MTS Allstream eases network inventory process

When MTS Allstream Inc. wanted to better track its inventory of network equipment and facilities, the Winnipeg, Manit.-based telecom provider decided it should unify its legacy systems.

Streamlining disparate systems previously acquired through acquisitions into a single manageable entity would facilitate the network inventory process, said David Rector, senior manager for program management for MTS Allstream.

“When they’re separate, they create chaos and confusion in terms of assignments because you have to duplicate the work,” he said.

A unified system would not only have the flexibility to house a larger variety of data, but would be capable of handling more complex pieces of the business like the handling of Internet Protocol addressing and virtual private networks, said Rector.

Besides a unified database, MTS Allstream decided to implement an audit discovery toolset (reconciliation engine) in order to reconcile data in the database against the network, said Rector. “When you start putting all these legacy products together where processes did or didn’t exist, the integrity of the data was compromised somewhat.”

MTS Allstream worked with TierOne OSS Technologies Inc., a Toronto, Ont.-based provider of operations support system (OSS) solutions to telecom vendors, on the network reconciliation program, specifically around creating a reconciliation engine for data cleanup.

Instead of building new software from the ground up, TierOne opted for a more efficient approach of adapting existing technology from Boston, Mass.-based Lavastorm Technologies called BRAIN, a business and revenue assurance software, said Neil Hansen, vice-president of business development with TierOne.

Applying a ready-made tool for a purpose other than what it was originally marketed certainly served to expedite the development process, said Hansen. “So we looked at that and said, ‘that problem [Lavastorm is] solving is very similar to comparing data with the resources that are available within the network.”

TierOne encountered minimal challenges tailoring the software to MTS Allstream’s needs, he said, in fact, deployment was rapid due to the fact that the software allowed the team to build and manipulate data as a workflow. “It gives you immediate gratification on each of the steps, and you can validate whether you did it properly before you go on and do the next step,” he said.

There were a few challenges encountered during the eight-month-long network reconciliation project that wrapped up this past Spring, said Rector, in particular the different format between the database and incoming reconciled data. The issue was ultimately resolved with specific coding that married the two together, he said.

The project was beneficial to MTS Allstream in more ways than just streamlining the network inventory process, said Rector, because the MTS staff assigned to the project didn’t necessarily know how their own network was configured. “The exercise taught them a little bit about how their network was setup.”

On the user end, those reconciling the network received hands-on training on the new setup, but it was minimal, said Rector, given they already had telecom design experience.

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