments were performed manually. It was realized that many of these activities could be replaced by computers. In the next few years, a number of computer systems and software applications were created to automate these activities. Examples include TIRKS, RMAS, SES, etc. Thus came the term Operations Support Systems (OSS). OSS are network systems dealing with the communications network and supporting processes such as maintaining network inventory, provisioning services, configuring network components, managing faults. Business Support Systems (BSS) is a newer term and typically refers to business systems dealing with customers and support processes such as taking orders, processing bills, collecting payments, sales and marketing, supporting customer care agents in response to service requests, trouble reporting and billing inquiries, etc. OSS and BSS systems together are often abbreviated as BSS/OSS or B/OSS. The term OSS was historically used to include both network and business systems. Some industry analysts, system integrators and service providers still use the term OSS to include both network and business systems, which sometimes causes confusion. This article provides an overview of some of the core areas in OSS & BSS such as Order Fulfillment, Service Assurance and Billing systems. The following BSS/OSS systems are covered: Order Fulfillment Order Management, Service Provisioning and Inventory Management Service Assurance - Fault & Trouble Management, Network Performance Management, Topology & Configuration Management, Planning & Testing Billing - Billing Mediation, Rating, Billing Systems, Interconnection Billing, Revenue Assurance

The article explains some of the basic functions of these systems, flow and some of the products available from OSS/BSS vendors. It then provides an overview on some of the available standards in OSS/BSS such as Telecommunications Management Network (TMN) Model, Enhanced Telecommunications Operations Map (eTOM), OSS Through Java (OSS/J) initiative, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), etc. Terms marked with suffix * are explained in the Terms section. References list out the references used in the article as well as others for the readers reference.

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2. The Realm of OSS/BSS in Order Fulfillment, Assurance and Billing


2.1. Order Fulfillment
Communications products/services could range from Voice services to IP and Data services to Hosting and CPE services. Some of the examples of communications products/services are: Voice Basic telephony, long distance, toll-free, Voice over IP (VoIP), Contact Center, Local Access, etc. Internet Protocol (IP) Internet Access, VPN, Contact Center, VoIP, Remote Access, etc. Data Layer 1 Wide Area Network (WAN) Services such as SONET*, Layer 2 WAN services such as ATM, Frame Relay, Private Lines, Layer 2 VPN and Metro Ethernet, etc. Hosting Custom Application Environments, Disaster Recovery, Managed Services such as storage, security and network services, Web Site Hosting, etc.

Order Fulfillment functions are a critical set of activities performed in order to fulfill customer orders for services in a Communications Service Provider (CSP)*. Figure 1 shows a high-level Order Fulfillment activity flow in a typical CSP environment.

Order Management
Validate & Submit Order

Service Provisioning & Inventory Management

Enter Order

No Yes Circuit Design Activate Service/ Circuit

Put Details to Inventory

Order Valid? No Facilities Available? Send Order Rejection Yes No Decompose Order Procure & Commission Test Results Passed? Yes Test Perform End to End Test No Integrate & Test

Test Results Passed?

Yes Initiate Customer Testing & Acceptance

Figure 1 Order Fulfillment Flow After order entry, validation and submission, orders are decomposed and sent for provisioning. Upon fulfilling the decomposed orders and appropriate testing of the

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circuits, the orders are put into inventory. The following sub-sections explain the Order Fulfillment related functions and OSS/BSS systems. 2.1.1. Order Management

Order Management systems are complex systems that allow customer or customer service representatives to capture and process new orders, modify existing orders, process customer moves and changes, price quotes and orders, validate orders, etc., while supporting multiple channels such as Web, Order template documents and partner applications as well as multiple lines of businesses. Order Management includes the following areas: Order Entry and validation The Order Entry process captures order details such as package or plan, service address, service details, customer accounts, relevant contacts and applicable contracts. Data entered during Order Entry is also validated against predetermined rules. Orders can be validated as the data is entered and/or validation after all the data has been entered. Products/solutions that validate order data as they are entered and walk the user through the product configuration process are known as Product Configurators. One of such tools available in the market is Selectica COnfigurator. Order Decomposition A single customer order can be decomposed into one or more service requests, typically based on service types or quantities, in order to be able to fulfill an order. For example, if a customer order contains both a VoIP order and a phone line order, two service requests would be created, one each for VoIP and the phone line, each of which would be sent to the appropriate provisioning systems. One of the major problems service providers often grapple with is that, as new services are added to the offerings, led by different business units, the lack of flexible order management platform results in product/service specific OSS/BSS applications. These in turn result in higher time-to-market as well as increased costs of maintaining many different applications and systems. Product catalog based Order Management solutions attempt to solve these problems by storing and processing qualification rules for services based on customer profiles, ordering channels, service locations, product interdependencies, availability, customer eligibility and other business constraints. One of the solutions available offered in this area is IBM Websphere Product Center. Vendors/products in the Order Management area include: MetaSolv (Priorly Architel and Nortel) Order Management System (OMS) Lucent Arbor Order Manager Oracle Order Manager (part of the e-Business CRM suite) IBM Websphere Product Center NTG Clarity Unified Service Ordering ConceptWave Order Care Suite

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2.1.2.

