Thinking of Taking a Broadband Journey? What utilities should know before they go

So you’ve read the research about the benefits of broadband—for the community, your business and electric customers. You’ve sat through town council meetings or board of director meetings, listening to residents and business owners lament the spotty service and slow connect speeds of the current service providers. Now you’re thinking about taking matters into your own hands, launching the kind of affordable, giga-speed broadband network that your community deserves, one that your utility—public power or co-op—can grow on. Good for you!

They say the first step in any journey is the hardest. Embarking on a broadband project is no exception. Before setting out, you need to get a sense of what lies ahead. While the following is not by any means a comprehensive guide to your broadband journey, it gives you some idea of what issues you’ll face and the degree of pre-planning involved before the first cable is spliced. With that in mind, let’s unfold the map.

Step 1: Identify the community’s need and your role

Broadband offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities that speak to various subsets of your community; some resonate more deeply with your community than others. Understanding what’s most important is critical. At the same time, consider the project from an investment perspective, as it affects both the community and your utility. Don’t get stuck in the weeds; look at the quantitative data holistically to understand the total impact on the community and your utility’s operations. Finally, understand the role you are being asked to play and by whom. Will building fiber to your substation let you better manage your distribution network? Will you be able to provide dark fiber and communication services besides offering electrical power? Will your broadband network be used to increase competition in the market? Is the community, board of directors and/or city council, and your customers looking for you to facilitate the process, build the network, or manage all aspects, including operating and maintaining the network once it’s up and running?

Creating a Shared Vision

Recently, Fujitsu was asked to assist a Midwestern public power utility as they embarked on their broadband journey. Key to the project’s success was that everyone who needed to be involved—business stakeholders, the utility’s management, and municipal leaders—were involved from the beginning.

There was a lot of discussion at the outset, as participants worked to establish a unified vision while ensuring their own interests were being addressed. Once that was done, everyone was able to focus on working toward the shared vision. This helped streamline the decision-making process and accelerate the project toward a successful build.

It is important to note that, without the combined efforts of the utility’s various department—finance, HR, legal, engineering, etc—the project would have bogged down, perhaps to the point where it could have failed. Having everyone at the table from the beginning and ensuring they all have a voice is crucial.

Keys to Success

  • Identify and involve all stakeholders from the beginning
  • Define the data sets needed and make no decisions until you have them all
  • Correctly weight the data to account for the most important needs and expectations
  • Assess your internal resources, augmenting with third-party expertise where necessary 

Step 2: Understand the funding options and approval processes

The last thing you want is to over-promise and under-deliver. So it is essential to start out armed with knowledge of what you can accomplish within the guidelines of the law and your utility’s financial limitations.

Funding your broadband initiative is obviously a major concern. A variety of funding models exist, including available federal monies from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and the USDA Rural Utilities Service. Financial due diligence requires a thorough assessment of all options, not only to help you decide how you will pay for the project, but also to determine how the scope or schedule might need to be adjusted to meet your utility’s or community’s budgetary limitations.

The unique requirements of your stakeholders will also impact your process and final product, especially if you are a municipally owned utility. Every community has different regulations regarding the use of bond money, approval procedures for spending, and the scope of services that can be provided by utilities. There are also significant differences from state to state.  

The local approval process often dictates the pace and schedule of the project. It is important to understand procedures, such as how and when municipal councils vote, and regulations regarding zoning and procurement. For co-ops, this may entail a go/no-go decision by the board of directors, and state regulatory approval to form a subsidiary, borrow money, or both, depending on the specifics of the state regulation. The average utility does not have the in-house resources to handle the various legal, regulatory and financial issues. Partnering with third-party providers who are experienced in navigating these obstacles can streamline the process. Selecting the right financing partner who understands this type of investment, or a technology partner who can help clear the regulatory and approval hurdles, can be critical to moving the project forward.

Managing multiple funding sources and criteria

A multi-county utility located in the northeast was looking to add a broadband network in order to upgrade their services and modernize their network for the future. The utility had targeted multiple funding sources, including some grant and loan money. Combined, the list of requirements to qualify for the funding was huge; some overlapped while others were unique to the funding source.

Working with Fujitsu, the utility has undertaken a study to map all the funding requirements, not only to the various funding sources, but to the communities across their service area. The goal is to identify the most efficient way to meet the myriad requirements while demonstrating the need for as many of the communities as possible.

This critical step provides a methodology for ensuring all requirements of the funding sources and communities are considered. It also provides a more complete assessment of the needs and benefits of each community, helping to increase buy in from everyone involved.

