SDAN: We do the math, you get the money
Throughout the years, broadband network operators have continually sought ways of improving efficiency and, consequently, reducing operating costs. Efficiency gains have typically come from optimizing the use of network resources or in staff and process efficiencies to operate and maintain the network. All well and good, but the net results are only ever incremental improvements. With the arrival of software-defined access networking (SDAN), operators now have an opportunity to make a giant leap in efficiency, with a similarly monumental reduction in OPEX—up to 30-40% in the case of one operator we worked with. That’s why we developed an innovative 3-step process to help operators go about it.
SDAN has the potential to transform almost every aspect of fixed access network operations. Core to achieving this are automation, analytics and a virtualized, programmable network. What we have found is that the combination of these aspects allows an operator to fundamentally redesign their organizational workflows and the way teams work together. Everything becomes much more pro-active and much more interactive. So, implementing a SDAN does not just create new technology capabilities; it can also create a leading-edge operations organization.
We’ve developed a total cost of ownership (TCO) study that we provide at the start of a SDAN project to help our customers understand and quantify these benefits. Over many years and many network transformation projects, we’ve demonstrated that this kind of up-front analysis is crucial for a successful deployment.
Let’s look at five key areas where SDAN has an impact and the TCO implications of each.
In traditional architectures, several independent autonomous tools and devices are used to manage the network. SDAN’s unified controller and central data lake create a single cohesive FCAPS system which enables faster troubleshooting and makes it easier to detect the point of failure in an end-to-end environment. TCO savings come from reduced labor to acquire and store data logs and trouble tickets, to analyze data, and from faster resolution times.
The SDAN principle of ‘always available in the cloud’ provides easy access to a greater set of network data that can be combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to become much more pro-active. A great example of that is a predictive care service that can anticipate issues before they become service-affecting. Operational tasks such as network inventory and firmware management are converged and simplified in the cloud. The net result is a reduction in preventative maintenance workload and an increase in service health.
An exciting element of SDAN is the ability to adopt an IT DevOps approach to service development and deployment. The DevOps mode of delivery enables continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). It is an industry established fact that DevOps significantly reduces upgrade time, feature availability to operators, time to fix bugs, etc. As an example, with a single modular SDAN controller, the time from software general availability to the operator's live network can be effectively reduced to 2-4 days from the present 6-9 weeks.
Zero-touch device turn-up
Programmability, automation, and the fact that the SDAN is “always on” lead to faster commissioning procedures. Pre-provisioning of nodes, and decoupling hardware installation from commissioning, make zero-touch device turn-up especially beneficial for nodes that are deployed in cabinets and central office equipment. Field commissioning is as simple as scanning a barcode, requiring less skill and hence being less expensive.
Always-on provisioning means that even when an access device is not reachable (because of a DCN, power, or hardware issue, etc.), resources are still available to run the fulfillment process. With SDAN, the percentage of failed configuration attempts due to unreachable network resources per year is practically zero. Moreover, no field intervention is needed to activate access nodes or CPE. Today, experienced networking personnel are required to set up, administer, change and maintain the network. These personnel can be hard to find, expensive, and difficult to retain. SDAN reduces the amount of manual configuration required in the network, which reduces costs and results in fewer errors and less network downtime.
These are just a few of the areas where SDAN makes a substantial difference. By way of an example, we recently did our TCO study for a Tier 1 European operator and calculated a 30-40% saving in the costs of FCAPS tasks.
Every operator’s analysis will be different, of course, given the different maturity of operating models, the complexity of networks, the existing levels of automation in network operations, and other factors. This, we believe, highlights the importance of a study like ours as there are no copy/paste case studies available. The understanding and insight the TCO study brings solidify the evolution plan, help clarify the roadmap and investment decisions and, ultimately, make for a faster and smoother SDAN deployment. Learn more about getting started in this paper, then get in touch.