Service Provisioning

Service Provisioning systems are systems used to setup products/services for the customer after an order for the services has been created and accepted by the CSP. Service provisioning activities include specifying the pieces of equipment and parts of the network to fulfill the service, configuring the customers routing path, allocation of bandwidth in the transport network, setting up of wiring and transmission, etc. Some of the systems that constitute provisioning systems are: Circuit Design & Assignment Tools, Activation systems, and Field Service Management systems. Circuit design refers to specifying whether facilities exist to provide the service and which pieces of the network equipment and routes the service shall utilize. One of the most widely used systems providing Circuit Design facility is Telcordia TIRKS. Apart from Circuit Design support, it also provides circuit order control, inventory record maintenance, selection and assignment of components from inventory, and preparation and distribution of circuit work orders. The order control module in TIRKS works with a circuit provisioning system and operates in conjunction with other TIRKS components to assign facility and equipment information for circuit orders and design circuits. TIRKS can then provide automated design criteria for certain circuit orders. The circuit design generated in TIRKS is then communicated to field operations or automated activation systems for implementation. Circuit Design and Assignment tools these days often have graphical tools that allow a user to create services on a network map using mouse clicks and drag-and-drop rather than drawing maps by hand or using an abstract set of equipment identifiers displayed in a table. After a service is designed based on the existing equipment and circuit inventory, it is ready to be activated. If new equipment or lines need to be configured manually, a Field Service Management (FSM) system is notified which in turn dispatches technicians. Moreover, certain activations can be performed automatically. For example, issuing commands to ATM* or circuit switches to provision circuits, to SONET* terminals to allocate bandwidth, and to a wide array of access devices such as DSLAMS*, Digital Loop Carriers (DLC)*, or cable modems. For such activations, Service Activation systems pass the device specific commands and configuration changes to the network elements, Element Management Systems (EMS)*, Network Management Systems (NMS)* or application hosts. EMSs* are designed to receive and execute commands sent by activation systems on the devices. EMSs* can also feed equipment status data back to network and trouble management systems. EMSs* use protocols such as Common Management Information protocol (CMIP) or Transaction Language (TL)* or Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to communicate with activation and other systems. Activation systems often comprise a library of adapters to various network systems. They usually also support transaction control, i.e. the capability to roll-back operations already performed, in case an error occurs. Some of the Activations Systems are: Ericsson SOG (Service Order Gateway)

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Nortel ASAP (Automated Service Activation Platform) Oracle SFM (Service Fulfillment Manager, part of the e-Business suite) Ehpt Service Initiator

It should be noted that Provisioning systems interact with the Inventory systems, both to verify that the required network elements and other facilities are available, and once the resources are provisioned - to reflect the changed on-line configuration of the facilities. Therefore, provisioning systems have close channels with inventory systems. As a result, some vendors such as Axiom, Xenicom, Cramer and Granite have combined workflow capabilities with inventory management capabilities in their products. 2.1.3. Inventory Management

Tracking inventory involves tracking equipment, facilities and circuits. Some examples of information tracked are: the location and quantities of the equipment, how a piece of equipment is configured and its status, etc. Inventory Management Systems track both the physical network assets (such as equipment and devices) as well as logical inventory (such as active ports, circuit ids, IP addresses, etc.), although not all support both. By relating usage of network assets to specific customers and services, an inventory system can help network operations determine the network usage and available capacity as well as enable automated network design and planning. Inventory Management Systems also enable Service Assurance systems to find the impact of a network fault on the customers circuits. Some tools also have auto-discovery features to automatically check physical network assets and match the results with the information held in the inventory. However, these work only with some of the newer intelligent network elements. Some of the vendors and their products include: Granite Systems Xpercom Cramer Systems Dimension Telcordias TIRKS Visionaels ServiceBase

2.2.

Service Assurance

Communications service providers (CSP) strive to differentiate themselves from their competitors by implementing attractive Service Level Agreements (SLA). SLAs are formal contracts where the level of service delivered by the CSP to his customer is stipulated. An SLA may specify levels of service availability, performance, operation, etc. as well as penalties upon violation of the SLA. Offering SLAs implies that the service provider has the ability to monitor, act and report the level of service, in order to assure the quality of services delivered to the customers. Service Assurance refers to all the activities performed for such an

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assurance. The goal of Service Assurance is to provide an optimal customer experience, that helps retain existing customers, attract new customers and prevent penalties arising out of violation of SLAs. The following sub-sections introduce some of the common service Assurance systems. 2.2.1. Fault & Trouble Management

Fault Management Systems are designed for detection, isolation and correction of malfunctions in a communications network. They monitor and process network alarms* generated by network elements (routers, switches, gateways, etc.). An alarm* is a persistent indication of a fault that is cleared only when the triggering condition is resolved. Examples of trouble or fault in a network are damage to an optical fiber line, switch failure, etc. Such a problem in the network can result in a chain reaction where many network elements in a certain path produce alarms*. Fault Management Systems may be either a component within Network Management Systems or as a standalone set of system and application software. Figure 2 illustrates how Fault Management Systems work.