Keys to Success:

  • Consult with local government to ensure access to utility rights-of-way, zoning and franchise fees
  • Research available funding options thoroughly
  • Assess your capacity to handle legal, regulatory and financing issues 
  • Identify any funding restrictions imposed by regulatory bodies

Step 3: Select a technology partner

With a good grasp of your project’s scope and vision, you’re ready to define your business model and select a technology partner.

The model you choose will, in large part, dictate the necessary qualifications of your tech partner. For example, if your project is driven by the need for long-term growth (a dark fiber project, for example), your partner needs to help build future capacity but not necessarily turn up those services from day one. If it’s more of a retail or open-access network project, your partner should have experience in the holistic execution of the planning, design, engineering, deployment and service activation. In either case, you’ll want a partner with a strong multivendor project management resume such as a prime network integrator, because any broadband project involves lots of moving parts. Lastly, don’t cut corners when vetting a potential partner. Once you’ve established a working relationship, change is very disruptive. Ideally the firm that you choose at the outset to conduct the initial studies will help oversee your project through completion of all construction and turnover. Make sure you choose the right one.

Consider the Forest, Not the Trees

In selecting a technology partner, it can be easy to get so overwhelmed by the project’s details that you lose sight of what’s most critical to success.

Often the RFP process for a utility involves multiple RFPs for a detailed list of vendors, services and components. This process not only extends the schedule, it defeats the purpose of engaging with a single partner whose job it is to help manage the project and consolidate accountability.  Simplifying the RFP by selecting the right end-to-end partner with the capabilities and services required, helps keep the focus where it belongs—on achieving the mutually shared goal of a successful project.

Keys to Success

  • Ensure you and your partner have the same definition of risk transfer
  • Be as transparent as possible with stakeholder and vendor information during the selection process
  • Be prepared to scale the project up or down based on input received during the selection process
  • Properly vet your technology partner to ensure they can handle all duties aspects of the project

Know Before You Go

The research articulating the community benefits of broadband is clear. For smaller and rural communities who find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide, access to broadband that’s affordable, fast and reliable can be a game-changer.

While there is a huge upside, realizing your broadband potential and fulfilling the unspoken promise to your customers requires a lot of pre-planning. The devil is, as they say, in the details. Take the time to familiarize yourself with every aspect of the process, from building a strong business case and securing community buy-in to envisioning how you will operate and manage the network. Yes, it is still very early in the process, but by asking these questions now, you will be better able to navigate the challenges ahead.

Why Enterprises Miss Out on Good UX Design

User experience (UX) design is a widely accepted role in the consumer software development lifecycle, and, in many cases, has proven to be the key differentiator in winning business. Yet enterprise UX designers still struggle to justify the significance of UX design in the overall development process.

Today, misconceptions around UX design lie in the differences between consumer software and enterprise software. For many reasons, UX design is often left behind when it comes to enterprise software:

  • Large corporations prioritize getting all the required information into the software (which in itself poses a challenge), and getting it up and running without harming profit margins. With these priorities, user experience loses.
  • One of the significant metrics to measure consumer UX success is the conversion rate, but in the enterprise world it’s different—enterprise users and consumers are rarely the same people. While consumers can choose what software they want to use, enterprise software users typically end up using whatever the employer chooses, and UX is less of a concern.
  • Agile might be gaining steam, but many enterprise software development processes haven’t fully embraced it. Internet-based companies can release updates on a weekly or even daily basis. This short cycle obscures the traditional definition of a “release,” which is typically once or twice a year. Popular user-centered-design methodology like “guerilla testing” or “Lean UX and MVP” can’t be applied to enterprise software without customization.
  • There’s less competition among enterprise vendors, but also a higher barrier to entry. This lack of competition often translates to very little UX investment due to a lack of perceived value.
  • There’s a misconception that enterprise users can be “trained” and are willing to stay in their comfort zone once they’re proficient enough with the software. Often, established enterprise-software vendors risk cannibalizing the success of their legacy products—which might still be profitable—when salespeople show consumers newer products with better UX.

Yes, enterprise UX design presents more challenges than consumer UX design—but the benefits of good UX surpass the difference between these two types of users.

Like consumer UX designers, enterprise UX designers follow the same design philosophy of emphasizing the user’s wants and needs and then prioritizing that on top of everything else. For companies that focus on their technological advantage, it’s easy to forget about the human user’s needs and intent.

More and more companies are realizing the value of UX in the design of the software they use for daily business functions, and are making an effort to factor employee opinions into the decision-making process. It may take some time for the real value of UX to sink in, but companies in every industry are becoming aware that employees expect the UX standards of products to match the high UX standards found in consumer products. The fast and snappy UX of consumer devices like iPhone or Android makes most enterprise UX look outdated and sluggish, and outdated, sluggish UX ultimately lowers an employee’s productivity. A good enterprise UX allows employees to do more with less frustration and headaches.

