Discovery and Inventory Management in the Age of Network Automation

How does your operations team find out conclusively what devices are in the network? If you ask them for information about the network’s operational and configuration status, what answers might they give you? Does your team begin to provision services, only to find that the devices are already configured for a different service?

For most service providers, keeping tabs on what’s in the network is getting complicated, if not impossible. Inventory data is typically maintained manually, stored in spreadsheets or scattered among multiple inventory systems. As such, it’s often inaccurate, out of date and even useless.

Not knowing for sure what network devices you have, how they’re connected, where they’re located, what their status is, or what resources are available for new services can cause serious problems. The idea of running a business where the underlying assets used to drive revenue are unknown should be unthinkable. Unfortunately, many providers find themselves in exactly this situation, struggling to keep track of a misconfigured network with stranded assets.

Why? The answers are far from simple. Most inventory solutions require manual lookup in multiple databases, or a laborious process of discovery through intermediary network management systems. The challenge with these methods is that they’re not real time and they rely on complicated connection methods for discovering a network. There is a great deal of room for error, and the information needed to make decisions is never accurate. What’s missing is a real time unified network view for inventory management.

With network automation, control and advanced analytics in the ascendant, the data integrity and real-time status of network inventory are paramount. Many providers start deploying new network automation, analytics, and operations systems, only to realize that, without accurate network information, these new tools are unable to deliver the promised value. A solid foundation of real time network information is vital to increase visibility for operations, support network analytics, boost service productivity, and reduce costs.

The key principles that apply to network discovery and inventory management are as follows:

  1. Deploy centralized network discovery engine that connects directly to devices and controllers and is vendor-agnostic. The discovery function must support a set of protocols that connect to the network and are capable of adapting quickly to new devices and changes in existing devices.
  2. Implement real-time network discovery so that network data remains up to date in order to provide valid support for decisions about network services as well as inputs for network analytics. This information must be accurate at all times, to improve confidence in decision making.
  3. Choose a system that enables discovery of more than the physical resources (devices, cards and ports). You must remain aware of the logical resources as well, since these are the building blocks for the services the network delivers. Additionally, ensure that you can discover and audit resources and services in real time, and keep track of valuable components needed to provide revenue-generating services.
  4. Provide an open interface for processes and applications to query network information on which they depend in real time.

Achieving 100% real time network data accuracy is vital for a service provider’s business and network operations. Proper network discovery and inventory data integrity reduces the time it takes to deploy infrastructure; reduces the cost of operations by eliminating errors and network churn; and provides real-time information about the network. There’s no more worry over inaccurate data or nasty surprises over what the network looks like. A service provider can now ask questions about network utilization, new services, and provision services quickly without the risks presented by inaccurate data. In sum, but deploying a true real time discovery and inventory management solution, you can now leverage network assets to deliver more revenue with lower operating costs.

About Andres Viera

Andres is the Product Line Manager for Virtuora Service Activator powered by UBiqube. In this role, he is responsible for defining SDN/NFV control solutions, use cases, and detailed product requirements. Andres is also an expert in defining multi-layer network orchestration and control framework solutions, as well as defining IP layer service life-cycle management and network control applications. He holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and an MBA in Finance from Fordham University.