Service Management Layer


Trouble Ticketing System

* Trouble ticket rule definition * Trouble ticket creation based on alarms * Trouble ticket grouping and distribution

Network Management Layer


Fault Management Systems Alarm Handlers Network Management Systems

* Event conversion to Common Alarm Object, Alarms Correlation, suppression, and Root Cause Analysis. * Alarms Ticketing Rules monitoring. * Alarms GUI monitoring

Element Management Layer


EMS A EMS Z * Collect event alarms via SNMP traps or polls and forward to NML * Low level event correlation. * Low level event enhancement

Network Element Layer


IP Network * Network Element such as switch or router, generate events via SNMP, TL1, or by Poll

ATM/Frame Network

DSLAM

Figure 2 Fault Management Systems

Network Elements* are designed to provide various levels of self-diagnosis. Older Network Elements* might simply send an alarm* notifying a problem while newer Network Elements can provide more precise and detailed messages. Fault Management Systems may collect alarms* via SNMP traps, CMIP events or

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proprietary agents, via EMS*. They use complex filtering systems to assign alarms* to specific severity levels and correlate different alarms* to locate the source and cause of a problem. After a problem is identified, the FMS then notifies appropriate network operators as well as pass the problem information to a Trouble Management System that in turn logs the problem and issues a trouble ticket to start the repair process. The Trouble Management System then sends commands to appropriate systems such as Field Service Management to schedule and dispatch technicians to repair the equipment and/or to EMS* to reroute network traffic around the problem areas. Trouble Management systems also handle automatic escalation, such as progression of a ticket from minor to major or major to critical, etc., and support a variety of notification methods such as paging, emails, synthesis voice dial-out. Fault Management systems usually provide graphical network displays which are projected on large screens at the Network Operations Centres (NOC). NOC operators can see role-based views on their consoles, shortcuts to operations they perform the most as well as tools to quickly make connections to EMS* to perform any testing or diagnostic operation. Popular fault management systems include: 2.2.2. Micromuse Netcool/Omnibus (also marketed as Ciscos Cisco Info Center) HP Open-View and TeMIP Agilent OSI NetExpert Riversoft OpenRiver Network Performance Management

Performance Management components in NMS* and other Alarm Handlers monitor applications and systems and collect performance variables of interest at specified intervals. Performance variables of interest may be service provider network edge availability, customer premises availability, response times, packet delivery rate, packet losses, latencies, jitters and out of sequence packet reorder, etc., to name a few. One way to capture performance metrics is collecting event logs, CDRs and other performance data such as counters or timers that the network and system elements maintain as part of their normal operation. This is referred to as passive measurement. Performance data is captured by polling MIB* using SNMP or using syslog*, (I & II), FTP, EMS* feeds, etc. Most passive measurements report on a single network element. For example, an Ethernet Switch may have a MIB* which provides in and out data volumes of each port, histograms of frame sizes, number and types of erroneous frames, central processing unit (CPU) busy status. Associated Remote Monitoring (RMON) MIB*-type data can then list ten most active users, etc. Performance Management tools can access the data by using SNMP to poll the MIBs* at predefined intervals. Statistics on performance variables can also be captured via dedicated network appliances known such as probes and sniffers that monitor or probe customers

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local loop* connections, packet performance, etc. This form of performance testing is usually referred to as active testing. Packet sniffers typically monitor signaling protocols such as SIP and RTP by inspecting packets on the wire/fiber, using pings, DNS, FTP, HTTP fetches, etc. Examples include WireShark and Geoprobes. Probes such as Brix Networks BrixWorks Verifiers and Tektronix/Minacom IVR tools typically emulate customer traffic in order to test or probe specific paths to measure the quality of the services supported. Probes could be either placed into the network or could be built into network elements* such as in the case of Ciscos IP Service Level Agreements tools. Note that active measurement measures a service, such as application response time, instead of the internal operation of a network element. An example of active network performance test is injecting ping (short, network layer echo packet) into the network aimed at a remote IP address. Round-trip time is measured if the ping packet returns, and an error counter is incremented if it doesnt. Performance statistics captured by active or passive performance tests are normalized and routed to relational databases and/or data-warehouses. An alternative is to pass the performance data directly to Performance Management tools. For example, Concord eHealth could collect performance statistics from Netcool agents via SNMP polls at a pre-defined interval. Performance statistics are initially analyzed to determine the normal (baseline) levels. Appropriate thresholds are determined for each of the interesting performance variable so that exceeding the thresholds indicates a problem. Performance Management tools then measure the performance variables against SLAs defined as thresholds per application or service, on an on-going basis. In case of exceptions they report them to alarm handlers. This form of performance monitoring is reactive performance monitoring. Some tools also support proactive monitoring by way of providing simulation tools that helps network operators project how growth in network traffic will affect performance metrics and plan to take proactive countermeasures such as increase capacity. Performance Management tools may also support real-time and historical reporting. Some CSPs have taken performance statistics of the network affecting customers circuits to their customer self-service portals. Some of the products widely accepted in the Performance Management area include: Lucent VitalSuite Ericsson Net-Tuner ADC Metrica InfoVista Brix Networks BrixWorx (Software) and Verifiers (Hardware) Computer Associates eHealth Unicenter NetMaster Network Management

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2.2.3.