To see how a lousy enterprise UX can ruin a business opportunity, look no further than Avon. In 2011, Avon pulled the plug on a $125 million project after salespeople grew frustrated and walked away from their jobs. The technology worked, but the experience of using it was so frustrating and challenging that employees would instead leave than work with it. 

An enterprise UX may not have the same kind of direct sales impact as a consumer UX, but embracing good enterprise UX strategy yields benefits that can impact sales in the long-run. Good UX design results in increased customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, employee productivity, and it cuts development and support costs.

In the next blog, we’ll discuss Fujitsu UX strategies for network software solutions in more detail, including how we reach out to our enterprise users for research, how we work with other Fujitsu teams to create corporate design system to keep consistent branding and design patterns, and how we can scale to provide UX as a service to multifaceted projects.

2020 Vision: Watching the Pieces Come Together

The telecoms industry is experiencing a major transformation as we usher in a new year, offering promise and opportunity to communication service providers (CSPs) worldwide. But this shift certainly didn’t happen overnight. A number of trends have steadily advanced on the horizon, while the industry has watched and waited for tomorrow’s technologies to reach full maturity and become realistically deployable.

As the 2020 vision comes into sharp focus, let’s look at how these strategic trends will finally converge.

Disaggregation

Although it seems as if we’ve been talking about disaggregated architectures for a long time, this transition is just starting to reach a tipping point as more CSPs move away from proprietary infrastructure and truly embrace multi-vendor optical networks. With the opportunity to adopt a modular, pay-as-you-grow model, CSPs are no longer locked in to any particular vendor, allowing them to select the latest emerging technologies from whichever vendor is first to market — or the vendor that offers the best value for large-scale deployment of mature technologies.

Of course, for this open model to succeed, a robust and mature ecosystem was first required. Now as a critical mass of CSPs are deploying disaggregated networks, this provides sufficient market demand for network equipment manufacturers to deliver interoperable infrastructure and create a more open and competitive optical marketplace.

Yet, as open networking begins to reach a level of mass-market adoption, the disruptive force of disaggregation will bring about new and unique challenges.

Network Automation

It’s no surprise that the very nature of disaggregation adds significantly greater complexity to today’s networks. As CSPs evolve from a single vendor architecture to an open, multi-vendor model, the traditional approach to management and service assurance also needs to evolve — otherwise, network staff would drown in operational complexity as they try to deal with equipment from a wide range of different vendors.

As a result, the trend toward automation and software-defined networking (SDN) is quickly picking up speed, as more operational tasks are automated with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This new generation of software applications reduces the need to retrain today’s staff to handle tomorrow’s multi-vendor architectures.

In fact, AI technology will be key to solving this growing complexity, allowing CSPs to fully realize the economic benefits of disaggregation. With the capability to handle huge amounts of data, AI allows significantly more events to be processed in real-time than humans are able to grasp. This provides greater visibility into the network to not only identify the root cause of any particular issue, but also to uncover signs of impending problems.

However, this increasing dependence on SDN technologies and automation is introducing further challenges with new software applications that don’t fit neatly into legacy network platforms, necessitating the use of microservices. For example, Fujitsu offers MicroApplications with pre-packaged microservices, workflow automation and API integration designed to solve specific operational issues in a CSP’s unique network environment.

5G Rollout

Moreover, growing reliance on automation also will play a part in facilitating 5G rollout, as mass deployments ramp up in 2020. Increased densification, complexity, network slicing, varying latency… all of these factors and more will strain tomorrow’s optical networks as CSPs try to deliver promised 5G services, speed and capabilities. Success will rely on robust, disaggregated optical architecture with the flexibility and scalability that only automation can provide.

This is true not only for transport and core networks, but also 5G access networks as well. In addition to high-speed backhaul to support enhanced broadband, new fiber fronthaul and midhaul networks are needed to provide high availability and low latency at the edge. Support for the Internet of Things (IoT) is pushing cloud platforms to the edge of the network, changing the dynamics of how optical networks are built.

As we start to see mass rollouts, 5G will be used alongside other technologies, such as Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN, making it easier to enable IoT deployments like smart lighting, intelligent parking or public safety applications. By filling in the gaps in the underlying infrastructure, 5G will drastically change the economics of IoT, allowing applications to be deployed with greater speed, flexibility and efficiency.

A Plan Comes Together

As we embark on a new decade, it is exciting to see how these inter-related trends and evolving technologies will move beyond hype and become reality. With mass deployments of 5G and automated, disaggregated architectures taking off in 2020, this is the year when all the pieces finally fall into place.

