The ultimate goal of any service management solution should be to provide a strategy that you can use now and well into the future. So what are the ingredients for a successful solution? An impressive array of features? Configurability? Scalability? Redundancy? I think the answer is all of the above and more. To keep things simple, I’ve narrowed down the top five features that you should consider when looking for a service activation solution.
1. Simple Service Management
This should be fairly obvious but a robust solution needs to deliver a wide range of features related to service management. Fundamentally, the solution should activate/deactivate, upgrade/downgrade, and suspend/resume subscriber subscription services such as internet access, VoIP, DTV, and IPTV on a network. You should be able to activate and manage the full lifecycle of service events from one central system.
2. Data Collection
Knowledge is power when it comes to your subscribers. Learning more about your customers helps you make better decisions based on real trends, including subscriber profiles, preferences, and location. Data collection also enables easy deployment of features such as prepaid and on-demand services.
There are multiple ways to collect subscriber data. Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR) and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) can be used to identify network or device-specific issues. You can also use IPDR and SNMP to gather charging information such as upstream/downstream throughput. In the voice world, data collection may refer to call detail record (CDR) collection, while for digital television it may refer to the collection of pay-per-view events for billing or reporting of set-top box non-responders. And this is only the tip of the iceberg!
Assuming that the above features are already available, the next step is to ensure that your solution is configurable. This means that your API and GUI should be based on existing standards, and also be easy to set up and use. For instance, it should be simple to add users or service packages at a later date, if required.
4. Multi-standard Support
An adaptable solution will allow you to support new requirements and standards as your needs change over time. For instance, you may transition from 3G to LTE, DOCSIS 2.0 to DOCSIS 3.0, cable to fibre, 3G/LTE to WiFi offload, or IPv4 to IPv6 in the future. You may also find that you want to add support for new services, such as prepaid service subscriptions, VoIP, or IPTV, and your service management solution should not hinder this process.
In addition, your solution may need to interface with the proprietary APIs that are used by thousands of network equipment vendors. These might include TCP/IP socket, SOAP, CORBA, REST, telnet, SSH, SNMP, and more. Vendors need to be flexible enough to support multiple standards and/or change version releases of the same API.
Scalability is another important consideration. Your service management solution should be designed to meet future subscriber demand and fit in with your growth forecast. Even if this requires a new distribution strategy and/or an upgrade to your hardware, your solution’s fundamental design should be able to cater for your projected subscriber growth.
If subscriber quality of experience is a priority (and it should be), then a high availability solution is a necessity. There are a number of options to achieve this depending on your hardware and operating systems. Your service management solution should cater to active/passive and active/active type redundancy and will also need to include a disaster recovery strategy. If for some reason all of the hardware in the cluster fails — for example, the building collapses and the hardware is damaged — you should be able to quickly set up the solution again using archived data.
Finding a Complete Solution
How can you best achieve all this? You could look at developing an in-house solution, but this can become expensive very quickly. Down the road, this option can be a support nightmare and you may find yourself relying on certain members of staff to fix issues that arise. Another option is to find a consultancy firm to design a custom solution. This requires a lot of planning, requirement gathering, and design effort before anything can be developed. It too may be dependent on retaining staff members for support.
The alternative is to purchase a solution that has already been designed with the features that you need and that can integrate with third-party products. By choosing a solution that includes robust support and gives you access to regular product updates, you can reduce time-to-market and focus on delivering services that enhance your subscribers’ quality of experience. The choice is yours.