Topology & Configuration Management

Older networks and systems were static and the network wiring was fixed in place, and sometimes required long outages while changes to the network and its configuration were being made. Any error or inconsistency in the configuration files of different network devices caused problem, and therefore these changes were well controlled [3]. According to [3], with the rise of IP-based, dynamically routed networks, network topologies started becoming dynamic. The topology of the network became dynamic because a few of routers might decide, on their own, to shift routing patterns, or because a network operator group might add a new router or switch to the network, possibly without everyone else in the network operations center being aware of the changes. Instead of static associations between users and network addresses (as was set in the old hosts file), DHCP and other techniques allowed users to appear, move, and disappear without providing prior notice to the network administration. Most major NMSs therefore provide capabilities to automatically discover a networks actual topology, which is critical to understand network performance or root cause of network alarms*, etc. Probes are placed into the network to automatically find devices and circuits. Also, most network elements* provide MIBs* that can be polled via SNMP to discover the network, although discovering the network topology in its entirety may not be guaranteed. Backup paths, virtual private networks, MPLS, etc., can make it very difficult to discover actual paths, through multiplexed* links, patch panels, and test equipment [3]. Also, most Topology Management Systems allow the network operator to provide hints so that the system, for instance, in order that the system can ignore certain portions of the network. This makes it easier to discover relevant portions of the network more accurately. Some service providers may run network discovery routines on a daily basis to discover any unauthorized changes to the network topology as a result of security intrusions or unplanned insertion of devices. Moreover, network elements and computer systems have a variety of version information associated with them. For example, a workstation may have: Operation System, version 32, Ethernet Interface, version 5.4, TCP/IP Software, version 2.0 and SNMP Software, version 3.1. Since multiple engineers/network operators work on making changes to the network equipment, tracking the changes manually would be very tedious and error-prone. Configuration Management tools help automates the tracking of the changes. Configuration Management systems store the configurations in a database or LDAP server for easy access. They also enable network operators to change configurations of the network elements as well as to roll back a change to a previous configuration, if required. When a problem in the network occurs, network operators often search the Configuration Management database for clues that can help solve the problem. Configuration management vendors/tools include: CA Concord Aprisma TripWire

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2.2.4.

AlterPoint Opsware Rendition Visionael Planning & Testing

Network Planning solutions help determine when a communication network needs an upgrade or additional equipment as well as to predict the impact of changes to a service providers networks topology, configuration, traffic and technology. They provide simulation tools that help the network operators to project how growth in network traffic will affect the network performance. Based on the results and other planning activities, network operators can take countermeasures such as increase capacity. Testing is an important activity in setting up a network or customer circuits. For simplicity in understanding the gamut of testing activities, let us divide them into the following: 1. Testing of existing network or a change 2. Integration testing of services configured for the customer 3. End-to-end testing of services configured for the customer Testing the entire network platform - including the equipment, services and call quality is critical for assessing the system prior to deployment and for service assurance in production environments [4]. Network testing tools usually simulate a production environment and generate synthetic voice, video and data traffic, which helps measure call/data quality, network performance, and the affects of any changes to the network or increasing traffic or adding new applications. These tests typically include tests like DNS, HTTP, RTP, Ping, etc. Also, during ongoing operations, these testing tools enable active testing of facilities. Some of the tools available are from vendors such as Brix Networks, Concord Communications, Viola Networks, InfoVista, PROGNOSIS, Micromuse, Cisco Systems and NetIQ. Another form of testing is integration testing of network setup for the customer, i.e., routes, circuits, etc. configured for a customer. Network operators or field engineers perform integration testing of services upon completion of activations and other provisioning activities. Field engineers typically use equipment and network element specific applications to perform integration testing. Upon completion of integration testing, field operations teams are notified to perform end-to-end testing. End-to-end testing includes testing of circuits, both within the CSPs network as well as local access* circuits between the CSP and the customer premises. Some service providers use craft access systems for the benefit of field technicians access to their internal systems through a hand held terminal [5]. The hand held terminal helps them to access loop testing system and to view the complete test summary from remote locations.

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2.3.

Billing

IDC [6] defines Billing as: the processing and compiling of charges and enabling of revenue collection for network usage, feature transactions, and access charges of the services. Figure 3 depicts a simple billing flow:

Customer Makes a Call Switch

Call data is collected Billing Mediation Other Service Providers

Calls rated for billing CDR/IPDR Call data is stored Rating Interconnection Billing

Billing Invoicing Billing is run

Figure 3 Billing Flow

The following sub-sections explain the systems depicted in the figure and the flow. 2.3.1. Billing Mediation

Mediation systems collect network usage data from the network elements and convert to billable statistics. Traditionally for phone calls, Call Detail Records (CDR) have been used to record the details of the circuit-switched phone call. CDR includes information on start time of call, end time of call, duration of call, originating and termination numbers. CDRs are stored until a billing cycle runs. For IP Based Services, a new standard is gaining acceptance called Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR). IPDR supports both voice and data. Billing systems use mediation output to determine charges for the customers. It is also used to feed other downstream applications such as Fraud and Churn Management. Market leading mediation product vendors include: Comptel XACCT HP Smart Internet Usage

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2.3.2.