Virtualized Routers for 5G Transport: Webinar Replay Now Available

If you want to learn more about how virtual routers, or vRouters, will be used to meet the demands of 5G transport and other next-gen services, check out the on-demand recording of the webinar, “Virtual Routers for Flexible, Future-Proof 5G Transport.” Click here to listen to the free recorded session, and you’ll also be able to download the presentations, a special market report by IHS Markit Executive Director Heidi Adams, and a number of other resources on this topic.

The 60-minute webinar, co-sponsored by Fujitsu, first aired on December 10, 2019, and was hosted by IHS Markit, the London-based data and information services firm. Allen Tatara, Senior Manager at IHS Markit, served as moderator. A Q&A session followed the presentations.

Presenters included: Joseph Mocerino, Principal Solutions Architect, Optical Networking, Fujitsu Network Communications; Heidi Adams, Executive Director, Network Infrastructure Research, IHS Markit; and Hugh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Volta Networks.

The global audience included network operators, service providers, equipment manufacturers, and enterprise end users. The presentations and Q&A covered a number of topics, including:

  • The market trends driving IP network evolution;
  • An introduction to virtualized routing architectures and virtual routers;
  • The strategies for supporting the delivery of network slices for 5G services;
  • The challenges facing this network evolution; and
  • Several use cases and deployment examples.

5G will bring the promise of ultra-broadband speeds, ultra-reliable low-latency services, and the ability to massively scale communications for a wide range of devices and next-gen applications like Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Cities, telemedicine, and connected cars. But these services will also place new demands on the underlying IP transport infrastructure impacting how we will design our networks in the future.  

In particular, the way routing is delivered into the network must evolve. In response, the implementation of new solutions – such as cloud-native virtualized routers – are emerging to enable higher-capacity, more flexible, and less costly IP networks. In fact, a recent survey by IHS Markit revealed that 95% of service providers had plans to virtualize at least one or more of their network functions or applications. All these topics and more are covered in the webinar, so don’t miss this opportunity to learn about how cloud-native virtualized routers will play a leading role in meeting 5G transport requirements. Click here to listen to the free recorded session and download additional market insights on these emerging topics.

Demystifying 400ZR and ZR+ Coherent Optical Technology: Webinar Replay Now Available

If you missed the Fujitsu co-sponsored webinar, “400ZR and ZR+: Enabling Next-Generation Data Center Connectivity” or want to listen again, an on-demand recording is now available. Click here to listen to the recorded session. You’ll also be able to download the presentations, a special report from IHS Markit, and the application note, “400G ZR – Enabling Data Center Evolution” by Rehan Zaki, Principal Architect, DCI Strategy and Planning from Fujitsu Network Communications.

The original 60-minute webinar aired on November 12, 2019, and examined the coherent optical solutions enabled by the new and developing standards: 400ZR and ZR+. The session was hosted by IHS Markit, the London-based data and information services firm. Allen Tatara, Senior Manager at IHS Markit, served as moderator. A Q&A session followed the presentations.

Attendees came from around the globe and across industry sectors including data center operators, service providers, cable network operators, mobile network operators, transceiver and transponder vendors, coherent optics companies, and financial analysts.

Presenters included: Rehan Zaki, Principal Architect, DCI Strategy and Planning, Fujitsu Network Communications; Joerg Pfeifle, Solution Manager for Coherent Test, Keysight Technologies; Scott Swail, Vice President, Business Development, Lumentum; and Timothy Munks, Principal Research Analyst, Optical Networking Technology at IHS Markit.

The presentations and Q&A covered a number of topics, including:

  • Insights from these industry leaders on standardized and interoperable 400G pluggable coherent optics and strategies for testing these new transceivers;
  • The value proposition and use cases for 400G ZR and 400G Open ROADM transponders;
  • Applications for pluggable and interoperable transponders from data center interconnect (DCI) to long haul; and
  • The unique challenges of optimizing equipment and processes for this new set of coherent modems during their manufacturing and deployment at data centers.

Data center bandwidth is growing from 20-40 percent year over year, according to IHS Markit estimates, driven by applications like video streaming, industrial IoT, 5G backhaul and cloud services. And as the demand for data center capacity grows, so will the number of data center interconnect (DCI) networks.

To accommodate future network requirements, 400G+ technologies are forecast to support about 50 percent of the deployed bandwidth by 2022 enabled by the 400ZR and ZR+ standards. These new standards, developed by the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF), define the implementation of coherent technology. They promise to substantially increase bandwidth capacity between data centers, while reducing footprint, power consumption, and the cost per bit for coherent transport. If you want to learn more about these new technologies and and how they will impact your operations, don’t miss this opportunity to get up to speed with the latest market insights into 400G ZR compliant optics. Click here to listen to the on-demand session.

