Companies demonstrate multivendor, multitechnology network management

A major challenge facing service providers today is the ability to integrate and manage existing telecommunications systems with new equipment that implements emerging technologies. To meet the challenge, Fujitsu Network Communications, Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, Siemens AG, Telcordia Technologies, and Tellabs launched a network-management initiative more than four years ago. The six companies recently announced and demonstrated their collaborative solution at the 1999 National Fiber Optics Engineers Conference (NFOEC) in Chicago.

As users increasingly demand broader service offerings at competitive prices, providers strive to deliver in a reliable, timely, and cost-effective manner. A key ingredient in successfully meeting these demands and remaining competitive is the provider's network-management system (NMS). The demonstration at NFOEC focused on connecting multiple element management systems (EMSs) and NMSs for such functions as end-to-end network provisioning and integrated fault management to a single management workstation tied to the multivendor, multitechnology network.

The management platform was based on the Common Object Request Broker Architecture/Interface Definition Language (CORBA/IDL). The CORBA EMS-NMS interface provides an integrated management architecture for various network types, including Synchronous Optical Network (SONET), Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH), dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM), and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM).

"The CORBA EMS-NMS interface makes real the goal of the telecommunications-management network (TMN)," says Jeffery Ross, director of management products at Fujitsu Network Communications. "The TMN architecture provides a framework to make management of the communications network itself more manageable. This implementable EMS-NMS interface provides a step that vendors have not been able to take in the past-to link a multivendor, multitechnology network to a single operations station."

The EMS-NMS interface is important to the industry for several reasons. Tests have already shown it can be implemented, and the interface is already under development. Second, the technology is nothing new to the industry. CORBA is common and has tools and developers already available, and IDL is a simple interface technology. Finally, and most importantly for service providers, it provides network management from a single station.

"The NMS is the management system and it used the EMS for carrying out detailed NE [network-element] functions," says Ross. "There is a seamless GUI [graphical user interface] cut-through from NMS to EMS when the user wants to look at NE details."

With mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures becoming more prevalent across the telecommunications industry, service providers are finding their networks growing across traditional geographical boundaries. At the same time, the scope of the management domain also increases. In this context, the benefits of the interface for service-provider customers are substantial, says Ross. The interface allows customers to manage multiple technologies from a single station. It offers one-stop service setup and teardown, alarms, and network discovery, enabling the NMS to be loaded from the EMS. If the NMS has a feed from above, it can provide reconciliation between what the operations support system (OSS) view is from above and what is actually in the network.

"If there is a feed from above, then provisioning can flow through," says Ross. "Technology can go into the network faster because the EMS can support it on deployment. There is no waiting for all OSSs to support prior to being able to put up a service."

The collaboration of the six companies is offering a management system that's being welcomed with open arms by service providers. Kirk Shrewsbury, principal network-management architect at MCI WorldCom, says similar existing solutions offered thus far have fallen short in achieving the full-featured, end-to-end network-management goal.

"While previous solutions may have addressed the problem of managing our SONET-only or ATM-only portions of the network," says Shrewsbury, "these solutions do not apply to the need for vendor-independent interfaces on multitechnology network elements or hybrid network elements."

The six companies contributed the solution to the TeleManagement Forum, and several industry equipment and software suppliers have plans to implement the standard interface solution into their products.

"In the near future, we see increasing functionality on the sonet/sdh interface," says Ross. "For example, dual-ring networking and performance monitoring. We also see this moving to include ATM and WDM in version 2.0, planned for specifications availability next year."

Field trials on the announced solution, followed by deployment, are scheduled in the first quarter of 2000. Each company, however, plans to make its own product-to-market announcements.

More in Mergers & Acquisitions