Ehpt BMP Rating

Rating systems calculate the charge for an individual call, IP usage event, etc. using the CDRs/IPDRs. Rating systems apply charges based on pre-configured pricing rules, applicable discounts and rebates from promotions. This rating process has grown increasingly complex in recent years. In older times, it was solely a matter of taking the length of the call, assigning a price based on the mileage band (calculated by cross-referencing the prefix of the originating and terminating numbers in a table of values), and assigning discounts based on the time of day (peak, evening, night), day of the week, and holidays. Modern rating systems can assign discounts based on calling circles, provide flexible rating plans based on size of accounts and increase switching costs [2]. These serve as strategic marketing tools but can be very complex to administer and operate. 2.3.3. Billing Systems

Billing systems aggregate rated calls, IP/data usage events, etc. and calculate customer invoices. In the United States, billing is usually performed once a month. Billing systems combine rated records with prior balance information, payment records, recurring charges (such as line rentals), one-time fees (such as installation and service charges), promotions and discounts associated with the customer account, taxes and credits. Overnight billing batch jobs are among the largest batch environment at a CSPs operating environment. Each customer is assigned a specific billing cycle. According to Insight [2], the holy grails of the billing industry are unified billing and convergent billing. With unified billing, a customer gets a single bill for all services provided (or billed) by the service provider, appropriately rated, discounted, and taxed, and a single contact for inquiries and negotiation. Some of the main vendors and products in the area of rating and billing are: 2.3.4. Lucent Arbor Billing Platform Amdoc Internet Administration Framework (IAF) Portal Softwares Infranet Geneva AMS Tapestry Interconnection Billing

In the competitive world of communications, service providers often tie-up with partners, in order to bundle their own products with their partners. This helps the service providers to provide attractive bundles of products and services. However, in order to successfully settle interconnect billing settlements an effective Interconnection Billing is required. Interconnection Billing products support inter-working of a service providers billing systems with the corresponding systems of another service provider, based on interconnect agreements and contracts.

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Some of the products in this area are: 2.3.5. InterconnecT from Intec Systems Ltd. These also contain Application Network Operator Prospero from ICL INCA from BT Revenue Assurance

Revenue Assurance & Fraud Management systems verify billing, detect and identify unauthorized usage of service provider network assets. Some of the kinds of frauds are Usage and Subscription. Usage Fraud means that a customer uses the telecommunications network illegally. This is accomplished either by obtaining a service with no intent to pay or by obtaining unauthorized access to the network (i.e. hacking or cracking). Fraud Management systems typically detect and prevent unauthorized access to a communications network by analyzing traffic patterns on the network. Some examples are provided in [8]: One technique involves analyzing the average call duration or the number of calls placed to foreign countries to determine whether the traffic patterns are consistent with a subscriber's call history or pattern. If a call is inconsistent with the subscriber's call pattern profile, the subscriber is provided with a report of the abnormal call activity. Other methods for dealing with the problem of unauthorized use involve automatically denying or blocking access to the network when abnormal use is detected to minimize the subscriber's financial loss.

Subscription fraud means that a customer obtains a service account by giving a false identity (name and/or SSN) or by giving a false address or false credit worthiness. Detecting subscription fraud involves searching recent order and existing customer data for multiple orders and/or accounts with the same customer name, SSN, or service address. Common subscription fraud patterns include Change of billing address within a few weeks of opening an account. Substantial deviation of usage profile of a new user from an average new user.

Common techniques to control subscription based fraud include threshold based analysis, inference rules analysis, profile based analysis such as habitual user profiles and neural networks. Fraud Management Systems typically read and store usage data from the service providers network switching equipment and allows queries to be executed against the data that detect suspicious usage patterns. They also allow operators to review customer accounts that have suspicious activity, to track their investigation and record the final case resolution. One of the available tools in this area is SAS Fraud Management.

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It should be noted that fraud is different from revenue leakage. Revenue leakage is characterized by the loss of revenues resulting from operational or technical loopholes where the resulting losses are sometimes recoverable and generally detected through audits or similar procedures [1]. Fraud, on the other hand, is characterized with theft by deception, typically characterized by evidence of intent where the resulting losses are often not recoverable and may be detected by analysis of calling patterns. Another important class of Revenue Assurance tools includes Churn Management tools. Churn management is an important area for service providers that have subscription-based business - due to price wars, aggressive marketing and promotions from competing service providers, and customers expectations related to customer service. Churn Management tools provide functions such as automated behavior analysis, forecasting and simulation, empirical profiling, churn metrics capture, that enable service providers to learn which customers are likely to leave and take appropriate countermeasures. Some of the tools/vendors in this area are: HP Oneview Churn Management Amdocs CGI Churn Management

2.4.
2.4.1.

Standards & Protocols


Telecommunications Management Network (TMN) Logical Model

To survive in a highly innovative and competitive communications market, service providers must use a robust architecture for network and service management. TMN was formed with an aim to provide such an architecture framework. It was defined by ITU-T (International Telecommunications Union Telecommunications Services Sector). TMN provides a framework that helps service providers to achieve the interconnection between various types of operating systems and/or telecommunications equipment for the exchange of management information with standardized interfaces including protocols and messages. TMN describes network management from the following different viewpoints: Logical or business model Functional model A set of standard interface

The scope of this section is the TMN logical model. The reader is referred to [11] for detailed information on the TMN models. The TMN logical model breaks down the functions related to managing a telecommunications support environment into manageable subsets and helps service providers to think logically about how the business of a service provider is managed. It introduced the concept of logical layered architecture, consisting of four layers, each of which reflects particular aspects of management. 14 Page:

Figure 4 below depicts the TMN Logical Model.