Five Community Benefits to Build the Case for Broadband Network Investment

Widespread access to broadband is changing the way we live, work and design our cities. But not every community is benefiting from this sweeping change. This is especially true across rural America, where the digital divide threatens to leave many smaller communities behind.

For these communities and the rural electric co-ops that serve them, access to high-speed broadband services can be a game-changer. All too often, what stands in their way is a question of stakeholder buy-in. To answer typical hesitancy around the price tag, the best starting point is clear information about the community benefits and economic impacts.  

In summer 2018, Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development released a study[i] indicating the state of Indiana could generate a $12 billion economic impact over 20 years with a meaningful investment in bringing broadband access to rural areas. The report, commissioned by Indiana Electric Cooperatives and Tipmont REMC, estimated that every dollar invested in broadband returns nearly four dollars to the economy. By any measure, a 400% ROI is impressive.

While electric co-ops and public power utilities are well aware of the potential benefits for their communities, the decision to invest in fast broadband requires consensus from multiple stakeholders. Depending on the organization, this can include obtaining buy-in from board members, local government and key community leaders. That means overcoming the fear, uncertainty and doubt (a.k.a. “FUD Factor”) inherent in any significant change.

The most crucial step in any rural or municipal broadband initiative is always the first one—building the case. The “go, no-go” decision typically comes down to a rigorous cost/benefit analysis. Stakeholders must understand why investment in broadband makes sense and realize that by not investing, they are doing a disservice to the communities and customers they serve. It is up to the utility to illustrate the power of the technology and the value of the investment in it.

Entire books have been devoted to the benefits of broadband access. Boosting broadband in rural and smaller communities can spark growth in diverse areas including education, economic and workforce development, innovation, consumer savings and farm income. Below are five broad areas where the effects are especially keenly felt.

Improved quality of life: Telecommuting, for example, allows individuals to choose where they live based on the quality of the community, not its proximity to their office. According to the 2017 Virtual Vocations Year-End Report, one in four US workers now telecommute thanks to accessible, affordable broadband. Broadband also enables a wide range of benefits such as telemedicine, distance learning and improved access to content and social media, all of which translate to better health and quality of life.

More responsive, efficient civic leadership: In cities large and small, local governments are using broadband to significantly improve how they respond to changing needs in their communities. This includes using broadband’s high-speed video capabilities to host virtual town halls. Affordable community-wide access also encourages convenient online self-service, so that residents can renew their driver’s license, pay property taxes and utility bills, and get updates on municipal construction, all without leaving their homes. By enabling mobile technologies such as geofencing, a broadband infrastructure allows public safety officials to share critical information regarding weather and potential emergencies. It also provides real-time data transmission that helps police track and respond to public safety threats.

Modernized electric system: A fiber-based infrastructure enables utilities to create a smarter, more resilient grid that can scale in size, scope and services as the community grows. One result is improved overall service reliability that reduces power disruptions and speeds outage restorations. Using remote technologies to monitor the smart grid, utilities are also able to reduce peak energy loads to save operational costs. Electric co-ops can also generate new revenue from additional fiber services to offset flat or declining electricity revenue.

Enhanced business services: Access to super-fast fiber infrastructure is vital for business productivity and growth. It enables businesses of all sizes to take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT), automation, workforce mobility, and improved research. Perhaps more importantly, broadband opens doors for local businesses to access global markets and sell their goods and services to consumers and suppliers around the world. 

Long-term community growth: A digital infrastructure that is both utilized and evolving is a leading indicator of a vibrant and growing community. Connected schools and libraries, an educated workforce, virtual medical services and more efficient use of resources all make communities more attractive to new businesses and families, while enabling existing residents and businesses to keep flourishing.

This list represents a tiny sample of benefits that can bolster a strong case for rural and municipal broadband investment. Each utility must pick and choose the benefits that best apply to their communities. Once the benefits have been articulated, they are measured, and the results evaluated. The process of building the case has the added benefit of helping the utility or co-op clarify its vision, goals and strategies to ensure that the community-inspired project delivers the right results.

A successful broadband initiative is founded on community consensus and support. Building a broad and strong base begins by developing a business case that is both aspirational and impossible to ignore from a cost/benefit perspective. At Fujitsu, helping utilities and co-ops make the strongest possible case for broadband infrastructure and getting stakeholders to rally around a shared vision is a big part of what we do. Our vision?  Obliterate the digital divide, one community at a time. For more information, visit us at https://www.fujitsu.com/us/products/network/industries/utility/index.html


[i] Estimation of the Net Benefits of Indiana Statewide Adoption of Rural Broadband; Purdue University Center for Regional Development, research study; August 2018

So, you’re ready to design and build a CBRS LTE network?

Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) has arrived and with it, 150 MHz of prime 3.5GHz spectrum in a low-cost shared spectrum model with few barriers to entry. Described by the FCC as “the innovation band”, CBRS LTE has attracted a variety of existing and new network operators. They include traditional small, medium and large service providers, as well as municipal public broadband operators, private enterprises and vertical markets such as utilities, education and transportation.

The initial view of CBRS 3.5GHz shared spectrum shows great potential for many exciting, new use-cases. While the opportunities are numerous and diverse this new ecosystem presents many operational challenges. For starters, planning, designing and deploying a CBRS LTE network involves more capabilities and resources than most organizations can provide.

What’s involved?

Companies ready to invest in owning and operating a CBRS LTE network already have a vision of what they want it to do. But the process of designing, engineering, building, provisioning, testing and ultimately turning up the network involves multiple layers of inter-dependent complexities. The following is a partial list of what’s involved:

The skills and experience needed for a company looking to own and operate a CBRS network present significant challenges. Designing the radio access network (RAN), for example, typically involves as many as half a dozen vendors or more—radio heads, baseband unit, outside plant, EPC, licensing, etc. And while LTE is a relatively mature technology, CBRS has attracted several new pure-play suppliers who must be engaged and vetted as well.

For non digital-native organizations, like public utilities and municipalities, the lack of technical expertise and vendor relationships create even more challenges. These organizations, however, typically realize that they do not have the technical chops and resources to pull off a CBRS network design/deployment project by themselves. It’s often the smaller and mid-sized service providers who are most likely to wade into a design/build project alone only to find that they have bitten off a bit more than they’re equipped to handle.

Third-party Services Integration (SI)

An alternative to the in-house approach is to outsource part or all of the project management to a third-party services integration partner. An experienced, well-equipped SI partner not only enables you to free up internal resources, they often have existing tools, processes and relationships that can accelerate the project and generate greater cost savings.

As with any outsourced relationship, finding the right fit is critical. At Fujitsu, we have completed hundreds of full and partial network SI management projects. Based on our experience, here are a few recommendations for finding and selecting an SI project partner.

  • Vendor-neutral: This is key to ensuring you have access to the technology and services of all available vendors, not just those your SI partner works with. At the very least, if your partner does not have an active agreement with a potential vendor, they should commit to obtaining it.   
  • Needs-based a la carte services: The contracted scope of services should be dictated by your needs and in-house capabilities. The ability to pick and choose the services you need will deliver greater value and enable you to allocate internal resources as you see fit.   
  • Holistic release management: Any multi-vendor inter-operational solution involves a vast range of software and hardware components that must be integrated into the final product and managed going forward. A holistic release management approach ensures that any inter-operational conflicts are handled within the context of the entire project.

Ask, ask, ask

Finally, a good partner will work with you to define the project’s goals, scope, requirements and sequence. This means checking in repeatedly to make sure you understand what they are proposing and why. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The process is complicated and the technology, complex; they may have been brought in for their technical and project management expertise, but you own and are ultimately responsible for your CBRS network. The more you know, the more successful it will be.   

Headed to Mobile World Congress in Anaheim? Please visit Fujitsu in the CBRS Alliance OnGo Pavillion . We’d welcome the chance to speak with you about your plans for CBRS LTE integration. To learn more about what we offer, check out our Services Integration portfolio.   

Expanding the Scope of Data Center Network Automation

In the data center world, downward pressure on operations costs, coupled with the demands of managing large numbers of devices, has produced an approach to configuration management that prioritizes efficiency, simplicity, and automation. Essentially, data center operators must make it easy not just to configure large numbers of new devices, but also to monitor and manage clean device configuration data over time, particularly with reference to change control.

Data center operations staff are increasingly using open-source network automation tools to manage configuration data stored in a network-wide master data center database that models the entire network and is separate from the data specific to individual devices. Configuration data is periodically refreshed, by re-applying the data in the master database to the devices, ensuring their configuration matches the records in the master database.

Many data center operators are working towards automating all operations, not just configuration management. While some develop their own platforms, most utilize Ansible as their automation framework. Developed in Python, the Ansible automation platform allows a data center operator to automate the configuration, upgrade and orchestration of their servers, databases, and networking devices.

Network vendors providing solutions to data centers need to provide comprehensive support for the open source platforms and technologies used by data center operators to automate routine procedures such as configuration monitoring or data refresh. As discussed in our technology brief about automating data center operations, Ansible, RANCID and Oxidize are enabling development of increasingly sophisticated automation tools.

