Prerequisites or essentials for evaluating a NOC solution

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Jan 11th, 2010
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Hi All


We have invited bids for NOC outsourcing with the following modules NMS software providing Performance management, Traffic management (Netflow Analyser), Fault management, Configuration change management, Service level management, NMS report management, Trouble ticket management. We wanted to create a test environment wherein we wanted test the competencies of the SI and check if they would be able to deliver the solution. For the same please let us know if there are any criteria by which we can set a test methodology.

regards

Ajay

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Joe Clarke Mon, 01/11/2010 - 20:55
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It seems you've outlined a lot of the major points of network management.  Your goal should be to find tools which you find acceptable in terms of usability and usefulness.  Generally speaking, network management solutions should be able to automatically discover the network with minimal input from the user.  They should be able to graphically display the network, and provide clear, real-time information about fault conditions.  How fault conditions are determined should be based on leading industry practices, but should also be flexible so that you can build your own fault conditions, and eliminate those that are not applicable to your environment.  Remember, you want to be able to manage by exception.  You want your NMS to be able to filter out "noise" and provide with you with relevant, concise fault information.  If you can get fault management to a point where false positives have mostly been eliminated, then certainly, a solution which feeds those faults directly into a trouble ticketing solution is a good thing.  However, you will want more than just a case which says, "Device X is down."  Your solution should be able to track and provide details about what was happening to that device prior to the fault (e.g. inventory changes, config changes, syslog messages, performance data, etc.).


On the configuration and element management side, you will want general inventory data.  This includes things like hardware information (e.g. device type, port counts, module counts, memory stats, flash info, etc.).  You will also want asset tracking information (e.g. part numbers, serial numbers, etc.) as that will feed directly into your trouble ticketing system to facilitate opening support requests, and tracking inventory.  A good configuration management application will be able to track configuration changes in real-time.  It will show you what changes were made on the devices, when they were made, and by whom.  You should be able to easily spot configuration problems, and quickly revert configurations as needed.  Deploying new configuration changes to a large number of devices is also a must.  And any changes made should feed into some kind of accounting (or change control) component so you can pre-review changes before they are deployed.


Performance can be quite involved.  Generally, most people expect a performance management solution to be able to show them utilization (both network and device) at any point in their network.  But performance should also be tied into fault.  That is, you should be able to establish a performance baseline with thresholds so that you can be notified when performance begins to suffer (but BEFORE things become so bad that users start to complain).  On top of general performance, you should look at what kind of information will be traversing your network.  If you are a voice/video user, then you will want to make sure your NMS solution can measure quality of voice, jitter, latency, etc.  If you are using QoS tagging, you will want something that can illustrate the amount of traffic being classified in each QoS level; and show you the net effect of QoS on the network. Again, this should tie into fault management.  You want to be notified if QoV, jitter, etc. starts to become an issue.


There are quite a few NMS solutions which can make use of the Netflow and IP SLA features of IOS to provide comprehensive performance metrics.  Such solutions would be able to give a more complete picture of not only what is happening on the network, but also how your network is handling certain traffic.


And as I said in the first paragraph, usability should also be a concern.  I am not saying to sacrifice features for usability, but from experience, I can say that a more use-friendly, easy to understand application can save lots of time (and money).  This is especially true when you are trying to find root cause, or track down high-impact problems (i.e. those problems where you start to lose X number of dollars per minute).  So make sure the solution has meaningful, and easy-to-read reports, graphs, and displays.  You want the information (especially real-time information) to be useful to your NOC operators, but you will probably also want clear, concise reports for management to assess the quality of the network.

Disc01079 Tue, 01/12/2010 - 05:15
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Ajay,

The question is simply asked but not so simple to answer because there are a lot of things involved. My first advice to you is, let functional requirements drive your needs but not technical solutions.

Your starting point will be your companies IT architecture and Information Security with its demanding guidelines and rules, make stock of them. Then define your functional management areas, a good starting point here is FCAPS (Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance and Security management). You mentioned a few of these management areas although they are a mixture of infrastructural and process management areas. Determine for each functional management area your main functional building blocks which must be addressed to fulfill your network management needs. IE for Fault management: event management (root cause analysis), network infrastructure discovery and status display, problem solving by diagnostics, trouble ticket processing. Then define all your functional requirements according to your network management needs and the guidelines and rules of IT architecture and Information Security. Now you are able to judge your technical solutions whether they are able to fulfill your demands and which functional block will be addressed by which part of your technical solution.

It’s not a quick process but a few standardization bodies have been working on this like TMN (with its FCAPS), eTOM (for telecom organizations), ITIL with its process approach. Success with your quest. Cheers,

Dirk

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