BUSINESS MANAGEMENT

SERVICE MANAGEMENT NETWORK AND SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT

ELEMENT MANAGEMENT

Figure 4 TMN Model The idea is that management decisions at each layer are different but interrelated. Each layer imposes requirements on the layer below. Each layer provides a capability to the layer above. For example, Detailed information is needed to keep a switch at the element management layer operating, but only a subset of that information is needed to keep the network operating (e.g. is the switch operating at full capacity?). Network elements emit several low-level syslog* events. Not all of the events are important or interesting to a network operator. Instead network operators may rely on systems at the Network Management layer to filter the events and show important ones.

The four layers in the TMN model as shown in Figure 4 are as follows: Element Management - The Element Management layer (EML) is used to manage an individual network element or a sub-network. In this layer, data such as logs, audit trails and performance statistics from network elements within the layers span of control are analyzed and interpreted in a meaningful manner to monitor and control the subnetwork. As a subnetwork is a subset of the whole network, relevant data are passed on to the Network Management Layer applications for integration of the views of the whole network. Network Management - The Network Management layer (NML) is concerned with the management of the whole network. It receives data from the lower level EML and synthesizes the data into a meaningful end-to-end view of the network. The NML communicates with other layers using standard interfaces.

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Service Management - The Service Management layer (SML) is concerned with and responsible for, the contractual aspects of services that are being provided to customers. Examples of functions at the SML include: customers interfaces, service provisioning, opening new accounts, closing existing accounts, resolving customer complaints including those related to billing, fault reporting, maintaining statistical data (e.g., QoS), interaction with the business management layer, interaction between services, etc.

Business Management The Business Management layer (BML) includes all the functions necessary for the implementation of policies and strategies within the organization which owns and operates the services (and possibly the network). Examples of functions at the BML include network planning, agreement between operators, executive-level activities such as strategic planning, decision making for optimal investment and goal-setting

2.4.2.

Enhanced Telecom Operations Map (eTOM) Model

New Generation Operations Systems & Support (NGOSS) aims to deliver a framework that will help produce New Generation OSS/BSS solutions, and be a repository of documentation, patterns, models and code in support of these developments. It is driven and managed by TM Forum (TMF), a non-profit organization, which consists of more than 340 member companies around the world. The eTOM model the business process pillar within NGOSS, effectively captures the complex business processes in a communications service provider. The eTOM defines business processes through a hierarchical process decomposition that begins at the overall Enterprise/conceptual level (referred to as Level 0), and each level is decomposed into greater detail at the next lower level (Level 1, 2, 3 etc.). Each level captures process descriptions, inputs and outputs, as well as other key elements.

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Figure 5 eTOM Model (Reference: http://www.tmforum.org)

Figure 5 above captures eTOM level 0 and 1 process areas. Operations, Strategy, Infrastructure and Support (SIP), and Enterprise Management form level 0 processes. Operations Covers the core of operational management Strategy, Infrastructure and Support (SIP) - planning and life cycle management Enterprise Management (EM) covering corporate or business support management

According to [12], The eTOM Framework contains seven end-to-end vertical Level 1 process groupings across OPS and SIP, representing the processes required to support customers and to manage the business. The focal point of the eTOM is around the core customer operations processes of Fulfillment, Assurance and Billing (FAB) within OPS. Operations Support & Readiness (OSR) forms the fourth vertical grouping within OPS, and is differentiated from FAB real-time processes to focus on enabling support and automation of the FAB processes. The SIP process area contains more back-

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office processes that typically work on different business time cycles than the realtime Operations. The SIP processes enable, support and direct the work in OPS. The eTOM also includes horizontal views of functionality across a service provider's organization, in OPS and SIP. These Level 1 horizontal functional process groupings gather together functionally-related processes, e.g., customer-facing processes such as Marketing, Selling, etc, within Customer Relationship Management. To illustrate the hierarchical process decomposition concept, let us take a case of one such hierarchy to illustrate the hierarchical process decomposition process. Operations is a level 0 process. Operations Support & Readiness (OPS) is a level 1 process within the Operations process is responsible for support to the "FAB" processes, and for ensuring operational readiness in the fulfillment, assurance and billing areas. Customer Relationship Management Support and Readines is a level 2 process within OPS and is responsible for managing classes of products, ensuring that all CRM processes in Fulfillment, Assurance and Billing are supported and able to manage interactions with customers promptly and efficiently. One of the level 3 process under Customer Relationship Management Support and Readines is Support Order Handling and is responsible for ensuring that new and/or modified Order Handling related infrastructure is deployed effectively, and to ensure that Order Handling processes can operate effectively

For each of the processes under each levels, eTOM defines details of specific responsibilities. For example, Order Handling level 4 process has the following responsibilities, with details defined in eTOM. 2.4.3. Determine customer order feasibility Authorize credit Track and manage customer order handling Issue customer orders Report customer order handling Close customer order OSS Through Java (OSS/J) Initiave

OSS/J stands for OSS through Java. The goal of OSS/J is to provide open interface standards for the integration of OSS/BSS, through the Java Community Process (JCP). OSS/J creates API specifications, reference implementations, technology compatibility kits and multi-technology profiles (Java, XML, and Web Services) for OSS integration and deployment. The OSS/J API specifications use the Core Business Entities (CBE) model, which is based on the TMF's NGOSS Shared Information/Data (SID) Model and therefore, the