Tools for applications such as automated analytics and telemetry are expected to become commonplace in the near future as data centers expand the range and sophistication of their automation capabilities. The Fujitsu FSS2 system software platform, which is built into the 1FINITY family of optical network products, incorporates modules and plug-ins that support Ansible. Ansible is an automation tool that the data center market uses to monitor their devices and what changes may occur on them. These plug-ins are a set of python scripts, which data center customers can install into the Ansible tool that the customer has on their server.   We expect to continue building on this set of plug-ins, as well as to collaborate with customers using our GitHub website to develop more advanced tools that go beyond configuration management. A set of Ansible tools is in the late stages of development and these will be available on this GitHub server in the coming weeks.

Evolving your FLASHWAVE 9500 Network with the Fujitsu 1FINITY™ Platform

Today’s telecom service providers are confronting powerful market drivers that are challenging their network operations and business models. First, a plethora of new technology options are now available to upgrade legacy networks, but this creates interoperability issues between existing and new hardware and software. Second, constant growth in customer demand for bandwidth is challenging service providers to create networks that can economically keep pace. Lastly, continuous innovation in the services and applications that customers require adds another layer of complexity. Designing an agile network that can quickly accommodate new end-user services is critical.

The good news is for those service providers that have an existing Fujitsu FLASHWAVE® 9500 network: they are in a much better position to evolve their network than those based on other legacy infrastructure. 

To facilitate this evolution, Fujitsu has developed the 1FINITY™ platform to take service providers and their networks into the future. 1FINITY is an open, modular blade-based portfolio of products that provides flexibility, scalability and programmability to customers in a pay-as-you-grow business model.

A key product in the 1FINITY family is the S100, a 1.2 Tbps Ethernet switch capable of supporting 1GbE, 10GbE or 100GbE interfaces. There are three different scenarios that illustrate how a FW9500 network can leverage the S100 to effectively grow and meet future demands.

SONET Configuration

Consider a network where each FW9500 is configured as a SONET multiservice provisioning platform (MSPP). Most service providers have found that as their network grows, it is more economical to convert the protocol from SONET to Ethernet as soon as possible and add support for Ethernet switching functions. With the FW9500, you can add an Ethernet over Anything (EoX) gateway that performs this protocol conversion. Then, you can augment the FW9500 with a 1FINITY S100 to provide Ethernet switching to a 10GbE or 100GbE interface. The FW9500 can also provide DWDM capabilities if that function is needed.

Packet-Optical Configuration

Consider a FW9500 network deployed as a 10GE packet-optical transport platform (POTP) for wireless backhaul or business services. In this scenario, the FW9500 is a converged platform equipped with a switch fabric that provides Ethernet switching and DWDM functionality. As demand grows, the need for 100G outstrips the FW9500 10G capabilities. However, by augmenting the FW9500 with the S100, you can provide 10GbE to 100GbE aggregation and a direct connection to the FW9500 ROADM by using the 100GbE DWDM narrow-band module. This enables the FW9500 100G lambda capability to carry these aggregated services on a DWDM network while increasing the capacity of the existing ROADM network tenfold. Additionally, you free up card slots on the FW9500 because it becomes a ROADM-only system.

In an earlier application note, “Mobile Backhaul 100GbE Migration,” Fujitsu demonstrated how service providers can achieve a savings up to 44% in capital expenditure over the present mode of operation using this augmented network approach.

DWDM Configuration

Consider a FW9500 network that is deployed as a 10G ROADM network. In this scenario, the FW9500 simply provides DWDM functionality. As demand grows, the need for 100G and Ethernet switching services outstrips the FW9500 10G ROADM capabilities. By adding the S100 with a 100GbE DWDM narrow-band module, the network is transformed into a POTP network that provides carrier Ethernet services, such as E-Line and E-LAN, as well as 100G lambda services over the FW9500 ROADM.

Managing Your Network with the Fujitsu Virtuora Network Control (NC) Solution

In all of these scenarios, both the FLASHWAVE 9500 and 1FINITY S100 platforms can be managed by the Fujitsu Virtuora Network Control (NC) solution, a range of software products that enable you to build and grow a virtualized, programmable network. The Virtuora NC solution encompasses control, planning and design, operations and management, and service fulfillment and assurance functions.

Summary These three scenarios clearly show that starting your network evolution with Fujitsu’s FW9500 network has significant advantages. A FW9500 network enables you to meet the demand for interoperability, scalability and service innovation when upgrading your network. Augmenting an existing FW9500 network with the 1FINITY S100 allows you to leverage your infrastructure investment, grow your network economically and pave the way to 100G traffic based on packet switching technology.

