Home Africa and the Middle EastAfrica and the Middle East 2013 ‘Always best connected’, big data and performance management

‘Always best connected’, big data and performance management

by david.nunes
Chris MatthewsIssue:AME 2013
Article no.:14
Topic:‘Always best connected’, big data and performance management
Author:Chris Mathews
Title:CTO
Organisation:SysMech
PDF size:358KB

About author

Chris Mathews is a co-founder and the CTO of SysMech a big data applications company for the telecommunications and enterprise service provider sectors. His previous professional experience includes working as a Senior Solutions Architect at Digital Equipment Corporation; responsible for high profile projects ranging from network management systems, to personal and investment banking solutions, and retail PoS solutions. Prior to this he worked as Technical Director with a software house in Silicon Valley.

Article abstract

Despite ever-better technology, networks still have outages; it can take up to 24 hours to identify and rectify problems. A real-time, top down, view of customer and network operations can avoid these problems. There should be no reason for these delays, if operators have effective control of five areas: data visibility; a single network view; predictive analytics; an independent view; and a rapid response to change – the key to covering these five crucial areas is big data and performance management.

Full Article

The telecommunications industry is a heavily saturated market; there are plenty of providers and, according to the U.N., six billion out of the seven billion people on the planet now have access to a mobile phone. Network operators must now rely on selling additional services and ensuring that their existing customers don’t move elsewhere due to problems like connection. The battle for new customers may be waning, but the battle to keep them always best connected is well and truly raging.

Despite vast improvements in technology, network operators are still experiencing incidents of network outages; which can cause considerable chaos and fall out among the mobile consumers. In some instances, it can take up to 24 hours to identify problems and rectify the situation. And if you consider that some network outages can affect all customers in a particular geographic region and in some cases the entire country, this is no insignificant amount of damage to brand, not accounting for loss of trust and revenue, and brand damage among both consumer and corporate clients.

In a competitive market, a real-time and top down view of customer and network operations is absolutely critical to avoiding these problems. There should be no reason for a multiple hour delay to identify problems, if the following five areas are covered; visibility, a single network view, predictive analytics, an independent view and rapid response to change – the key to covering these five crucial areas is big data and performance management.

In today’s world a common misconception is that ‘big data’ equals ‘unstructured data’ or ‘useless data’, which unfortunately, for some is true due to a lack of strategy or even a business case for using the data. Purely storing data will not make it useful, but that in itself is no justification for discarding it. To make data useful there must be realisable benefits to the business and an effective business strategy to take steps to ensure visibility of that data to the relevant business groups. However, this is where there is a cost implication and problems can start; if the wrong tools are used for the job the costs can be considerable and the task can very quickly become just like looking for a very expensive ‘needle in a haystack’!

For example one large global mobile operator we work with suffered a significant increase in the number of dropped calls on their network, equal to two per cent of total calls. The operations department was using legacy fault management reporting and didn’t know what the problem was until the following day, when a retrospective report was pulled.

The problem was a fault with the equipment at one of their major cell sites, which could have been picked up in minutes instead of hours or days if the company’s big data had been utilised. But unfortunately, the customer care department’s data wasn’t integrated with the legacy fault management software, meaning that the cause and effect couldn’t be identified and resolved in real-time. But if operations provide a vertical (top down) view, the network and customer problems can be viewed simultaneously, and prioritised accordingly.

Building a single network view is also vital, however, the monitoring and reporting of network performance – with multiple vendors and domains involved – is a tremendous challenge for telco operators, both from a resource, and an intelligence point of view. The increase in data driven digital content is placing ever-greater demands on the mobile network infrastructure. To assure customer experience, mobile operators need to adopt various methods for collecting information from multiple sources in the network; to improve monitoring of network performance and service quality. Along with identifying problem areas on the network for prompt corrective action to be taken, this information is also used for network optimisation and capacity planning.

The kind of benefits that telcos can see by reporting as one across multiple platforms, domains, system, companies and affiliations, efficiently, are multiple, and can have a huge impact on performance as well as efficiency. In summary, to name a few:

• Intuitive reporting can identify issues prior to them occurring, enabling corrective action to be taken
• Operators have a near real-time view of the networks, the correlated picture identifies hot spot issues, where they can drill down at any point to resolve issues
• An automated reporting dashboard can save internal resources hours per day in compiling reports and data from different sources
• Up to date high level dashboards for senior management immediately available

Deploying predictive analytics is also important in improving the customer experience and keeping them connected. Streaming analytics has become an ever more critical element of any real-time system. While real-time analytics gives an essential view into the detail of recorded history, enabling educated decisions to be made and actions to be taken, the trigger for action lies within the domain of streamed data.

The ability to identify a key data point, progression or trend, as the data passes into the system, is fundamental to many evolving big data applications. An example of network-based analysis is a system monitoring power supplies across an entire country; the patterns of telemetry reported to the system follow different patterns of data trend and activity before complete failure. By running scenarios to act against the trends, power failures are avoided, system uptime is maintained and customers are happy. In the telco sector this means the ability to analyse call data records in real-time, among a multitude of other information, to offer better service and rates.

Telcos should also maintain consistency and clarity in this converging market. Operators who share radio networks are heavily reliant on their managed service provider for optimisation reports and analysis. Progress against KPIs, such as Dropped Call Rates, Traffic Volumes, Call Setups and Handovers, are accepted with little or no way to verify the results or indeed the exact computation that has been used to arrive at the results.

The ability for operators to work together to exchange information and receive accurate and dependable performance reports of shared infrastructures is essential in creating a stable network for all. An independent view allows issues to be identified, responsibility to be claimed and a response generated at a much faster pace – providing competitive advantage when the world is watching. When undertaking capacity planning or network optimisation, accurate reporting has a big impact on recommendations and improvements. Ultimately, the more reliable the view, the bigger the opportunity to act on intelligence that big data provides.

For small and agile companies it can be easy to respond to change; whether that comes from a change in the markets, customer behaviours or merely making decisions on partners and suppliers. However, for larger companies it becomes more difficult to adapt quickly, and yet they will have the additional challenge of a bigger brand reputation to protect and a larger customer base to keep satisfied.

Communication technology is rapidly changing – from radio, core and transmission networks to IP, switch based, 2G, 3G and now 4G/LTE – and this presents a real challenge for Telcos that are trying to keeping pace with the changing environment to retain customers, in an increasingly saturated marketplace. Customer experience, network performance and service quality in real-time provide CSPs with the information needed to respond in a timely manner. So in order to achieve the holy grail of ‘talk to anyone, any time’ promise, the ability to quickly enhance operational systems is needed to manage new service offerings to meet the needs of customers.

In response to this competitive industry, saturated market and ever changing technologies the ability to manage performance, faults and basic service becomes a critical and fundamental need – but by utilising the vast volumes of subscriber and probing data, network statistics, and events within the network, it is possible to have a 360° view of the customer – and once you have achieved this they should always be best connected and happy.

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