Just over one week ago, InfoVista announced the launch of VistaInsight for Networks 5.2. I was particularly pleased to be able to share the news at the Metro Ethernet Forum's (MEF) quarterly meeting in Seattle following Nan Chen's plenary session on October 22, 2013. This was a fantastic locale for this launch because one of the most critical components within the latest version of our network performance management solution is the inclusion of MEF specification 36.
What is that you may ask? In the simplest description, it's an SNMP management information base (MIB). VistaInsight for Networks is filled with hundreds of these MIBs–from IETF standard ones to those for all of the proprietary vendors. We've compiled these over the years, so our communications service provider (CSP) customers can access the raw indicators we use to calculate the key performance indicators (KPIs) and key quality indicators (KQIs) they need. Our customers are able to add MIBs on their own to extend our service assurance platform's support if and when needed, and the resultant KPIs and KQIs are used to both run their networks as well as demonstrate their services' value to their end users. What is so unique or important about the particular MIB indoctrinated in MEF 36 though?
The answer to this question is two-fold. First, one can no longer deny the incredible growth–I'll even suggest the market dominance–of Carrier Ethernet services. Not only do their retail and wholesale revenues demonstrate this trend but even the raw bandwidth itself; Vertical Systems Group recently forecast that Ethernet services will represent more than 75% of the world's bandwidth in 2017. So, who better to determine the best practices for Carrier Ethernet network performance management than the MEF, the industry forum aligning CSPs and equipment vendors on its best practices and standards? The MEF released the Service OAM Performance Monitoring Implementation agreement (or MEF 35) in 2012; this defined how to monitor Carrier Ethernet performance. MEF 36 enables MEF 35's best practices using the ubiquitous management standards of SNMP.
Second, today, it is a costly and time-consuming exercise to manage a multi-vendor, Carrier Ethernet network. Each vendor has its own methods and mechanisms for monitoring and measuring network performance. Aggregating and normalizing these multiple and somewhat proprietary data points is no small feat and can take time and investment. Certainly, many equipment vendors have standardized on the ITU-T's Y.1731 standard, which MEF 35 has incorporated, but that doesn't mean they use every protocol data unit (PDU) available. It doesn't mean they are able to set up the correct maintenance entity group end points (MEPs) to ensure the operations, administration and management (OAM) test frames use the customer data path, and it doesn't mean they are implementing all aspects of Y.1731. Even if they do, perhaps that information is stored in an element management system (EMS) or in a proprietary MIB, or perhaps it doesn't use the same periodicity (e.g. a one-minute of data minimum versus a five-minute data minimum). CSPs can count on solutions like VistaInsight for Networks to deal with the aggregation and normalization, so the NOC can manage Carrier Ethernet services holistically, planning can properly predict where capacity is required and performance enhancements are needed, and end customers can be assured that their service level agreements (SLAs) are being met.
Having a standard MIB means that CSPs can have a consistent location for performance data on the device, in a consistent format and using best practice-led Carrier Ethernet network performance monitoring mechanisms. Therefore, CSPs would no longer need to normalize data between equipment vendors. They would also no longer have to build specific KPI formulas to deal with the proprietary storage locations for performance management data. They instead, regardless of equipment vendor, could count on the same metrics–without additional integration cost or product launch delays–to work around a particular device idiosyncrasy.
The result: better communication of CSPs' business service value to their customers and better use of their investments in MEF certification. As the growth rate of Carrier Ethernet diminishes, and margins begin to get squeezed, the cost to OSS and engineering groups could be significantly reduced by taking advantage of these standards, too.
Our CSP customers and prospects have told us they want these standards, and the recent Frost & Sullivan survey we commissioned suggests the same. InfoVista has taken a first and important step with the launch of version 5.2 of VistaInsight for Networks. We are leading the way in moving these standards (MEF 35 and MEF 36) from the technical specification documents where they live today and–as equipment vendors follow suit–in putting them into the actual Carrier Ethernet networks themselves, thereby further demonstrating the value of Carrier Ethernet 2.0. I look forward to accelerating the adoption of network performance management best practices aided by these standards in our customers' networks, their equipment and, of course, their OSS!