Do You Have the Bandwidth to Manage Your Broadband Network? Part 2

The second installment of our two-part blog on network management, we look at why small broadband service providers— such as tier 2/3 telecommunications providers, electric co-ops, and public power utilities—might choose to outsource their network operations center (NOC) rather than setting up and operating their own.

A Little NOC Refresher

In case you missed Part 1, the NOC is the network’s command center. It houses the personnel, equipment and processes necessary to monitor and manage network operations and respond to issues in the field as they occur. The NOC is also responsible for maintaining and implementing a disaster recovery protocol in case of a catastrophic network failure. For this same reason, each network is typically supported by two NOC facilities to ensure full redundancy.

Some of the critical functions of the NOC include:  

  • Network monitoring and incident response
  • Monitoring and managing SLAs to ensure compliance with performance and quality standards
  • Managing hardware and software version updates
  • Maintaining uninterrupted power supply, redundant fiber paths, and sufficient network capacity
  • Securing the network with firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, threat analysis, and antivirus filtering

As discussed in Part 1, creating, staffing and equipping a full-service NOC capable of 24×7×365 monitoring and response can quickly become cost-prohibitive for smaller broadband service providers. The alternative is a contract with a third-party provider for outsourced NOC services.

Outsourcing NOC Services to a Managed Services Partner

Outsourcing a NOC typically involves the managed services partner’s redundant centralized remote facilities connecting to your network via highly secure, redundant high-speed connections. Each of the partner’s NOC facilities is equipped with the personnel, equipment and processes needed to provide complete network monitoring, incident/fault response, field service help, and disaster recovery procedures.

Aside from the obvious upside of not having to build and run your own redundant NOC, a third-party arrangement offers other attractive benefits:

  • Economies of scale: A provider with the resources and capacity to deliver managed NOC services to multiple customers can enable cost savings and performance improvements that you can’t achieve operating on your own. 
  • Staff utilization: A third-party arrangement enables you to allocate your in-house staff where they are most needed. 
  • Customization and control: Third-party managed service providers generally have extensive technical expertise and resources, giving them greater ability to customize solution designs and configurations precisely for your network.
  • Reduced risk: The certified NOC engineers employed by a managed services provider have breadth of experience and knowledge that ultimately reduces your business risks.

Understanding Your Managed NOC Service Options

Providers of managed network operations offer an array of choices that let you get the biggest bang for your buck. It’s worthwhile to allow yourself time for comparison shopping and negotiation.

At one end of the spectrum is a full-service contract that offers 24×7×365 monitoring and response, with full NOC facility redundancy. If you’re thin on qualified personnel, this may be the right option that more than justifies the price tag. Even if your NOC services provider is “handling everything,” you’ll typically retain control over many areas, such as reporting requirements, thresholds for elevating service tickets, etc.

At the other end of the spectrum, highly customizable NOC management plans allow you to control pricing by picking and choosing the capabilities you need. Most plans provide a basic set of services and capabilities that you can supplement with value-added or customizable service selections. Your service provider might, for example, enable you to build a NOC management plan around back-office functions, such as performance and alarm monitoring, after-hours support, and disaster recovery. 

Typical add-on managed NOC services include:

  • Spare parts management: Onsite replacement of hardware within four hours
  • Back-office systems: Monitoring, ticketing and management dashboards
  • Network operations: Fault management, performance optimization, and cybersecurity
  • Smart hands: Experienced technicians deployed onsite for installation, testing and replacement

Tips for Creating an Outsourced Program that Works

Regardless of the range of choices available, the most important choice is a program and provider that works best for you. Making the right choice of provider and plan begins with having a clear understanding of what your needs are. With that in mind, here are a few tips for selecting the right provider and service.

  • Define your short-term and long-term goals. Examples might be managing for the best combination of co-op growth, for technology migration or for financial stability.
  • Map your existing skill sets, operational processes, and resources against the complete list of needed roles and responsibilities to identify gaps.
  • Target and prioritize areas to be outsourced.
  • Select the provider and level of partnership that most closely aligns with your needs and goals.
  • Expect a high level of ongoing involvement and communication from candidate providers and ensure they fully understand your needs and challenges.

By using a fully vetted NOC provider, along with a strategically designed and customized service plan, smaller broadband service providers can manage their next-generation networks for growth and revenue without breaking the bank.

Fujitsu Managed Network Services offers quality and reliability, plus the peace of mind that comes with dependable protection. We work with you and within your budget to align our end-to-end capabilities with your specific needs. For more information on our NOC management services, visit the Network Services section on the Fujitsu website.