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initiative provides a technology neutral implementations view of the NGOSS architecture [9]. The initiative also produces the design guidelines for defining interfaces and implementing the specifications. Some of the core OSS/J APIs available are: Customer Management - for creating, modifying, suspending, and terminating customers. Order Management - for creating, modifying, suspending, and canceling orders and order activities. Service Activation - to activate services as defined by TMFs eTOM and SID. Product Inventory - for populating, querying and updating the Product Inventory repository. Service Inventory - for populating, querying and updating the Service Inventory repository. Trouble Ticketing - for creating, tracking, and deleting trouble tickets. Service Quality Management - for querying, creating, updating and deleting Service Level Specifications objects, Service Quality Objective objects, and Service Quality Report objects, as well as subscribing for notifications on object violation events and availability of new service quality reports Fault Monitoring - reception of alarms*, state changes, and threshold crossing alerts from the network and maintaining a list of active alarms*. Performance Monitoring - for creating and deleting metric and threshold objects. collection of performance data from the network, setting thresholds, and generating/forwarding threshold crossing events. Billing - for rating services and calculating billing records, sending invoices to customers, processing their payments, and performing payment collections, handling inquiries by the customer about bills and billing problems. Billing Mediation - for matching usage to individual services for usage-based services Pricing to determine offers and prices based on a variety of criteria including a specific customer profile, location, current promotions, other parties in the transactions, factors peculiar to the request, and any other set of complex, possibly inter-related points

OSS/J helps service providers get around vendor lock-ins and improve interoperability among OSS/BSS products from different vendors and customer developed applications. OSS/J interface specifications represent operations that are business-functionfocused e.g., createOrder, createTroubleTicketByKey. Profiles are available for RMI/IIOP, XML/JMS, Web Services implementations. 2.4.4. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)

SNMP is a widely used communication protocol used by network management platforms to manage (for example, to obtain configuration and statistical

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information) network devices such as routers, gateways and switches and server elements. Almost all network elements and server elements support MIBs*, which can be read by SNMP to obtain management information. For example, an Ethernet switch contains an MIB* for each Ethernet port that provides port statistics such as status, port configuration, number of frames and octets transmitted and received [3]. The switch also includes MIBs* that give information on the switch such as status of power supply and the number of active ports on the switch. Routing tables MIBs* give status of routing protocols, entries in the routing tables, etc. SNMP normally operates through requests and responses. Also, Management platform can send configuration information to a network element or server, and have the server acknowledge a receipt [3]. Also, SNMP can send un-requested messages (traps or inform signals) asynchronously to a management platform, for example when it reinitializes itself. 2.4.5. Common Management Information Protocol (CMIP)

CMIP is an Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) based network management protocol that supports exchange of information between network management systems and management objects or network elements such as network devices and circuits. CMIP can be used for accessing information about network objects or devices, modification their configuration, and receiving status reports from them. CMIP is object-oriented and can help manage very complex hierarchies of managed objects. It is more sophisticated then SNMP, although lot less popular than SNMP. CMIP provides better security and fault reporting capabilities.

3. Conclusion
3.1. Summary
OSS/BSS systems and applications automate many of the day to day operations performed in a communications service providers operating environment. They optimize the time taken to perform these operations and make the business processes more efficient. There are no all-encompassing OSS/BSS systems that can be installed, integrated, tested and allow the service providers to easily modernize their end-to-end operations functions. Service providers, therefore, use all the different approaches: best-of-breed in some areas, off-the-shelf in some, and home-grown custom applications in the remaining areas, to modernize and optimize their operations. More often than not, many of these OSS/BSS systems are integrated with the others in a point-to-point fashion, as part of discrete projects and programs, sponsored out of different business units. This leads to point-to-point integration of OSS/BSS systems unless the programs/projects are planned with a strategic goal. An example of point-to-point integration is: Netcool, a popular Alarm Handler, provides a gateway that links directly into the Trouble Ticketing product Remedy

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ARS, which is a point-to-point integration. The mechanism is quick to use and easy to deploy leading most system integrators* and service providers to prefer the mechanism. A negative side of the approach is it makes taking the component out for replacement more difficult. Integration and flexibility are the key challenges faced by service providers with respect to their OSS/BSS systems, due to their timeconsuming nature and high costs. A side effect of the difficulty in integrating the various OSS/BSS systems is many of the OSS/BSS systems in a service providers operating environment may not be integrated at all. For example, it is not unusual to find the following scenario: when a customer orders a new telephone line, the ordering system takes the details of a customers order, but a manual process is present to configure the telephone exchange using a switch management system. Details of the order entered in the Order Handling system is re-keyed manually by the technician into the Switch Management System a process often referred to as Swivel-Chair Integration. The article provided an overview of some of the core OSS/BSS areas in Order Fulfillment, Service Assurance and Billing.

3.2.

Terminology
Alarm - A persistent indication of a fault that is cleared only when the triggering condition is resolved Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) - ATM is a packet-oriented technology that allows multiple logical connections (voice, video and data) to be multiplexed over a single physical interface as fixed-sized packets called cells. ATM is more often used as a backbone technology, working behind the scenes transporting customer-facing services such as Frame Relay, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Ethernet and Internet Access. For example, traffic originating at customer-facing frame relay end-points is terminated on ATM at corporate hub. Moreover, carriers often transport frame relay traffic on ATM backbones.

