Answer: Invest in products where you can, customize operations solutions where you must. Said differently, stop building custom tools when packaged products deliver suitable functionality at a lower cost. Tim Pearson elaborates.

My recent blog posts have described the capabilities of an emerging class of intelligent network controllers like Ciena’s Navigator Network Control SuiteTM – software platforms that deliver much more than an EMS and are capable of ingesting network information from multiple network layers and multiple equipment vendors to deliver actionable intelligence.  Importantly from the perspective of a prospective purchaser of these applications, they are packaged as products (not customized service deployments), and the continuous innovation and evolution of these applications are driven by a global customer base (not a single user paying for all the enhancements to a custom solution).

How does this help with operational tools’ investment value?

Let’s consider the process for custom investments in the network operations space. Tools are typically delivered based on requirements defined by the customer. The evolution of these tools incurs a new cost every time a new feature is added. In addition, the lifecycle of changes in the underlying network must also be accommodated in other tools that collect, aggregate, and analyze network metrics to derive network insight. Eventually, investments can be weighed down under the evolution costs of such custom tools. Business value generation through innovative new service delivery begins to take second place in the investment hierarchy, behind that of sustaining the existing business. This is not the best use of investment dollars.

One way to break out of this cycle is to partition functionality into what must be customized to deliver real business value – there is no shortage of good ideas and investments here – and what may be better served by an intelligent network controller product-based solution.

Why is this model cost-effective?

Network control software vendors amortize their tools across 100s of customers versus custom tools developments that serve just one customer. Thus, they can offer better value and, if managed correctly, deliver a much lower lifecycle cost than custom operations software development. Typically, the vendor has a broad set of commercial interests that extend beyond the software and ensures a partnership model for application evolution which can further increase the value of these tools over time.

What solutions are enabled by intelligent network controller products?

Applications that are integrated and packaged with an intelligent network controller include the following main groups that can help immensely in typical network operations activities, which include:

Enhanced operations that deliver multi-layer visualization, software control, and troubleshooting across optical, Ethernet and IP infrastructure. Additional capabilities that simplify and accelerate operations include network element and network configuration audits, analytics and trending of network utilization, and network timing visualization and monitoring.

Network capacity and route optimization which deliver deep network insights including coherent modem and photonic line performance monitoring, managed service restorations on pre-engineered paths, and multi-layer IP over DWDM optimization.

IP network and service management which provide L2VPN/L3VPN/EVPN service provisioning, network fault recording, and replay for troubleshooting of both data path and control plane issues, bandwidth and Segment Routing (SR) policy management tools for traffic engineering.

When these types of applications are packaged with an intelligent network controller product, you gain simplified operations and cost-efficiency benefits.  The answer to the question posed at the beginning of this blog is revealed – maximize investment value by focusing custom investments on solutions that will truly deliver differentiating business value and rely on an intelligent network controller product, with integrated analytics and applications, to deliver maximal value for your core day-to-day network operations.