Communications Service Provider (CSP) - A CSP sells one or more of the following: telephone lines, long distance, LAN & WAN products, bandwidth, network access, managed network/storage/security services, etc. All of the following are CSPs: Telecommunications carriers, wireless communications providers, Internet Service Providers (ISP) and cable service providers providing high-speed internet access.

Digital Loop Carriers (DLC) A DLC uses digital transmission to extend the range of a local loop* farther than would be possible using usual twisted-pair copper wires. It digitizes and multiplexes* signals carried by local loops*. DSLAM A Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (DSLAM) is a network device located in the telephone exchange (or central office) of a service provider that connects multiple customer DSL lines to a high-speed internet backbone (for example, ATM/Frame Relay or IP network) using multiplexing* techniques. Element Management System (EMS) An EMS manages one or more of a specific type of network element. Typically, the EMS manages the functions

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and capabilities within each network element but does not manage the traffic between different network elements in the network [10]. To support management of the traffic between itself and other network elements, the EMS communicates upward to higher-level network management systems (NMS)* as described in the telecommunications management network (TMN) layered model. Local Loop - The customer premises connects to the telephone company's central office (CO) switch by means of the local loop, which is often referred to as the access portion of the network. This CO switch is a link between the local loop and the network backbone. Management Information Base (MIB) - An MIB is a collection of information on managed objects such as routers and switches and the commands they can execute, stored in a virtual database. SNMP polls information from MIBs and passes the information to Network Management Systems or executes commands specified for the MIBs. Multiplexer/Multiplexing A multiplexer is a device for converting several data streams (for example, voice, video and data) into a single output for transporting via a single communications channel. De-multiplexing is the opposite in that it converts a single stream into multiple data streams. Time Division Multiplexing and Wave Division Multiplexing are methods of multiplexing. Network Element (NE) Network element usually refers to a logical entity or structural group uniting one or more of devices for a single purpose. For example, a telephone exchange is a distributed group of devices such as subscriber line units, line trunk units, switching matrix, CPU and remote hubs, etc. and is typically referred to as a telephone exchange network element. Also independent routers, switches, gateways and other devices are referred to as network elements. Network Management System (NMS) Network Management Systems (NMS) consist of hardware platforms, application software, middleware and services that together allow network operators to manage network elements. Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) - SONET is a physical layer network technology that defines optical carrier standards and therefore enables fiber-optic systems from different vendors to work with each other. Syslog Syslog is a standard for forwarding log messages and is used to forward events/messages from network elements and computer systems. It is a client/server protocol, where a syslog sender sends cleartext textual messages to a syslog receiver, via TCP and/or UDP protocols. It can be used for monitoring audit trails, logging network and system events, etc. System Integrators - Refers to a company providing professional services required to install, configure, integrate, test a solution. It could be a consultant company like Infosys, Wipro, etc. or an equipment/software supplier. Transaction Language 1 (TL1) - Transaction Language 1, Is mainly a control protocol, and has been use for several years, for issuing commands to voice network elements.

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3.3.
[1]

References
Who Makes What: OSS, http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=113052&print=true, Light Reading, Dec 2006 The 2007 Telecommunications Industry Review, The Insight Research Corp., Dec 2006 Eric Siegel, Architectural Overview of Network Management, The Burton Group, Oct 2005 Arindam Banerjee, Network Management is the Key to the Success of NextGeneration Architecture, Yankee Group, Jan 2007 Senthil K. Ramachandran, Order Fulfillment Core Processes and Pain Areas, TMFC 2122 White-paper Sterling Perrin et al., IDC's Service Provider 2004, IDC Infrastructure Taxonomy,

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Lars Andersson, OSS Solutions for Network Operators white paper, 2002 Telecommunications Fraud Detection Scheme, US Patent 5504810, http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5504810/description.html, April 1996 OSS Through Java Initiative, OSS/J Roadmap, TeleManagement Forum, Jan 2007 Element Management Systems Definition and Overview, Web ProForums, International Engineering Consortium (IEC) Divakara K. Udapa, TMN Telecommunications Management Network, McGraw Hill, ISBN:9780070658158, 1999 Enhanced Telecom Operations map - eTOM: The Business Process Language of NGOSS, TeleManagement Forum Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operational_Support_Systems Elisabeth Rainge, Next-Generation OSS and Billing Market Taxonomy, IDC, Oct 2004 Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fault_management Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Management_information_base Network Management Basics, http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/internetworking/technology/handbook/NM -Basics.html Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_planning_and_design Balan Nair et al., Method and system for planning a telecommunications network, United States Patent 5974127, http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5974127.html, Oct 1999

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[20] [21] [22] [23]

Telecommunications Fraud Detection Scheme, US Patent 5504810, http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5504810/description.html, April 1996 Stephen Brown, Telecommunication Fraud Management, Jan 2005, http://www.waveroad.ca/ressources/Whitepaper_SB_Janvier2005.pdf Eric Siegel, Measuring Performance of Networks and Applications, The Burton Group, Feb 2007 International Engineering Consortium (IEC), Tutorials, http://www.iec.org/online/tutorials/

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